The Old Testament Offices as Paradigm for Pastoral Identity -- By: John E. Johnson

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 152:606 (Apr 1995)
Article: The Old Testament Offices as Paradigm for Pastoral Identity
Author: John E. Johnson


The Old Testament Offices as Paradigm for Pastoral Identity

John E. Johnson

[John E. Johnson is pastor of the Trinity Baptist International Church, Wassenaar, The Netherlands.]

Many pastors face an identity crisis. They ask themselves, “Who am I? Why should the people in my congregation listen to me? What is my identity as a minister of Christ?” As Neuhaus notes, “It is not an academic exercise but a day-to-day struggle to make sense of who we are and what we are doing.”1 Of its importance, Oates writes, “If you are to do your work well, refreshing strength must be afforded you from a coherent vision of your identity.”2

Pastors and others have wrestled with this problem over the centuries.3 Yet the issue may be more intensely felt today. “Clearly the pastor-teacher is enveloped in a critical identity crisis in our time.”4 In fact pastoral identity may be the contemporary crisis in pastoral ministry.5

Pastors struggle with this question for three reasons. First, this concern has emerged out of a deficiency in pastoral theology. As one noted pastor states, “In my opinion, much of the ferment in ministry, the identity crisis most of us live with, is largely a theological failure.”6 Much of pastoral training has been devoted to

the practice rather than the theology of ministry. The focus is on administration, preaching, leadership skills, small-group dynamics, and other related duties. Too little time has been given to developing a theology of ministry, in which students address what God defines as ministry and calls a minister to be.

The second reason for the confusion has to do with the present culture. People have changed in how they expect pastors to spend their time, preach their sermons, and shepherd their people. Whereas in the past a pastor was principally viewed as resident theologian and preacher, today there is the expectation that a pastor should be, among other things, a chief executive officer, a therapist, and/or a church growth specialist.

Pastors are now forced to extend their energies to a new line of responsibilities, which sometimes eclipse the older and more foundational responsibilities.7 If a pastor seeks to pursue a genuinely God-centered ministry, it will, as Oakes puts it, “collide head-on with the self-absorption and anthropocent...

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