What is a pastor? Is he a good teacher? Is he a good leader? Is he someone good at drawing people together? Is he a counselor? What are his responsibilities? One of the big problems the church has faced is that many people have decided to follow the brick-and-mortar model of a church and appointed themselves to start such a church. The problem is that many of these men are not qualified to be pastors. I am talking more here about heart, focus and shepherding than anything else. If a man is unable to be a shepherd, a gentle guide who cares for every member of his flock as his own, he should not even be thinking of starting a church. I hear often from futurist pastors “I need to do what is best for the majority of my congregation.” By which they mean shunning a small minority they believe are beyond help. But Jesus left the 99 to try to save the 1; that is being a shepherd, not playing to your power base!
Pastoring is much more than preaching on Sunday and organizing a few events, or doing some writing. Pastoring is nurturing and loving every single member of the congregation, regardless of their place in life. The thing I see lacking the most in pastors these days, is love. Some are great teachers, outstanding writers, great organizers, but instead of shepherding a flock they are more interested in carving out a niche for themselves. When a bump in the road (read: less than perfect member) arrives they circle their wagons instead of following scripture and being a minister to those in need. This is also obvious in the community when pastors and churches only help certain kinds of people, instead of being the church to everyone in need.
This is where the model of the scriptures comes into play so much. A pastor should be under the guidance and support of older, more experienced pastors. He should be taught how to shepherd. He should learn how to counsel his people in love. He should learn how to care for those in the community. For many pastors, preaching comes naturally, but they can and do permanent damage spiritually, psychologically, and physically when they fail to learn the other necessities of being a shepherd. Let’s say, for example, a person in the church needs marriage counseling. If the young pastor, without being a good counselor, or knowing what he is doing, dives right in to counsel the couple because he is their “pastor,” a relationship has started that can never be severed. He is now a part of their marriage. They have opened up themselves in a way that does not go away just because counseling stops. If he gives bad counsel, he could damage lives forever. If he abandons the counseling, he could make it impossible for that couple to ever entrust their marital secrets to another counselor. If, on the other hand, he brought an experienced pastor along side with him in the counseling process as he learns, he has less risk of creating problems. That pastor would be able to be someone else the couple could trust.
Pastoring is much more than preaching on Sunday. There are so many things pastors can do that can be spiritually devastating to their members without even knowing it. I focus in on counseling in particular, because that is part of my training and background. I have seen hundreds of people personally whose spiritual, emotional, and psychological lives have been completely shattered by pastors who give advice when they should keep their mouths shut, who counsel people with no knowledge of what they are doing, but especially of counselors who start the process with a member, gain trust, and receive intimate secrets from couple or individuals, and then either walk away from counseling or hand the people off to other counselors. Anyone trained in psychology, or counseling knows this is one of the most damaging things a counselor can do. So why do people with no experience and no oversight think they can pastor people and counsel them? I am not sure. But the damage is rampant in our pews and in people that will never step foot inside a church again.
That is why it is essential for men thinking of starting new preterist churches to find an experienced mentor, to guide them through these landmines. AS a shepherd your first concern should be for your sheep, each and every one. (Remember Jesus left the 99 to try to save he one, he didn’t stay with the 99 to do what was best for the majority!) There are many experienced pastors in the preterist movement who can guide young pastors through this process. Don’t be ashamed or embarrassed to ask for help.