Who Pastors the Pastors? by Harold Senkbeil
AUGUST 15, 2020
Who takes care of your soul?
I’m just guessing that if you are like most of us you try and shrug off your own spiritual needs. After all, we’re trained theologians, aren’t we? We’ve been to seminary and that means we should have all the answers. We’re avid Bible students and we have soaked up the wisdom of the ages when it comes to Christian doctrine.
If that’s the way you’ve been handling your personal spiritual needs, I have two words for you:
That’s right, you need to seek out care for your soul; you need to place yourself under the care of another pastor. This is not a sign of weakness; rather, it shows you respect the office that you yourself hold.
I doubt that you would return to a dentist whose teeth are decayed and falling out or a barber whose hair is a mess. Every profession proves its integrity when its practitioners themselves seek out the services of a colleague. So if you value the art and craft of the cure of souls to which you’ve been called, why wouldn’t you seek someone to pastor you?
FINDING A PASTOR
But where to look?
Pastors often ask me how they should go about finding a pastor who can shepherd them. The first thing I tell them is don’t gravitate toward friends. Like I already told you, a pastor needs every friend he can cultivate, and having pastors in your circle of friends is a treasured gift. They know firsthand the joys and stresses of pastoral work, and with them you can be completely candid. But pastoral care is a lot more than empathy, camaraderie, and understanding. Here and there I’ve known pastors who are good at keeping these roles separate and can serve in both vital capacities: friend and pastor. But that’s a dual role, and it involves conscious and deliberate vigilance, so normally I advise men to look beyond their circle of friends to identify their personal pastor.
So how to proceed, then, in seeking a pastor for yourself? I advise men to use their eyes and ears.
- How does the pastor you’re considering view the congregation he serves?
- Is it clear he’s able to love his people despite their weaknesses, with all their warts and blemishes?
- Is he a man of theological integrity and good humor, who takes himself lightly, but his office seriously?
- Does he demonstrate a healthy reverence for the word and the sacraments as instruments of God’s Spirit in creating and sustaining faith?
- Does he present himself as a servant of Christ and steward of God’s mysteries?
If so, approach him with the request to meet with you regularly to receive the gifts of God: to listen to you, pray with you, bless you, or hear your confession as needed.
This post is adapted from The Care of Souls: Cultivating a Pastor’s Heart by Harold L. Senkbeil (Lexham Press, 2019).