rethinking the word "pastor"

rethinking the word pastori have had this post swirling around in my head for over a year now and am finally taking the time to put these thoughts about the word “pastor” in black-and-white.

6 years ago on january 1st i went on a church staff as a “pastor.”  looking back, the whole thing is so weird because i never thought of myself as a pastor even though i’ve really being doing it in some weird shape or form since i was a teenager.  my graduate degree is focused on organizational development and years later, after having a bunch of babies and finding myself in “church” instead of the professional world, i decided to get more ministry-ish training and go to seminary to pursue a second master’s degree in counseling (i discovered i was an utterly horrible therapist–i stink at 50 minutes once a week, and the only thing i kept thinking when i was with people was how to plug them into healing community outside of the office and introduce them to other friends who struggled with similar faith/life things).  i also discovered that i didn’t want to go to graduate school twice for the same level of degree.  so after my first year at seminary and my counseling practicum i knew i was on the wrong track and made the switch to spiritual direction–which i love and was a better fit for all kinds of reasons–and got myself a fancy certificate in it (that no one really cares about) in 2004.

my point, though, is that i had been facilitating groups and journeying with people for years, always focused on shepherding people, healing, compassion, and change in their real life; yet, i never, ever considered myself a “pastor.”  that word was reserved for people who stood up in front of people at a pulpit or on a stage and taught for 30 minutes and did ministry for a living. and when i got a call from a friend asking me if i’d consider going on staff at his church as the care pastor in 2002 i thought he was calling to ask me if i knew anyone who might want the job; it never occurred to me that he would be calling to ask me to do it.  i didn’t take the position; the twins were too little and i didn’t have the support from home i needed to go for it then.  after turning it down, i thought my “big opportunity to be an official pastor” was gone.  so i kept doing what i loved to do and cultivated a soul care ministry at the church i was at, doing all kinds of pastoring-ish things but never having the title that went along with it.  in 2003 i got another phone call asking me to re-think the care pastor position, this time as the associate care pastor since the church had grown and they needed 2 instead of one.  this time, the twins were a year older and jose was on board so on january 1st, 2004 i stepped into the title & role & money of a “pastor” on a big church staff.   two short & wild years and two pastor-titles later i found myself out of a job but with an ever greater passion for cultivating true community.

i readily admit that i liked what came those first few years with the title “pastor” in a big exciting church.  you automatically get something that you don’t get when you are a lay person, even though honestly i had been doing many of the same things for years.  i also saw a side to church leadership & politics that i am quite certain i would never put myself in a position to see again.  but i think for me the far-more important piece of those couple of years was someone calling out the pastoral gift in me, seeing what i couldn’t see.  i will always be extremely thankful for the opportunity to step into pastoral care in a more tangible and real way.  at the same time, there are still times that i feel like a pastor-step-child when i am in certain pastor-y circles & they get to talking because i do not have a masters of divinity degree, i am not ordained by a specific denomination, and i don’t know greek.  i think i am one of many who love being with people and are really good at it but might not have the proper “credentials” in certain eyes.  unfortunately, credentials is what the system has perpetuated about “pastors.”

i think the misinterpretation and misapplication of what it means to pastor gets in the way of living out the biblical principle of the “priesthood of all believers” that resonates deep in the hearts of many but rarely has a place to be cultivated in a typical church setting.

i believe pastoring is a gift, not a title.  many have come to believe that being a pastor means someone who 1) has gone to seminary; 2)  “runs” churches; 3) preaches sermons; 4) marries and buries people.   i really don’t think this was the biblical idea of the word poimen, which is synonymous with shepherding.

so here are some of my thoughts about pastoring. i know they will bug some people, that’s okay.  for others, maybe some of these ideas will resonate.  they’re just some things to ponder & i’d love to hear more from you.

  • pastors are the people who are caring for, shepherding, loving, and journeying in close-relationship with people wherever they are, whether that be as part of church, at work, in their neighborhoods, etc. their focus is on relationship, relationship, relationship.  years ago a young woman told me that the weekend communicator at the mega-church she was going to was a “really amazing pastor.” it was hard because i wanted to say back to her, “honey, he is not a pastor.  yep, he’s an amazing speaker and teacher and extremely gifted CEO, but he will never, ever know your name, let alone your story… he will never counsel you or have you over for dinner, hold your babies or be with you when you or one of your family is sick in the hospital or going through a rough patch. he will never do anything that someone with a true pastor’s gift will naturally do.” yet, he will get all of the kudos and benefits of being a “pastor” without ever actually shepherding or being in pastoring relationships with people.  i can’t tell you how many times i have heard from a variety of different churches that their senior pastor “isn’t really a people person.”
  • to me, pastoring doesn’t require an education. sure, we can all learn new skills and strengthen our gifts, but i know many-a-pastor-in-the-truest-sense-of-the-word who has never taken a class at Bible college or seminary.  again, we are mistaking a gift for a role or a job, a leader for a pastor.  often people will ask me if they should get seminary training to learn how to become more pastoral.  my response “um…well….in my opinion, the best education you can get is to start working the 12 steps for yourself and steep yourself in learning about codependence, boundaries, and spiritual and emotional healing individually and in groups. and yeah, that’s free!”
  • we need to quit calling people who don’t like to be with people pastors because it is diminishing & unempowering the ones who do. it’s so funny to me how there are women in all kinds of churches who shepherd, love, and care for people and can’t ever be called “pastor” and yet i have seen men-who-can’t-stand-people-and-only-are-in-charge-of-networking-the-computers be called an “operations pastor.”  it’s comical on one level, but on a whole other one, it’s not funny at all. my vote is to call preachers who never interact with a person in their congregation beyond the big-donors-they-golf-with “weekend communicators” or “executive directors” and reserve the word pastors for people who are providing spiritual and emotional care to people.
  • most people’s true “pastors” aren’t the pastor of their church, they are close friends or people in community who care for them and love them. the person who you are going to call when you are hurting, who will be with you in the hospital when you are sick, who loves your babies and cares about their well-being beyond just words, who will provide prayer and spiritual and emotional support when you need it, that’s your pastor.  i have a lot of amazing pastors in my life–some with pastor titles, some without–but they are all lovely naturally gifted people that do all of these things for me in different ways.   i have one challenge for us this week–tell those people, whoever they are, that you consider them one of your pastors and are thankful for their love & care.  it will encourage them–and maybe surprise them more than you might expect.  i think that is a step in the right direction to re-claim the word far beyond official church leaders.
  • i do believe there are all kinds of amazing pastors truly pastoring their churches. their gifts line up with their role and they love their people in amazing ways.  i am privileged to know some of these pastors and see their heart for shepherding their communities.  it doesn’t bother me a bit that they are called pastors; i honor their heart and commitment to live out what they are built to do. journeying with people is hard work, and i deeply respect those shepherds out there who are really shepherding.
  • like the word “church”, i don’t know if we will never be able to fully redeem the word “pastor.” i think it might be too far gone.  there’s too much baggage with it.  the seminary system that cultivates people who have to get “paid pastor” jobs to pay their bills after all that debt perpetuates it.  people confusing leadership & pastoring perpetuate it.  people who don’t have anyone to fan their natural gifts into flame and validate them will stay underground thinking they might not have what it takes to contribute as much as they could.  and so we’ll keep re-creating little systems where there is a separation between the “professionals” and the “not-so-professionals”, the “strong leaders” from the “real shepherds” and those who aren’t the pros or loud or leader-y enough will continue to feel inadequate or unprepared or un-infused with support to use their gifts.   i recently told someone that the refuge is “full of pastors.”  it is.  there are so many mercy-people, shepherds, true lovers of people.  they have no education or training or any of the put-together requirements we have placed upon the role.  but they naturally pastor people, advocating, caring, and loving for others.

i am not calling for the abolishment of pastors.  i believe it is a beautiful and lovely gift; one of the many beautiful and lovely gifts that it takes to make a body whole. i’m just calling for a re-thinking of the word so that its true meaning & purpose shines through instead of associating it with a whole bunch of things that have absolutely nothing to do with the heart and spirit of pastoring.

i also love what my kenyan friend said, “kenya doesn’t need more evangelists; it needs more pastors.” i have a funny feeling it’s the same thing here in the US and in all kinds of places across the world.  we don’t need any more public speakers or incredible communicators or someone to tell us we need to become a Christian.  instead, this world needs more people willing to truly journey with people of all shapes, sizes, religions, socioeconomics, and everything in between in the messy, ugly, beautiful places of their real story, real lives–to create little pockets of love and care wherever that might be. yep, this world needs more real pastors.  and i actually think there are far more pastors/shepherds out there than we even know, they just need someone to validate their gift & infuse them with the courage to use it freely.

my hope is that if you are one of those people who is really a pastor but not a “pastor” (as in having that title bestowed upon you by some system) that you continue to boldly and freely use your gift.  don’t let someone else define whether you are or aren’t.  it’s a gift God has given you.  please use it, use it, use it.  the world needs you.

Kathy Escobar

Kathy Escobar is dedicated to creating safe and brave spaces for transformation and healing in real life, online, and outside. She co-pastors at The Refuge, a hub for healing community, social action, and creative collaboration in North Denver, co-directs #communityheals, a non-profit organization dedicated to making spaces for transformation accessible for all, and is the author of Practicing: Changing Yourself to Change the World, Faith Shift: Finding Your Way Forward When Everything You Believe is Coming Apart and several other books.


  • We talked about this a couple of months ago, didn’t we, sis? I love the idea of “pastor” being something you’re gifted at *doing*, not some kind of title that places you above folks (or even at the point of the formation, like some kind of lead goose or whatever!), or even something one would have to do full time. You are a pastor in my life — and you are my friend. Like lots of other totally organic and biblical things I’m learning about these days, I’ve never experienced that before! Don’tcha just love this upside-down Kingdom?

  • Great article and very true. I think it must be said (like you did at the end of your article) that using your definition (which might sound anti-trained pastors) might also be a limiting factor.

    May Pastors who have been trained is people (male or female) with a strong sense of calling, who love God above all and people like themselves and use all the tools available to them to serve.

    I found two books very liberating and direction-giving on the subject; both by Eugene Peterson. The Unnessecary Pastor and The Contemplative Pastor.

    Being a true Pastor have very little to do with a formal training or the lack thereof; it is based on what God is doing and the gifts the Spirit gives.

  • Mmmm, the word is only mentioned once in scripture – perhaps twice if you stretch it a bit.

    So why all the fuss over the title really baffles me.

    Then why call a person by their function?

    No one says to Pete the Salesman – Good morning Salesman Pete, or Hello Shop owner Sally.

    Pure arrogance, pride and wanting to be superior is all it is.

    Slays me to see people on websites and Facebook etc with their names on as Pastor Jose Juan Pedro de Silva – yeah Dude, whatever!

    And then there are the smart ones who say “Well yes, Jesus did say do not be called Father, or Rabbi or Teacher, and we are not! We are Pastors!”

    Let’s all bow down before the Pope – What are you nuts! But we can bow before …….da dah…… The pastor!

    Pomp and ceremony – Silly stuff just to boost ego’s!

    If a person fulfils a function bear in mind it is Jesus doing it through them, for in their own strength they would be dead works which count for nothing anyway! And I am sure that Jesus would be a tad peeved at being called Pastor Jesus!

    The lads in the pub know – call this old man ‘pastor’ and you get a slap upside the head!

    • You would enjoy reading: The Pastor Has No Clothes: Moving from Clergy-Centered Church to Christ Centered Ekklesia, by Jon H. Zens.

  • Good to see Pops back!

    This one made me cry. I hear you, and I truly KNOW this in my Spirit…. but this one is taking me a long time to reprogram in my head. I’m praying for God to tell my husband & I what specifically to DO next. I have given up even trying to change the word or “use” it because here in the Bible belt…. that word is reserved and I’m a thief & heretic to use it other than man has used it the past (?) centuries.

    The last bullet point especially is powerful to me because I want others to understand. and I agree I think the word is too far gone. Too much baggage. I see “church” having a better chance than “pastor”. I don’t want ‘them’ to look at me like I am putting down and being disrespectful for *all the hard work* God has “ordained” them to, to be qualified as a pastor. As much as I thought I was okay to go against the flow/against the masses/nonconform to tradition……. I realize I have so far to go in many ways. I care that other people learn what I learn. I hate being misunderstood. I’m still such a baby.

    “and those who aren’t the pros or loud or leader-y enough will continue to feel inadequate or unprepared or un-infused with support to use their gifts.”

    I see that a lot….

  • I thoroughly enjoyed reading this…
    I have found myself for over three years struggling on where I need to be and what my true purpose is. I was once asked, “What do you think your purpose is?” I replied, “Making a difference” is all the came out. As I look back – that is huge! But where? I have been involved in Leadership roles, certified local speaker, shepherding committee, facilitated Women’s Bible studies, taught Sunday School/Vacation Bible School, Youth group, Community Outreach, certified Christian Life Coach, etc. – I love people and making a difference. I have walked through many journeys with people. Scares me to think I could be called a pastor – on the other hand…what a compliment! You have helped me to see a new light, a new energy and I thank you!
    Blessings! <

  • Very LOUD Amen! Always wondered what the heck all those credentials had to do with pastoring.

  • Kathy,
    You must have been reading my mail (did you happen to read my Christmas/New Years letter on FB?). I have struggled and fought against being called a pastor for years. I never wanted to be what it represented, not to Christians or those outside the faith. For the nine years I served in that capacity, with the title and office and pulpit, I refused to call myself by that name and literally threatened anyone who would introduce me to their friends as “my pastor”.

    Today, I’m done running. I still hate all the baggage around the title, office, word, concept, etc., but I’ve surrendered to the reality that I have simply BECOME a pastor. It’s what I’ve done, what I’ve been educated for, how people experience me, what I do, and frankly…what I am at the very core. And I don’t like people that much. Any compassion, grace, kindness, concern, gentleness, respect, mercy, forgiveness, etc. that streams from my life to another is clearly the work of Christ. I’m mostly unaware of it when it happens, and honestly most surprised when it does.

    So I’m resigned to being a pastor. I am still practicing saying it out loud (and writing it). I still feel a huge amount of discomfort and uneasiness about it all, but I cannot run any longer from what I AM. It doesn’t matter if I like it or not, or whether I am employed vocationally or not (as a pastor…and currently I am not). It’s just what I’ve become over the years, and I have to live with that because it’s way to exhausting to deny it anymore.

    So in my personal experience this is a calling of sorts. Or some kind of dastardly plan of God for my life that has been in place for decades (I can almost hear Him laughing…buaah-hah-hah!). It isn’t a title that should be assigned willy-nilly, but as you suggest, by those who have been the recipient of the gift from one’s life (people still call me their pastor, ask me to do weddings, funerals, counsel, etc…even after being out of the building for two years). And a calling of any kind should be taken very seriously, given one’s full attention and respect. This is what I am presently trying to achieve in my own life.

  • Thanks for this post, Kathy. I once had someone pray over me, saying I had a pastor’s heart. The admonishment followed that it didn’t mean I was to start a church. I actually agreed with that. Administratively, I don’t want all the responsibility. But, it is very difficult to find your place if you can’t contribute to the “well being” of the structure as well as minister to the people.

    It is sad to me that many churches have none or little structure in the area of care, soul ministry, and leadership (gifting) development.

    Although it may be a natural result of organization structure, I hate it that the “staff” becomes the sole deciders on the ministries and functions of a church, which often leaves the “lay pastor” feeling stymied and frustrated.

    I am one of those people! Not sure how to come to peace with it all. But for now, I kind of have a love-hate relationship with church structure and the pastor(staff) emphasis in the way we define it.

    Not sure it is changeable so I will continue to just ask God to bring the people I can “pastor” and let Him worry about what happens in my local church or church over all.

    Great post with lots to think about.

  • Chica, you’re right on the money from my heart’s perspective….

    we gotta help those on the jourrney and I know you’re on the right track (or both of us and your friends are wrong…:-)

    I hope someday we can sit and share a “Feijoada Completa” dinner including some “caipirinhas” to celebrate communion…

    Love y’a sis..

  • Hm. What to say. Kathy I wish I could just hang out with you sometime – or perhaps someone like you. On July 19 of ’07 I was praying and I sensed a desire that God wanted to open my mind and heart up to something new. That day I wrote in my journal a question, “was God calling me to be a pastor?”

    Since that day I have given birth to two more of my three children. I have journeyed with a group of people in imagining a new faith community – which ended about 9mo ago. My husband and I are now moving to California in a couple months. And in the back of my mind I have still been searching out that question.

    I recently have begun talking to people and researching online whether I should go to get a counseling degree or go to seminary. I do believe that God has called me as a pastor in the sense that you are talking about here but I also know that I have so much more that I need to learn. I want to be wise with the gifting that God has given me but I don’t see the direction clearly right now.

    Thank you for your words. They are very encouraging. I love what the Refuge is doing – awesome stuff!

  • Thanks for that, Kathy. You know I needed to hear it! I’ve been pastoring for years without a title. May God have mercy on us for squashing the pastoral gifts he has freely given the church.

  • The modern day Pastor has overthrown the main thrust of the letter to the Hebrews – the ending of the old priesthood, pity really cause I think the priesthood of all believers is a pretty neat idea.

    John Milton said;
    New presbyter is but old priest writ large.

    He destroyed the Temple – The Sacrifice and the The Old Priesthood through His death, how come tery have all snuck back in?

    This was not His intent.

  • of course, the minute i hit “publish” i can think of all kinds of things i could have clarified better, and one thing i wanted to toss in there that i definitely missed was to of course value training and education. some have taken that route and it can be a valuable and important one. there are so many great things to learn. i am for a more practical and hands-on seminary experience in general, but i don’t want to dismiss the hard work that many have done and the ways that work has cultivated their pastoral gifts and strengthened their ability to shepherd and love. it is definitely one of many ways, the problem i see is on the whole we have thought it was the only way. and i’m still not convinced it’s the best, most helpful and equipping way.

    lori – yeah, i keep becoming more and more painfully (and wonderfully, too) aware of the the upside-downness of so many kingdom things. it’s so beautiful, really, but also confusing because the ways of the world are so deeply engrained into the ways of the church. love ya girl and am glad that our paths have crossed…

    hanno – thanks for reading, how did you hear about the carnival? i definitely did not want to sound like i am anti toward trained pastors but i can see how it might have come across that way! i really like what you said here: “May Pastors who have been trained is people (male or female) with a strong sense of calling, who love God above all and people like themselves and use all the tools available to them to serve.” thanks for taking time to share, i always love a variety of voices here so it’s nice to have yours in the mix.

    ryan – thanks my friend, i am glad you are reading and part of these conversations.

    pops – you always make me smile….

    randi – yeah, it is really counter-cultural and of course i am with you, i don’t ever want to dismiss someone’s calling or passion. the trouble i have with it is the “set-apart-from-everyone-else-ness” and the difference between a “pastor” and a “leader” and how it gets all mixed up. i don’t think you’re as much of a baby as you think you are. i think you are swimming upstream, rocking the boat, going against the current and this is what happens–it feels lonely and weird and hard and sometimes we think “it must be us?” but sometimes (i’m not saying it is, i’m just suggesting the possibility) it is the system–an unhealthy and wacky one–that is the problem– not good people in communities who want to be part, who believe in what is possible, who dream of building a true community not the next new exciting church. sending love and hope.

    linda – thanks for reading and for taking time to share. how did you hear about the carnival? i am glad that you were encouraged!

    mary – 🙂 very little!

    randy – i missed that note so i will have to go on facebook and see it. your comment made me cry, though. there was something about your words that were very powerful to me. thank you for sharing them and i’m glad you’re stopping running. you’ve got it my friend, you’re a pastor. it’s so obvious and i don’t even hang around you that much. glad that all kinds of trouble is being stirred up in you this year. you really are a gift. thanks for taking time to share ….

    marian – thanks for taking time to comment, it is nice to hear from some new people on this post. yeah, i am very clear on the love-hate relationship thing. it is all very confusing. i am glad that you are wrestling with what God is calling you to in whatever ways/circles are in front of you.

    carlos – thanks, my friend. i hope that day comes and oh we will have some fun conversations & of course that is some amazing-sounding-food. glad we are somehow fellow travelers on this weird path…

    esther – oh i would most defintely love to hear more. feel free to email if you want to, but one thing that i want to clarify is that i do think that some training/seminary/education can be good and very empowering. i don’t ever want to dismiss its value and i have my fair share of it. i just also don’t like the false thought that somehow it is for sure necessary or makes someone “valid”. i truly believe that we have elevated training/equipping/learning/professional-ness far above average people-in-the-body-of-Christ living out their giftedness and practicing love. i am a california girl, exiled in colorado (even though i love it here, i’m just truly a beach girl not a mountain girl). we came here from san diego but i’ve lived in LA-ish and northern cali, too. peace and hope as you listen for what’s next.

    jasmine – amen, sister!

    mark – yeah, it really got messed up & i believe a piece of reclaiming the mission of the church will be leaders/cultivators/pastors/people-passionate-about-the-body who call out, live out, and cultivate the priesthood of all believers.

  • The post and very specifically the comments touched on the priesthood of all believers and on the community as a body. I think this is indespensible for the conversation of how we, the community of the followers of the Way, should be as a community in the world.

    It is sad that the institution church, some more others less, forgot about the priesthood of all the believers and the image of a body, and focussed on the trained “pastor” or “minister” to be the department store of gifts and funtions in a congragation.

    The Spirit gives as (S)He) wills and the body (community) functions best if everyone is capable to manifest his or her gifts.

    I have no doubt that you did not mean to be anti-training at all. Many of those who endure formal training received a specific calling to work in a specific context that often require a certain amount of formal training. I think the challenge for them is to stay humble; more knowledge does not mean they become a better (or holier) follower. The source of their ministry thus does not become their knowledge but stays God who called them to the ministry.

    A little about me. Good morning to this community. I am a 34-year old father of a 2 year old boy. I live in South Africa. I am a qualified field guide and birdwatcher with a degree in theology and this year I will further my studies at the University of Pretoria.

    I am a follower of the Way, a liberal conservative. My specific field of interest is ecological theology and I will spend sometime this year on thinking on how liturgy can be used (and renewed) as a vehicle to teach people of there “green” responsibility that forms a essential part of their identity in Christ.

    I am currently working on expanding my online network and identity and to become part of the conversation. I have a blog (recently renamed – Seeking Mystery) which can be found at I am still very new to blogging and twitter. The latter I think will be indespensible in future conversations. (You can find me on twitter – HannoL)

    I found Carnival via a list that featured a tweet from Kathy. AS part of building and extending my online network I am spending a good deal of my day exploring blogs and Twitter.

    • Great. If ever you down in Toti look us up: Church in da Pub, Sainted Three Bar Warner Beach.
      Ask any Biker where it is if you get lost!

  • Vocational ministry should be avoided, if at all possible. One must be compelled by God to do it, or no end of trouble will befall you. But you must also not avoid the call, for the same reason.

  • Hanno/Pops,

    Any chance for WC tickets? Just joking….:-), but I’m a fan of my Brazil national team….

    • Hahahahah Carlos – you lost all sense of fear man! They are having training cams for the muggers and thieves here so that they can make the most of the tourists! 🙂

      • Hey Pos, I grew up in Brazil and still frequently travel there for my job, as well as Mexico (you’ve heard the goings on in Mexico right) and other Latin American countries, but I digress, but Daniel (his attitude) is one of my heroes….

        back on the “Pastor” thread, to me the poignant question is when was the last time your pastor sat down at your dinner table….it usually is when the group is still small and still a community….

  • I guess I always assumed that the head pastor at a mega church would shepherd and lead the other pastors who would then reach out to the body. The head pastor would lead the body by his teaching and insight. Since I have never been on the inside of the workings of a mega church I will defer to your experience. It makes me sad to hear that their are pastors who are often times described as “not a people person”. Isn’t that the business they are in? Connecting people to God.

    Thanks for your post. I guess I am just spoiled being part of the Refuge because our pastor to person ratio is pretty small. Something like one pastor for every 10 people? It should be the model for all churches in my opinion. I also like being in a place where my pastors know my story and I know theirs. Not just the bits and pieces of their personal lives that they use to make their sermons more interesting. I mean really knowing their struggles, triumphs and sharing life together.

    I am fortunate to have you as my pastor, Kathy!

  • Hi Pastor Julie-
    I’d like to see the ratio get down to about 1 to 1.
    The model you describe seems to fit the CEO model, which is fine for the CEO of a church which is a corporation (more than a corpus).
    It is interesting to consider what a pastor is, or can be.

  • Hmmm…I think maybe I’ve been a pastor! AND, I think I have more than 2-3 “official” pastors in my life! Wow! What an amazing thing to think about a whole church or a whole community of pastors! 🙂 And, TOTALLY resonate with the getting messy with EVERYONE!!! Even those with “problems”! Don’t we all have problems?

  • A nice looking face, a wonderful grin showing lots of teeth and a fantastic sermon does not make a person a pastor. I wish I had known just one pastor who even partly resembles your description of a pastor.

    At the last institutional church we were part of, I kept track of who was there and who was missing. After a person had missed several times, I gave their name to the elder to whom they were “assigned”, who then presumably contacted them. If they missed more weeks, my wife and I took a basket of cookies to their home.

    One one occasion, a man had missed many weeks. The elder to whom he was assigned was the senior pastor. When it was almost time for my wife and I to contact him, I asked the senior pastor if he knew what was happening with the man. He told me that he had heard three weeks previously that the man was in the hospital dying, so he assumed he must have died.

    I asked the pastor if he had called on him, or conducted the funeral. He said he had not, but added that the man was not a member. Since my wife and I were not members either, due to our unwillingness to agree to that groups’ extremely conservative view on the role of women in the church, we knew not to expect any contact from that pastor should we be dying. Not long after, I spent three days in Intensive Care and my life was in danger, and of course we heard nothing from the pastor, even though he knew my situation.

    Calling a pig a petunia does not make it one. Apparently, giving the title of pastor to a person does not necessarily make them one. In my opinion, the title has been used so freely that it no longer has much meaning for many of us.

  • Loved the post, Kathy. Very true and unfortunate the establishment doesn’t recognize this enough. Guess it holds true to the idea that grace and wisdom pools up in some of the smallest and most forgotten of places.
    I look forward to whatever amount of interaction we have in the future. I’m ‘dating’ Mile High right now. Love those guys and currently discerning if I want to go steady with them. At the very least I’ll likely be involved in the local Street Psalms community.

  • My friend Joy brought this blog to my attention today…and honestly, this is a subject I’ve really been struggling with lately.

    In december, I completed a BA in Theology…something I’ve felt the need to do for, well, decades. My spiritual journey over the last 5 years has been nothing, if not hectic, confusing, dramatic, and not anything that I ever expected.

    Now that I’m done, I face the ultimate question “What are you going to do?” The honest answer…..I dunno. I work with our church’s youth ministry, something I love, and this summer (due to some other circumstances) pretty much ran the whole kit and kaboodle. Loved it, even though it was a fairly high stress operation.

    When you mention relationship as (one of) the keys to “pastor”, I can’t agree strenuously enough. This summer, I was actually looking forward to some time off, but these kids came to me and asked “What are we going to do?” It dawned on me that the relationship I had built with them was tremendously important to them…. something I was floored to hear. They still talk about it, months later, and keep wanting me to press on with doing it, even though the ‘regular’ program is back. I truly treasure that.

    I’d love to do it “full time”….but don’t really know what that means, exactly. Plus, well, as Joy might tell you, I don’t exactly fit the typical “church” mold…. I’m outspoken, unconventional, and, worst of all, liberal…lol.

    Any words of wisdom?

    • csalafia,
      for those around me they have heard me say enough times that “I still don’t know what I am going to do when I grow up” and just tuned 60….my “tent making business” is in engineering/tech sales….

  • One of the most traumatic experiences I had inside the IC was being verbally reprimanded and chastised for hours by both the lead and associate campus pastors of the last traditional church we ever attended or ever will attend. The reason for our discipline?
    We challanged their authority AND…we asked why they insisted on wearing the lable “Pastor” when they seemed to have such disdain for functioning in that role literally.
    The reason these ‘pastors’ gave for not ‘pastoring’ was that “They were not specifically gifted as pastors…and had no desire to ‘shepherd’ people…as they were more “visionary-leaders” and gifted administrators.
    AHHHH…enough said. The end.
    Today…my husband and I host an emergence christian group in our home that thrives fully in the priesthood of the believer…no lording titles over one another…no marginalizing or silencing women…We simply love, encourage and journey together. It’s been so much more healthy for us.
    And Kathy…I too have never encountered a mega church or large evangelical church pastor who has ever been an authentic ‘people person’ either…but instead a gifted communicator who had the charisma to rally people behind their vision of church. Wild!

  • Joy – well put….

    “too have never encountered a mega church or large evangelical church pastor who has ever been an authentic ‘people person’ either…but instead a gifted communicator who had the charisma to rally people behind their vision of church”

    I would have to say that it’s not only ‘large’ or ‘mega-church’ churches…….. it’s also this new wave of churches filled with young, ‘cool’, mac loving, trendy dressed business majors turned ‘pastors’ that I see this trend in.

  • @ randi-jo…ooooo…yep you’re right…i forgot that stuff…but fo-shizzle!
    and…do you know what is really funny…? one of the guys that kicked our asses over lunch at chili’s, who proudly professed “i’m not a “shepherding people-kinda-pastor”…
    is aiming to church-plant in urban phoenix and ironically one of the ‘vision’ or ‘mission’ statements for his church is ‘relentlessly loving people’
    huh? ( well loving people relentlessly…in between vision casting, strategic planning, leadership conferences…and ‘lead-pastor’ support group luncheons…)
    i always think i overcome my pain and disappointment in this area and as you can see…i have not.

  • @Randi, @Joy — eish guys, slow down. Yes I know there are many folks in these leadership roles that have a number of different shortcomings and different agendas. However, not everyone in vocational ministry and/or in a mega church leadership can put under the same label.

    I would like to use one well known example (I guess there are hundreds of these) to illustrate the point. Eugene Peterson was the vocational pastor for a smallish congregation for many years.

    I think Kathy has a point in stating that we need to rediscover the meaning of pastor. This includes having a hard look at how the church functions. Unfortunately the answer is not in moving from one model to another. Both models have great pros and sad cons. In my humble opinion the answer will be found in the cross pollination between the two models with some serious direction from the context and text of the Word.

    Pastors are one of the body parts, be that in a lay or vocational capacity; always mandated by Christ in service of God’s people, in service of (S)His creation.

    If people are acting outside of this definition and claims the title “pastor” for their own agenda, it is simply a misrepresentation, sometimes a downright lie. This however is not based on the size of the community or the community model that they subscribe to.

  • Kathy, interesting thread we have going here; and yes we have to be careful not to bash “traditional’ even “mega” churches as there is some good, I believe, coming out of these, for I cut my teetth in several of these….however, to be honest, I’m not engaged in any local “church” at presen for similar reasons listed elsewhere in these comments and am trying to figure this out and how to be in community……maybe I’ll move to Amanzimtoti and join pops in Da Pub church…

    but seriously, some of the best “community” times is when we open our home on a sunday afternoon for coffee, bread and cold cuts (sometimes with miracle of canna is shared as well as some grain drinks) and sit around with fellow sojourners from different local congregations and open up, because it is safe and there is no reprisals/reprimands or banishment to the outer darkness….it is sad that churches have an image to maintain as opposed to getting to know the heart of God….

  • @Hanno — I’m not saying it’s *ALL* ‘pastors’ with the description I listed — I’m saying it’s a ‘TREND’ that I see and I can promise you from all the churches we have visited and friends we have talked to in those environments I’ve described, it is an accurate trend (in our area).

    Perhaps these new churches that are sprouting up are just falling into following the wrong ‘definition’ of pastor because they are looking at the mega church model as an example of what a pastor is…. so they decide they can do what those people do… who wouldn’t want to be a pastor like those popular guys are?

    they don’t realize that they can’t just duplicate another person’s model, personality, and path God has taken that person on. Maybe God is asking them (us) to go in a differnet direction – but so few of us have had great great great experiences with “pastors” that we’re not even sure what that looks like or should look like.

    Anyway – I don’t know the answer to all this and I’m not sold on any one particular model of anything. I’m a floater and don’t fit in anywhere right now.

    My point though was to tell Joy — this “problem” and it IS a problem — is not one that is dependent on size of church community, model, area of the country, whatever…. it can be seen everywhere/anywhere. that doesn’t mean EVERYBODY who fits the environment I described is heading the wrong direction — it means that I’ve seen that “problem” in all kinds of places, not just mega churches, etc.


  • @Hanno…
    Sorry to alarm you. Unfortunately…I just haven’t come across any pastors (* personally*) with the traditional title…that actually had/have the desire to interact with and function in the capacity of shepherding…along the lines that Kathy expounded on here in her blog.
    I attended a 7,000 member church in my area where the local pastor was quite a pill personally but…he was a great teacher…he was a very difficult person to relate too and struggled with anger issues. Just about everyone in any leadership role had a ‘story’ to tell about being verbally assaulted by him at one time or another. But they explained it away by saying he just wasn’t good with people….but certainly was an annointed teacher. He attempted to enlist others to pick up the slack in the realm of personal care…but ironically most of the people in those positions were very similar in their people skills.
    I am gleaning from Kathy’s article that being a people person…and being personally invested in the lives of your parishoners is sort of a non negotiable in the traditional sense. I would prefer people not claim the title pastor if they don’t…but rather be honest about what can be expected from them by using titles such as CEO…COO…CFO…area manager…etc.
    After 25 years at that particular church (I’m 43) I started attending a church who employed pastors that all very well fit Randi-jo’s discription…with very few exceptions. This church is one of the largest and most successful multi-cite video-venue churches in the US…
    Today we meet regularly in our home with several people… at least 25 adults representing at least 4-5 of the Mesa AZ. mega churches…every single one of them report having similar experiences to ours. It’s just not unique…which I think is unacceptable.
    However…all of that to say…certainly authentic pastors exist…Kathy is the real deal for sure. I have just never encountered one locally.
    As far as Eugene Peterson goes…vocational pastor or not…since I don’t know him personally and have not ever been under his directional care…I can’t say whether or not he was a ‘power-under’ service-oriented-pour-his-life-out- lover and edifier of people…or not.
    I am a people person…so it is very obvious to me when pastors aren’t.

  • Re: the 12 steps, I am so grateful for the 12 steps and even more blessed to know they were written based on the Bible Beatitudes and the book of James. They are my ‘school of God’ in addition to holy scripture.

    Re: pastors, I grew up Catholic but don’t remember anything about what the priests talked about. However, I do remember my mother’s steadfast faith in Jesus. She prayed and said the rosary with amazing faith and somehow I knew was going to be okay because of her prayers. She truly believed. Her servant heart in loving others through her gift of cooking and hospitality was so beautiful. She was the pastor in my life who laid the foundation for my faith in Christ!

    Kathy, thank you for your loving heart and creating a place for others to come and just ‘be’.

  • The modern day Pastor did not exist in the early Church – period.

    “It is a universal tendency in the Christian religion, as in many other religions, to give a theological interpretation to institutions which have developed gradually through a period of time for the sake of practice usefulness, and them read that interpretation back into the earliest periods and infancy of these institutions, attaching them to an age when in fact nobody imagined they had such a meaning.” – Richard Hanson

    BTW – a Pastor who has graduated does not make the rest of us para Pastors – in the first century trainning was hands on, it was more an appenticeship than of intellectual learning – it was aimed at the spirit rather than the frontal lobe.

  • “– a Pastor who has graduated does not make the rest of us para Pastors –”
    True, and an interesting choice of words. “para”(παρά) has two different meanings, one popularized in normal usage and another in it’s root meaning.
    In normal use, it means different than, or following behind. In it’s root it means alongside of, or with. These indicate very different relationships when used with the word pastor.
    How we use these words says a lot about the assumptions we make about the nature of authority. I respect authority, it is a natural and neccesary part of life. It is right that we should follow, as Jesus taught. But what kind of authority did Christ give? Not only did he deliver great sermons and fielded theological traps with paradox, but he came ALONGSIDE of others. Healing, listening, caring. He did not force his authority down on the minions, he washed our feet.
    We can only give what gifts we have been given to the kingdom. None of us (but Him) will have all gifts. What we can do is to be “para” in the best sense- WITH others, and not buy into it when it subordinates.

    • For clarity, read: The Pastor Has No Clothes: Moving from Clergy-Centered Church to Christ Centered Ekklesia, by Jon H. Zens.

  • can we add to the discussion the size factor that has been brought up. ratio of pastor to person. Sage made me think of it when he talked of CHrist. Certainly Christ is the best pastor and everybody would have wanted Him as THEIR pastor…. but that was impossible…. and God’s plan is perfectly set up to constantly disperse authority.

    Jesus leaned on giving authority to others when He was here (starting with disciples) so that people’s needs could be met….

    but then something even better happened…Jesus left us with the Spirit. Had He not left us with the Holy Spirit — which He tells us was BETTER for us than Him being here himself in person…than we’d all be in real trouble. But He DID leave us the Spirit to counselor, guide, teach and that is why the authority is passed and we don’t need ONE pastor for 50 people or 100 people much less 10,000.

    We need more discipleship and hands on mentoring/life living together to learn from “elders” to be able to truly understand what we have been blessed with and the system GOd has set up for us…. we DO have all the power, authority we need. Yes we need accountablity, we need elders/mentors, support systems…… but He has given us a being INSIDE of us and I think the HOly Spirit is not talked about enough, and that many people “in ministry” are even scared of the topic and what it would mean if people understood the Spirit even a bit….

    Because the Spirit alive in true community – is so much bigger than what any “heretic” could do. There doesn’t neeed to be fear of giving people authority/leadership/a voice. I think a lack of understanding of the Spirit is a cause of so many of our problems today…. including this one.

  • Yes, Mark R., your understanding of that inspired me to think about it, thanks.

    And Randi, Huge observation! thanks for that. I’m also touched by pastor Irene’s account of her mom, the living spirit at work.

  • thanks all for the interactions. i have been busy yesterday & today hanging out with 2 of the most amazing pastors i know who are visiting from portland–from the bridge & home-pdx, two communities i am so privileged to be part of. the comments from the past few days kinds of feels like some wednesday nights at our house of refuge when people stay for a long time and have conversations in our living room or kitchen after i have put on my pajamas, tucked in my kiddos, and gone to bed. anyway, i so appreciate everyone’s varied perspectives…

    hanno – welcome to the carnival, thank you for sharing a little bit about your background, too, it really helps to know a little bit more and i am so glad your voice is here! i really like what you said about the body functioning best when everyone can manifest their gifts. there’s nothing more beautiful than someone who begins to come alive in what they are passionate about or built to do. it is really true, too, that people’s experiences with God and church are varied and that sometimes honest reflection on personal experience can sound very negative. the reality is that in every group, system, organization, organism, whatever it is–there will always be good and bad. always some kind of paradox. i don’t think there’s any one “right” way, but i do believe strongly that some of the comments here reflect the inconsistency that many have experienced in their church experiences.

    randy – having to make a living doing it can cause no end to trouble. we all know we wish we could support ourselves better living out our passions but that’s just not a reality for most of us. if anyone gets a gig lke that, cool, but counting on it, expecting it, jumping from place to place in search of a paycheck somehow messes with using the gift freely. i read your letter, btw, it was amazing to read more about the journey and how much this conversation all fit. keep me posted, my friend, on what nuttiness God creates next!

    pops – how close are you to hanno?

    julie – yeah, i can only speak from my experience and the experience of many others who have been in the trenches on a wide variety of church staffs over the years & that doesn’t quite seem to be what ends up happening….we are very fortunate to be a community full of pastors, but i truly believe that many other communities are, too, their people are just not unleashed to live out what they are built to do. it’s in there, it just doesn’t have a place to come out. i am so glad that you are part of the beauty here..

    sage – yes, this has been a fun one to ponder together… i really like your description, too, para & the coming alongside. paraclete is a very under-utilized word, too, so beautiful.

    tammy – yes, we are all broken and no doubt the best pastors i have ever known–titles or not–are all in radical touch with their own brokenness. the wounded healer model is far under-valued in many churches. we talk about it or sort of go with “they used to be like this, but God healed them now so it’s okay to be a leader” vs. present and current brokenness.

    sam – yes, i think this is a critical question–what happens when someone is sick, dying, getting a divorce, admitting an addiction, struggling with parenting issues, etc., etc. etc. who is there? are people sent to professional counseling to figure it out “over there”so they can come back “better” or ignored completely in their deepest darkest places, as you described?

    ryan – thanks for taking time to comment…yes, i think it’s often overlooked and many don’t have safe places to have these conversations out loud. i am so glad you are going to be part of street psalms and are becoming more connected to mile high. they are amazing people focused a lovely combination of reflection & action together. i hope to see you soon and catch up a bit more.

    csalafia – thanks for taking time to share and congratulations on finishing. i would love to talk more about what you are considering. email me. i think my biggest words of wisdom to anyone in your situation is to find a spot to live it out, whatever that looks like. if you find a system that truly values you and wants your voice and is going to properly support you, great, but if you can’t find that don’t let it stop you or define you or limit you–ask God to show you a way to create something or carve out something or find a way to do it outside of the box. both are hard and have their ups and downsides but i think my #1 warning is just to remember to not let “the system” define what’s possible for you.

    randi & joy – i have seen what you have both seen up close and personal and it is interesting that both of your experiences are very different in terms of sizes of church, types of church, etc. i’ve come to believe that this vibe and culture we are talking about tends to be an evangelical-y thing and not so common in other streams, although many of the systemic things are similar, just maybe not quite as cool. i am going to toss in there that this is why i am very passionate about women and men leading together and the value of shared leadership because it breaks up some of the power and tilts things. plus, a big missing piece from so many faith communities is the “whole” image of God that both male and female contributes to. i think what we have seen in terms of average leadership of a typical church is not at all reflective of the body, period. it is one gender and sort of one type-of-personality as opposed to a diverse group that together creates wholeness.

    irene – that is a beautiful story…that is what i like about the 12 steps, too, and believe that if the beatitudes were really our guide that all kinds of things related to our faith individually and collectively would look completely different. they are upside-down to the ways of the world. powerful church leadership & exclusivity of roles is a worldly value, not a kingdom value, yet it over and over and over gets replicated. i would love to see more and more upside-down communities get replicated. i think it’s happening and will continue to gain momentum over time because it resonates deeply in the hearts of people–there just aren’t too many examples of it so it’s almost like many have “given up” that it’s possible.

    mark – yep, i believe if we completely and radically shifted the training and discipleship model and wiped out paid-seminaries, things would look so different…

    jonathan – thanks for the link! i hope i get to see you at the east coast gathering?

  • wow…don’t know how I missed this post but am so glad to have read it this a.m., just spent the last few hrs journaling about that silly “pastor” word & the trouble it causes me. O man… will we get a chance to talk before your Africa trip? I hope so!!! Sure do love you!!!

  • One legacy I hope to hold on to is the fact that my father was a pastor, not by title, but by the heart. If you worked for him, or were “in his circle” family or not, he cared… and showed up at funerals, hospitals beds, and made phone calls every night to people who needed to have a friendly voice on the other end of the line. People came to know Christ better because he drove people places when they were sick, or took them to lunch when they were lonely. My grandfather was considered “looney” because he was such a giver and a prayer. When the country pastor couldn’t make it, my grandfather was the preacher for the day though he never completed elementary school. You are right, Kathy, about who are the real pastors in the community.

  • Good thoughts.

    My experience is that everyone in a faith community exhibits some degree of relational gifts (including, but certainly not limited to, the Big Five [Eph4:11]). But, as you note, the systems we’ve inherited mostly steers these gifts into a professional clergy system.

    Ray, Florida, et al show that cultural and community transformation happens at the creative level, and that 10% to 30% of any community are the catalysts behind this transformation. But Constantinian religious models prevent real, organic change from happening because the 1% clergy-class sets the agenda and defines the boundaries of its community.

    I blogged on this a few months ago (… social networking is changing global religion in part because creatives-of-faith now have direct access to community formation. In virtuality, the 10-30% creative core no longer needs permission from 1% structural gatekeepers. In virtuality, ideas live and die not by their ability to further institutional mandates, but by their inherent value to the greater community.

    Cynthia tells me u r in Africa right now. She says “hi” – be safe.

  • Wow, that was a good read! My husband and I have been discussing the word for years, and especially after his four years of being a “paid pastor”. We both work at jobs that are not “in the ministry” and yet whenever we chat about work, we’re always talking about the people at work, “I had this amazing conversation with someone” or “You wouldn’t believe, so-and-so’s story! It’s so great!”
    I think the word “pastor” is too far gone to reclaim. Even it’s root word, “shepherd” doesn’t mean anything to me, as an urban woman who’s never been near a sheep farm. 🙂 In our culture, what you’re describing sounds more like a “life coach” or “support group” or even “lover” (oops, that word’s also too far gone to reclaim 😀 ).
    What I loved about your blog was when you said we need to “validate their gift & infuse them with the courage to use it freely.” I can do that. 🙂
    I’m a teacher and about a year ago someone told me that I was more of a pastor than he’ll ever be (he’s in full time ministry) because of the connections I can make with my students and the truth I can speak into their lives. That meant a ton to me and I was able to accept that validation without worrying about the semantics of the “title”. He was describing a role, or I guess as you say, my gift. 🙂
    Thanks for writing that!

  • just catching up but thanks so much for your responses to this post. i am glad it stirred up some good thoughts!

    donna – i am so glad you are stepping into what God made you to do. you are such a beautiful example of humility & love & mercy poured out. look forward to catching up. we stayed at shawna’s in amsterdam, too, and so that was fun & yet another connection to you. xo

    laurie – oh that is a beautiful story and a wonderful legacy that he has passed on to you. thank you for sharing.

    brother maynard– thanks for the link!

    john – great to hear from you. i hope one day we can all hang out, give cynthia love from us. we had an amazing trip to africa. yeah, that 1% has really done a number on what could be, but i am so excited that things are shifting & that many are breaking loose from the confines of the system to live out who they were created to be…so much creativity waiting to be unleashed!

    peggy – great to hear from you & yeah, you know what i’m talking about up close and personal…

    – thanks for taking time to share. how did you find the carnival? i am glad that you are living out your gifts without a title, the whole thing is kind of ridiculous, really, how limiting the word has become.

  • most people’s true “pastors” aren’t the pastor of their church, they are close friends or people in community who care for them and love them.

    That is the best ecclesiology statement/paragraph I think I’ve ever read. It’s the best kind of profound statement: one that I’d never thought of, but when introduced to it, it seems so plain, simple and comprehensible. In short, it rings with truth.

    It speaks particularly strong to me as I’m in the long process of ordination in the Episcopal church that won’t be completed for another decade (I’ve gots me two little ones to get to kindergarten before all that really can happen, but this post reminds me that it really can already happen.)

    What a wonderfully empowering paragraph, to say nothing of the rest of the post.


    • david – thanks for taking time to comment & share a bit of where you are at on the journey. i am glad you are recognizing that while ordination is a significant & beautiful piece of the journey you are now on, it doesn’t mean you can’t and aren’t a pastor now or that that piece of paper or ceremony or accomplishment will somehow make you “more” of one than someone with the gift who has never gone through that process. i remember those days, too, with little ones & preschoolers and juggling school & life. now i’m just always juggling the big ones & life, but it is easier in so many ways with everyone in school all day 🙂 best to you on your journey, i am glad some of these words empowered you somehow & hope to hear from you again.

  • My hubby found your blog, he thinks it was through Greg Boyd’s blog (did he mention the Carnival?) Love the title, btw. I’ve been thinking a lot about how my close friends and support network are truly my pastors, and with that definition, I am a pastor to a number of people as well. It kind of cracks me up now, as I used to have big issues with the word. I still feel sorry for “pastors” in general, seems like a job that has too much expectation, not much pay or perks. But, with the way you described pastors, it’s much more in line with real life lived with a ton of love. 🙂

    • jan, so sorry i missed commenting on this way back when, yikes! thanks for reading and i think it’s beautiful that you are pastoring others & others are pastoring you without using the word…

  • You are absolutely right. We have been in a church for more than ten years under a pastor who doesn’t relate to people, but in a Bible study with a man and his family who do. This family has pastored us far more than the man who occupies the office. No one can be good at everything, and I would rather see us reclaim the gifting of pastor and recognize those who have it, then call our church leaders ‘elders’ according to their real gifting and function than see so many ungifted pastors flounder, wondering why they fail.

    • joanne, thanks for reading and taking time to comment. that always cracks me up, when people say “well, the pastor isn’t really a people person”….i don’t have any trouble with people leading in churches doing non-people-y things but please don’t call them a pastor. just call them a CEO or a “primary communicator” or something else than the word, that implies shepherding, love, heart for people, connection, and heart. how did you find this post?

  • “i, i, i…” Well, what does the New Testament say about pastors? Ephesians 4:11 “And He gave some as apostles,, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers.” We no longer have apostles, nor prophetic prophets. But we do have evangelists (a preacher of the Gospel, 2099 in Strong’s, and we do have pastors: “metaphorically, one who assumes leadership over a group of believers; as picturing Christ as the head of the church (HE 13:20); as human leaders over a community of believers ‘pastor, minister’ (EP 4:11).” – Friberg-Friberg and Miller’s Analytical Lexicon of the Greek NT. It is just great to “be on fire” for the Lord! Yet, that must be tempered with knowledge of His will (Philippians 1:9-10). All pastors were teachers (1 Timothy 3:2), but there is no indication that all teachers were pastors (Jay Lockhart, p. 210). Now then, what does apostle Paul say about women in the church??? Get ready to lose your preconception and hear God’s Word folks: “And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence. For Adam was formed first, then Eve” (1 Timothy 2:12-13). Does that mean a woman CANNOT get up in front of a church and preach to them? Does that mean a woman CANNOT teach another Christian man or LEAD the church? Correct. All the context points to women NOT being in any kind of leadership over a church (group of believers). That is what God says on this subject, and overrides our “feelings and emotions” on this matter.

    • hi brian, thanks for sharing your passion for this interpretation of scripture. i understand this position but there are other very smart and educated theologians and Christ-followers who share a different interpretation. you sound very sure that you are “right” on your interpretation. i see it differently and hold fast to always leaning toward freedom over oppression when it comes to Jesus and the reflection of his image through the church.

      • “very smart…educated theologians…freedom over oppresion.” Is every command or example by Jesus and His Holy Spirit-led apostles and other writers (Matthew and Mark)OPPRESSION? Too, in suggesting that I am uneducated or “right” on MY “interpretation” are you also implying that YOU may be wrong??? Let me ask you this Cathy, what does it take to become a “theologian”? Also, does it take 10 or more years of university training (seminary or no) to be “right” on any given subject of the Bible? Lastly, are you implying that 1 Timothy 2:12-13 is too difficult to grasp, to be “right” about??? Oh, I jsut have to ask one more: was Jesus dogmatic about ANYTHING? Please provide Scripture with your answers – otherwise this discussion cannnot be fruitful. Take care.

  • Lady Escobar, thought my last comment was a bit rough (?) so… Let me tell you a bit about myself: am 54, married, no children save two little dogs (a Maltese and another that is part dashund and part chaweenie). Am physically disabled (had another operation last week) due to decades of construction work; have a few college degrees (theologian!?), and am anti-republican. My wife, who is 51, is a disabled veteran, yet takes care of me and our “children.” I guess you could “rightly” say that I am a LIBERAL – and proud of it! The only thing I disagree with my fellow Democrats is the idea that homosexuality is NOT a sin. Romans 1 points this out in no uncertain terms. Yet, I would hire a homosexual/lesbian in secular work if he or she was qualified. I guess that is one good thing about our Constitution.
    I am FOR abortion, it is absolutely a woman’s “right.” Consider all that medical science has done – we have the ability to detect all kinds of genetic problems in the fetus, giving the mother a CHOICE whether to carry on with her pregnancy, especially when the mother’s life is at stake.
    I consider myself to be of the Christian Church persusion though I also enjoy the Weslyan faith from time to time. Someday I would like to be able to attend and graduate from a Catholic university in Bible religion (to get a well-rounded, bird’s eye view of all that I can).
    Cathy, as I said before, it is good to be “on fire” for the Lord; but…it must be tempered with His will (AT LEAST basic knowledge of the Scriptures, Philippians 1:9-10 and Colossians 1:10). I hope this last message has not been shocking to you or your readers. Well, can’t help that, can I? Take ‘er easy.

    • brian, i don’t think anything you shared here is shocking. i respect that you are very passionate about your position. in these kinds of moments i am comfortable with agreeing to disagree. we see the scriptures differently and that’s okay. you may be sure that i am “wrong” but i will gladly error on the side of equality any day. in matthew 23 Jesus had some pretty strong admonitions against legalism & religiosity. if you want to talk scripture to scripture, i encourage you to read the good work of christians for biblical equality, who are strong bible scholars and are passionate about this topic. peace to you on your journey.

      • Hmmm… none of the arguments I made were addressed. It seems your position is this: “God, how dare you say this about us women: ‘But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet. For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve’ (1 Timothy 2:12-13)! That isn’t EQUALITY!!! How dare You say or even command such!!! Why, there are vast numbers of theologians out there who disagree with You! You practice sexism!!!! How dare You God!”

        • Brian,

          I think that you have been answered. You are seeking an argument for the sake of it. It would not matter what Kathy posted, you have decided that your understanding of this verse is correct. Argument would accomplish nothing except division. Kathy gave you a resource to look up for yourself, no argument needed. If you really were interested in her views, you would read them. I believe that you are simply trying to get into a contest of whose view is more correct. Bravo to Kathy for choosing not to argue and to allow room for disagreement, this is so far from an essential doctrine that it is kind of silly.


          I am encouraged continually by your grace and love, even for those who do not agree with you. You are doing wonderful things at the Refuge and I pray continually for you and your ministry.

          Men of Praise Motorcycle Ministry

    • You need to read: The Pastor Has No Clothes: Moving from Clergy-Centered Church to Christ Centered Ekklesia, by Jon H. Zens.

  • Dear fedexmop, “but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always having ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence” (1 Peter 3:15). If Cathy truly has the SAVING hope within her, she does not wish to discuss it via the Scriptures themselves (does she have hope in anything else)? No one on this website has an answer for 1 Timothy 2:11-14 “Let a woman quietly receive instruction entire submissiveness. But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet. For it was Adam who was first created, then Eve. And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being quite deceived, fell into transgression.” Cathy’s referral to that website said NOTHING that Cathy already said here – virtually nothing in the way of Scriptures. It is entirely based upon emotions: “NON-OPPRESSION, BUT EQUALITY!” Good works at a mission is highly commendable – but does it take the place of lovingly obeying God????? (See Matthew 7:23 for DOGMATICISM). No, I am not arguing for merely the sake of argumentation (fighting), but fighting for the souls who buy into Cathy’s (and others of similar ilk) concept of feminism over God. That is what the real issue here is. No, I am not “Mr. “Right” or “Perfect” by any means! For even the devil can quote Scripture (Mt. 4:6); but the Word does tell you and me: “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1). Should ANY of you wish to discuss this or anything else more privately, please feel free to email me at: Thank you Cathy for allowing me this time on your website.

  • Brian,

    First things first. Lets look at 1 Tim 2:8-15 for what is is, a passage about ecclesiology, not soteriology. Here is a quick primer on theological order.

    Soteriology(recieving eternal life)- primary doctrine

    Ecclesiology(how we act when we come together)- secondary docrine

    Primary Doctrine = essential to the faith

    Secondary Doctrine = room for disagreement (demonstrated by the variety of denominations and ways to worship together)

    Now here is where I need to rebuke you, You accuse Kathy of not having saving faith. But I know Kathy and she has placed her trust alone(faith) in the person and work of Jesus Christ alone for her eternal security. Her soteriology is sound, and therefore your accusations unfounded and as a pastor myself, I rebuke you for carelessly making such accusations here or anywhere.

    Now, a little lesson on the hermenutics of 1 Tim 2:11-15. First, the word you use as silence is better translated quietness, as used in 2 Thes 3:12 of both men and women. Here it is the antonym of gossipping busybodies(men and women). Next, the word you translate as submissiveness is the verb tense of the greek word hupotasso used in 1 Pet5:5 to tell all believers, BOTH MEN AND WOMEN to submit themselves to one another. This verse then could be rightly translated as “let the women learn without being gossipping busybodies and submitting their own wants and needs for those of the body.”

    The next verse uses the word aner and is translated man, but it is more properly translated husband or bethrothed. One proper translation of this verse could be “I do not allow a woman to teach or rule over her husband, but to live in quietness(not being a busybody gossip).” Again, this is consistant with the rest of the Bible.

    The last passage is the most troubling. It cannot be used to show that woman are less for being decieved into sin. To do so would be to contradict the entire Old testament and its testimony of how God views sin. The law prescribed a much more sever punishment for willful sin than sins of ignorance. to read 1 Tim 2:13-15 consistant with the rest of the Bible would mean to read that Eve was less culpible for the sin of mankind than Adam, since her sin was out of ignorance(deception) and Adam chose to sin out of willfullness.

    I know you will not agree with my interpretations, but they are based on careful and prayer filled study of the original languages and they are accepted in many theological circles. But you will not accept them, as you have already set in your mind that what you believe is the correct understanding.

    I only leave you with this, you have accused a precious child of God of something that you have no evidence of. That child of God also is gifted and called of God to be a pastor, and she does so in submission to her own husband and the rest of the body of Christ. I rebuke you for accusing a sister(that is Satan’s realm, as the original accuser of the brethren)without ground and for carelessly accusing one of God’s annointed leaders. Kathy is living out the Spirit of 1 Tim 2:8-15, but I fear that you are living out the spirit of 1 Cor 3. I pray that you will repent of the spirit of devisiveness that has characterized your interactions here thus far and seek unity based on our identity in Christ Jesus.

    In Christ’s Service,
    Edwin “FedEx” Aldrich
    Men of Praise Motorcycle Ministry

    • Unfortunately, you seem to have missed the entire point of the teaching. Read PAGAN CHRISTIANITY by George Barna and Frank Viola carefully and prayerfully and you will discover that hermeneutics and history are not your forte. There are at least one hundred other scholars over the years–such as Jacques Ellul–who have dealt with the issue in print, but in some cases, the hatred of organized religion consigned their works to the fire in attempts to suppress the truth. God, however, will be more difficult to suppress regarding this issue.

      • Robert,

        Not exactly sure which “teaching I missed the entire point of. Also, simply stating that history and hermeneutics is not my forte without actually offering an alternative hermaneutic yourself really does not prove anything. I have not read this book, but I do respect both Barna and Viola, so I may give it a look. Your comments are a little confusing, but it seems like you are against the institutional churches definition of pastor, which is pretty much the whole point of this article by Kathy. I am in agreement with Kathy and I think you, that the position of Pastor has become something entirely different than it was originally intended. It might be easier to understand what you are getting at if you simply mae your point rather than refering people to the work of other authors. Not that refering to other works is wornk, but perhaps you could summarize what the authors are saying that you agree with. Just think yolu could be more clear in making your point.

        Men of Praise Motorcycle Ministry.

  • The institutional church will never let go of the word pastor and all the authority, control, and power that comes with it. Because a large segment of the institutional church comprises counterfeit Christianity, the modern day concept of pastor is also a false doctrine that made its way into the Body of Christ via the Roman Empire and the Roman Catholic Church 1700 years ago. Up until about A.D. 300 the church was relatively pure, but after that time, the lust for power, control, and authority overcame those in so-called ministry within the arising institutional church, and when the Reformation shook the Roman Church to its core, the roots of the modern-day pastoral role were already infecting the field. Frank Viola and George Barna have dealt so effectively with this issue in their book, Pagan Christianity; and Frank has clarified the solution to this problem in his book, Reimagining Church. With Leonard Sweet, Frank Viola wrote The Jesus Manifesto, which shows the damage the pastoral role has done to the Body of Christ by working against the preeminence and supremacy of our Lord Jesus Christ in His Body on earth. Many modern pastors are sincere, but many are sincerely wrong, and many will also face this issue in the Bema Judgment and perhaps too many in the Great White Throne Judgment. May God have mercy on their souls.

  • Beautifully crafted words around this experience of “pastor” that you are living and walking. As a woman who is continuing to explore and seek to honor my own journey, your words have given a beautiful invitation to not let “a word” trump THE expansive Word of God as it is growing within the people…men and women.
    How might the true Kingdom of God be released in this world if we actually lived our deepest giftings without the baggage of “definitions” and stereotypes.
    Thanks for doing the work and for your journey!


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