I don't like being a pastor.
Now let me unpack that.
Maybe, a less dramatic way to say what I am feeling is that I don't like being perceived or labeled as a pastor. The Bible lists pastoring among the spiritual gifts given to believers. I don't believe that I have a large measure of the "pastoring" gift. To me, a true pastor (Biblically speaking) is someone exceptionally gifted to care for and disciple a smaller group of people. I may be better at that than I give myself credit for, but it isn't my primary gifting.
I can look past that, though. I live in culture where the word "pastor" (or minster, reverend, etc.) means something other than what the New Testament means when it uses the word. I don't have to be the etymological purist who tries to rescues words back to their earlier meanings. I'm tempted to do that, but it isn't worth the effort. So, in our culture, a "pastor" is for all intensive purposes defined as a protestant priest. Most people would define a "pastor" as a professional clergyman who leads a church (meaning a non-profit religious organization). There are, of course, negative connotations to the word. Lots of pastors are egomaniacs, for instance. Many are rather shallow people using religion to forge a career for themselves. Some of them, of course, love God and their people legitimately...ok, probably most of them do if I am being fair. But, the reality is that the word itself isn't a very exciting label for me to attach to myself.
When someone on an airplane asks me what I do I usually say, "I work for a church." If I'm feeling particularly guarded I might say something like, "I do lots of things...teach at a church, write books, make movies." They will generally be intrigued more by writing books and making movies, which leads the conversation toward a more desired destination. In most circumstances I can rarely make these words come out of my mouth: "I'm a pastor."
I do have business cards that I never use that say "pastor." It's also what appears on my W2 form. I am, legally speaking, a pastor. I'm registered with the state of Ohio as a member of the clergy to perform religious rites. I'm a pastor. I just hate being called one.
I worry that I think too negatively about this stuff. I know I can tend to do that. The "happier" people in my life advise me to make it my ambition to embrace the title and embark on a crusade to redefine it. But it's hard to give my life to redeeming a title that neither Biblically nor culturally accurately defines what God has called me to be.
This post all comes from a thought I had during our prayer time last night in my church meeting (small group). It hit me that for all of the obviously rough days Jesus weathered, there might have been a similar frustration that he quietly endured day to day. I started thinking about how many people called him "Rabbi." He was a rabbi - a teacher. But he wasn't like the other rabbis. He spent the majority of his time combatting the Pharisees, the leading faction of rabbis. I wonder if the average person - at first glance - just put Jesus in the "rabbi box." I wonder if they thought things like, "He's a little different than the Pharisees, but a rabbi is a rabbi. He's all talk. All about the rules. All about the power, etc."
Of course, those who spent time with him would begin to say things like, "unlike the other rabbis, he speaks with genuine authority." But, I can't help but wonder if his stomach didn't turn now and again when a stranger walked up to him and addressed him as "rabbi." Maybe I'm way off. I am obviously projecting my own story onto his...but I don't think I have thought about how the cultural expectations of being a rabbi could have been a frustrating obstacle toward his goal of bringing the Kingdom.
I have a great measure of clarity around what God has called me to these days. He's called me to live my life in a church defined as a "a small missional family loving God and each other." He's called me to Cincinnati and the Vineyard to use my gifts to mobilize people to see the Kingdom come in our city and beyond. He's called me to play a role in speaking to the larger American culture through film and video production. I'd do those things regardless of my job or title or circumstances. I don't think any of these callings make me a pastor, but you can keep calling me that if you want...so long as neither of us really start believing it too much.