The Nature of the Pastoral Role: The Leader as Completer -- By: A. Duane Litfin

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 139:553 (Jan 1982)
Article: The Nature of the Pastoral Role: The Leader as Completer
Author: A. Duane Litfin


The Nature of the Pastoral Role: The Leader as Completer

A. Duane Litfin

[A. Duane Litfin, Associate Professor of Pastoral Ministries, Dallas Theological Seminary.]

There are few vocations which splinter a man like the pastoral ministry. The average pastor is expected to be “all things to all men” in a way quite beyond what the Apostle Paul intended. Several humorous paragraphs have circulated in recent years, masquerading as ministerial want ads, which were designed to make this very point. Everyone expects a pastor to be at once an effective scholar, administrator, communicator, counselor, motivator, educator, and a host of other things as well.

Unfortunately few can fulfill such expectations. The result is a rash of frustrated and confused ministers. In fact, those who counsel pastors suggest that the ministerial identity crisis is a familiar problem among clergymen, one which has prompted many to leave the pastorate altogether. In the midst of all the bulletin preparation, the janitor-hiring, the Sunday school teacher-motivating, the babysitting which passes for counseling, the delivery of half-prepared sermons, the shuffling of paper, the organizing of meetings, the planning of events, the often interrupted study times, the visitation, the placating, the public relations—in the midst of it all the ministry can easily get lost in the shuffle. What, the pastor asks himself, is this all about?

Seeking a Theory

A pastor needs some way to consolidate all these diverse activities into a comprehensive theory of his role as leader in the

congregation, a theory which will enable him to sort through the muddle and evaluate what he is doing. Only in this way can a pastor face the complexity of his ministry without losing himself and his sense of purpose. To attempt to function without such an overall theory is to court the disaster of directionlessness which seems to afflict so many pastors.

One must not apologize, of course, in calling for a theory of pastoral leadership. Nothing is quite so useful as a good theory. It informs one’s behavior at every turn. Without a sound theory by which to operate, a person’s steps are often random, lacking a cohesive purpose and overall direction. There is no such thing as a theory which is good on paper but does not work in practice. A theory is by definition a bad theory if it does not work in practice. A theory is a good theory only if it corresponds to and helps one understand, organize, and respond to reality in an effective way.

In looking for a comprehensive theory of the pastoral role, what is being sought is a “model,” as that term is used i...

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