With that succinct sentence a church member issued a severe indictment of the man who was their pastor and preacher. I’d heard it before. The line is a standard complaint of some church members who aren’t enamored with their current pastor. I may signify something more serious, that members have arrived at the conclusion that their pastor is totally inadequate in performing pastoral duties.
In the case at hand the member was expressing frustration that the pastor didn’t relate well to most of the members, didn’t make sufficient effort to build relationships, and, perhaps, performed minimal pastoral duties perfunctorily.
While the “preacher not a pastor” line might be one of the the lamest bits of criticism church members can offer, in other cases it identifies a critical deficiency. In some cases it is nothing more than a convenient gripe against the minister who doesn’t meet the personal expectations of the complaining member. In other cases it goes far deeper and may be fatal.
The terms “pastor” and “preacher” are often used interchangeably and are disconnected from their meanings. Churches may call their spiritual leader “Preacher Smith” or “Pastor Smith” without regard to function. For most of us, though, being a pastor means being a preacher and being a preacher means being a pastor. The pastor who is unhealthily disengaged from the personal lives of those for whom he is shepherd cannot blithely explain such by claiming to prioritize his sermon preparation; conversely, the brother who meets every pastoral need but neglects his preaching errs as well.
Except for limited situations, the dear Rev has to pay attention to both roles.
So, why state the obvious here?
Because twice recently I have encountered this statement in situations where there seemed to be more truth to it than normal. Both situations are difficult and the continued service of the pastor in the church is not at all secure.
Most SBC churches (the median church in our grand convention has around 70 in the primary weekly worship service) are of the size that doing the pastoral tasks cannot be delegated. The church of 100 souls has a pastor. He does almost all of the preaching and relates to all the members. If there is a death, he will preside. If there are crises, he will necessarily be there. He will make the hospital visits with, perhaps, some others taking turns and helping out. While some paid or volunteer workers may relate more closely to some segments of the church, children or students or other sub-groups, he will be looked to as the pastor and expectations will be laid on him as a result. No big deal. This is normal, usual, and healthy.
So, why am I hearing more and more of a pastor who tells his church that he is going to focus on preaching and leave most pastoral tasks to others, to staff or deacons? I understand that larger and megachurch senior pastors cannot possibly relate in a pastoral way to 500 or 1000 or more active members but I don’t understand the guy who looks at 60 or 70 on Sunday morning and thinks he just doesn’t have time or it’s not his job to do the pastoral tasks for this group.
Is it laziness? Obstinacy? Is it because the young megapastor-in-training came from a large church where the pastor was inaccessible and closeted in his study? I’m at a loss to understand the thinking here.
Some of the brethren are better preachers than pastors. Some are better at pastoral tasks than at preaching. Both are necessary and important. But here’s some free advice: People for whom you serve (or served) as pastor aren’t likely to point to your best sermons although they may have benefited from them greatly. They are almost certain to recall moments of faithful pastoral care and ministry.
Both can be done well.