Primary Care Pastor

Upon entering seminary, all newcomers at the time went through a Myers Briggs Type Indicator seminar to learn our personality types and how we would relate to our fellow seminarians and professors. I myself am an INTJ. Whether it is true of all INTJs or not I am not sure, but I have a strong bent on the “I” part of the personality – introversion. And I have a tendency to eschew people at times, especially those I don’t know. I am awkward in conversation with the unfamiliar. In crowded rooms, I find a corner to escape to where I can see all “lines of attack” in my directions so I can prepare for when someone heads my way. Most extreme example: during loud concerts, I generally sit in my seat and (literally) fall asleep.

All of which can make it pretty awkward to be a pastor. Can you imagine the person I just described in the last paragraph when he enters a new church as a new minister for the very first time? Let’s just say it’s very energy-draining when I have to force myself to reach out and engage people, especially a lot of people or over an extended period of time (say once a week, every week).

I’ve excused myself from the typical role of the pastor as care giver, the pastor as the one who visits the sick in the hospital room, the pastor who leads the way in evangelism. I’ve excused myself by relying on the passage in Acts where the Jerusalem church leaders divide the work of the ministry among the deacons who minister to the poor and widows and the elders who focus on the ministry of the word. I’ve just understood my role as that of an elder rather than what was called in that passage a deacon.

So today I’m reading through the latest issue of Outreach Magazine, and I come to an article by Ed Stetzer called “Questions for McChurch.” The article is about the problems he sees with the multi-site movement among churches. (Actually, it’s rather interesting – the article leaves the impression that he’s in favor of the multi-site movement, but his contract with Outreach requires him to take the “contratrian” [his word] position, so he has to find things to be negative about the movement.) His first criticism on the multi-site movement among churches is about the pastoral role, and how the multi-site church really limits the amount of ministering the senior pastor can do in the traditional pastoral care roles such as praying over the sick, watching over the flock, and breaking bread with one another. And he goes on to say that, in the multi-site church, the senior pastor is rarely the primary care pastor.

That phrase struck me. Maybe it’s because doctors and medical care have suddenly taken on an explosive new role in the lives of my spouse and me because of the new bundle of joy we’ll be holding in a just a few more weeks, but I had never thought of the pastor in such terms. When all of those forms ask about a primary care physician, I had never thought of the idea of a primary care pastor. Who is that? Should it be the senior pastor always? Is it appropriate to have a pastor of pastoral care who handles all of that while another teaching pastor takes on the role of the sermons (like my ideal church setting would have it)? Were is the place for pastoral care in the role of senior pastor (or whatever you call that)? If the day comes for me to be a senior pastor, whose primary care pastor will I be? Do I need to be a primary care pastor for a set of people even now in my associate role?

Lots of questions. Few answers.

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