“MORE PASTORS, BETTER PASTORS”
Last Sunday morning I had the privilege of preaching to a local congregation. During the sermon I asked a rhetorical question out loud. It is the same question I have been asking for many years in my sermons: “Pastor David, what about … ?” As soon as I said those words I could feel myself backing up. I proceeded to interrupt the sermon to make a disclaimer: “I’m sorry. I guess I’m going to have to learn not to call myself a pastor anymore.” After the service, a number of people made a beeline to talk to me. I thought the conversations were going to be the standard, “Thanks for being with us today … glad you are here … congratulations on your new assignment.” But instead, one after another, said the same thing: “Please don’t stop calling yourself a pastor. You are still a pastor no matter what. We NEED you to be a pastor.”
Of all the titles I could be called at this stage of my life, “pastor” is my second favorite (“Dad” is still number one). I have carried the title of “pastor” since I was nineteen years old. At first I felt intimidated, if not unworthy, of that title. But over the years I have grown to love what it means, because it best describes what I feel God has called me to be.
In his masterful memoir, The Pastor, Eugene Peterson reflects on more than thirty years of pastoral ministry. He boils what it means to be a pastor down to this simple statement: “Paying attention and calling attention to what is going on right now between men and women, with each other and with God.” I like that. What a calling! What a privilege!
Someone asked me the other day, “What is your vision for NTS?” My first thought was to respond, “Do you mind if I unpack my books first?” Instead, I answered: “Right now what I have is a call. The vision is forthcoming.” However, the more I thought about his question, the more I wondered if the more appropriate question is: “What is the vision of NTS?”
I don’t know if we can do better than J.B. Chapman’s original vision eighty-three years ago: “The spreading and conserving of scriptural holiness” is due to the “number and quality of our preachers.” Thus, he surmised, “We need more preachers and better preachers” (Herald of Holiness, 1928).
I don’t want to put words in his mouth, but I wonder if in 2011, Dr. Chapman might say it this way: “We need more pastors and better pastors.”
Nazarene Theological Seminary is committed to being a missional seminary serving a missional church wherever that mission is taking place. We celebrate missional leaders wherever they are found and whatever title they bear. But I hope we will not forget that equipping pastors is still our specialty.
As one of my colleagues said tongue in cheek the other day: “You’re just a pastor on special assignment.” So be it. You can call me President Busic if you want to. But if occasionally someone calls me Pastor David, it will be fine by me.
Grace and peace,