Pauline Perspectives On The Identity Of A Pastor -- By: Klyne R. Snodgrass
BSac 168:672 (October-December 2011) p. 387
Pauline Perspectives On The Identity Of A Pastor*
The main reason to focus on a hermeneutics of identity is that this is what each of us needs to live. This is not an admission of self-centeredness, as true and annoying as that reality may be; rather it is a recognition of responsibility. No one else can live this life. How can we each understand who we are and how we are to live?
Church is supposed to be a place where questions of identity are raised. Going to church is an acknowledgement that we are not the source of our own being, that we do not belong to ourselves, that we owe allegiance to someone, that we have responsibility, that life is not about us, and that we will have to give an account of our lives. Church is the place where we derive our identity and state our allegiances, and the place where we are not allowed to believe our own lies.
What then should a pastor be? People look for and need to see authenticity. They can tell the difference between someone who does pastoral work and someone who is their pastor, or between someone with a superimposed identity and someone whose Christ-shaped identity is lived out. They will always be uncertain about the former; the latter they will trust.
Pastors and all Christian leaders are “entrepreneurs of identity.”1 Leaders of any group have the task of identity formation,
BSac 168:672 (October-December 2011) p. 388
identity explanation, and identity maintenance for other people. Christian leaders are communicating not their own identity but the identity of Christ and His community. Pastors are people who have hope for what others can be, and evangelism is sharing a conviction about and a hope for a worthwhile identity for others. Pastors tell people the good news of who they really are in God’s eyes. The same Christ-identity expected of all believers obviously needs to be seen first in pastors. Someone wishing to exercise leadership needs to “be maximally representative of the shared social identity and consensual position of the group in question.”2
On the other hand the identity of a pastor is what scares many away from the ministry. Seminary students often complain that being a pastor feels like wearing Saul’s armor, but what is a pastoral identity? Expectations are placed on pastors, especially to maintain the status quo and run programs or solve problems for people that they themselves are not willing to solve. Pastors then end up with a church but not a life.
To what degree is the identity of pastors different from the ide...
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