Reframing the role of pastor

Tuesday, 13 January, 2015

Michael Moynagh seeks to reframe the role of pastor.

Do you feel called to the pastoral ministry rather than to start new types of church? If so, your pastoral gifts may be exactly what fresh expressions of church need.

Most likely you are not the right person to start new Christian communities in the daily lives of your congregation. That's because you are not with your church members through the week.

But you can support your lay people as they do so. You can be a sounding board, an encourager, a source of probing questions, a warning voice, and an advocate for what they are doing, especially to others in church who do not understand.

Pioneers often feel fragile. By trying something new they risk failure, which can make them anxious. If they are 'ahead of the curve', they may feel misunderstood or unappreciated. What they need are good pastors who understand them, sympathise with the ups and downs of the task, and provide a listening ear.

In particular, pioneers often make an identity journey. God may use their unease with existing church to call them on a journey of faith, like Abraham. As they psychologically break free of the church they are used to ('It's possible to be church in a different way', they realise), the Spirit leads them on a path to a new view of themselves.

Instead of just being a member of an existing congregation, they begin to see themselves as the founder of a new gathering. Perhaps they start to identify with others who are starting new expressions of church. As they do so, they travel away from existing church.

But paradoxically, many also crave affirmation from the church they are psychologically leaving. They want reassurance that what they are doing is acceptable and they won't be rejected.

This is where good pastors come in. Ministers can use their pastoral gifts to understand the hesitancies and tensions involved in this identity journey, and offer much-needed support. In other words, you do not have to be a pioneer yourself. You can be a pastor to those who are. Your care and backing can release those in your congregation who feel called to start a fresh expression.

Might you go further? Where practical, might you offer to be a pastor to these new communities? Might you be a referral person for individuals with pastoral needs? Might you visit from time to time, and as you get to know the community care for some of its members?

To encourage fresh expressions, you don't need to be a gifted change agent, nor gifted in up-front leadership, nor have pioneering experience. All you need are the gifts to encourage others to have a go, to gently and wisely hold them to account, and to let them come up with the answers.


Give me some of that old time religion.
I've seen where the new regious ideas have gotten the church.
And it does not look good. Reframing......Hummmmm

This is an excellent article and I would be excited to see this in operation across the country. Speaking as a current pastor but with three years experience in a Fresh Expression I believe this could provide an answer to some of the unanswered questions and challenges that this vital work needs. Many of the pitfalls and frustrations come from loneliness and discouragement. A sympathetic and encouraging ear on the ground would really help. Fantastic article and I would encourage pastors to step forward into this work.

A vital piece of the jigsaw for the family of the church. Recognising and using the skills of 'spiritual grandparents' be it pastors or sending congregations who for whatever reason feel they can't do/be the mission themselves but they are interested and prayerfully concerned, and want to be needed.

I absolutely would not know where to begin in starting a new type of church - too involved with church as it is to have time to go out and meet people where they are at. Sad but true! But I love encouraging the church-as-it-is to be more open, to see that they have opportunities for mission (witness and service) where they are. I think there is a lot to share across the fresh/established divide, we both learn from each other.
BTW, I'd rather not be seen as a spiritual grandparent, just another co-worker in the field! ;)

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