I think I have noticed a trend. Maybe it’s just in my local context, which I can speak to quite well. But I imagine that what I am experiencing is likely happening in the broader context of other churches as well.
First of all, I think many people cannot define what a pastor exists to do, and therefore have little understanding for what a pastor can provide. I am NOT a licensed counselor. I have a couple of theological degrees. I know my way around the Bible. And I have some time set aside within my week to meet with people. I write a sermon every week which is like a research project with a speech attached to the end of the “assignment”.
I certainly cannot speak for all pastors here, but I think most all pastors would agree with the following list of reasons to contact your pastor.
1. When You Want to Know What the Bible Has to Say About __(insert topic here)__.
It could be a marital issue, a parenting issue, a business issue, a health issue, or a spiritual issue . . . But I am put together, in both training and personality, to love to sit down and discuss the Bible and what it has to say about life. I can tell you that my counsel is quite limited to what the Bible has to say, but if you have concern for what the Bible says about a given topic, I’m all over that! We may meet only once to discuss what the Bible has to say about your marital issue (or whatever) . . . And I may need to refer you to a licensed counselor after that, but give me a crack at helping you to see what the Bible has to say to your situation first. (And I also know many different counselors in town and might be able to recommend a good counselor for your situation who will counsel you with Biblical principles.)
2. When You Are Having Surgery, Major Life Event, or Anything Else that Needs Prayer
It could be a tough funeral for an old college buddy, it could be an emergency surgery to have your appendix out, or it could be a shift in your employment. But if there is a crisis going on in your life that you would like to have prayer for . . . Let your pastor know. I am confident he would love to pray for you or even WITH you. And, he may even be able to connect you with others in your church who have struggled through similar situations and can pray with you and for you.
3. When You Need Spiritual Direction.
Although this is close to number 1 above, it differs in that it might not be particularly concerned directly with biblical education. You may not need to know what the Bible says about something, as much as you need help putting what you know into practice. There is a difference between the question “what does the Bible teach about prayer?” And the question, “pastor, how do I pray?”. How to have a time alone with God, how to pray, how to share the gospel with a co-worker, how to lead a Bible study, how to fight a specific sin . . . All of these are subjects that your pastor would be over the moon to discuss with you. He is ready to jump at the opportunity to lean into the formation of these things in your life. And, again, he might be able to connect you with others in the church who can help with your situation if you’d be open to that.
As a pastor, I fill a position in society that was once understood. Most people could’ve identified a pastor as one who is in the community to make clear what the Bible says. They would’ve been able to identify a pastor as one who prays. And they would’ve been able to identify him as a spiritual director.
I don’t know what the average person thinks I do, but I am unconvinced that they understand these three functions and how I can be of benefit to them in their lives. So I post this blog to hang out my shingle for ReCAST Church . . . I am eager to make the Bible known, to pray for people, and to provide spiritual direction. And somehow I imagine that people need these things, even though they may not know they need them.