Yes, being a pastor is a spiritual gift. It is not just a job. In scripture the word ‘pastor’ means ‘shepherd.’ My experience with this gift is brief. (They nicknamed us the ‘whirlwind pastorate.’) But I am convinced that many people have, and use this gift without ever holding the position. (Pastor is always plural in the New Testament, indicating that there should be more than one with this gift in the church.) These are the people that direct flocks of people. People follow them and look to them for advice and guidance. There is a danger to this. People with this gift must be careful what they say and how they act because other people naturally copy them and have a tendency to do what they say.
I became pastor in a very odd way. I was home schooling my children and had just finished my doctorate when one of my children, during night devotions (a practice I would highly recommend) said, ‘Wouldn’t it be fun to have our own church?’ This was not a child that one would expect to say this, and it struck me as something I needed to pay attention to. I mentioned it to my pastor, who, instead of reminding me I had seven children at home, thought it was a great idea. What I didn’t know is that the area we were moving to was in desperate need of a pastor. My pastor called the powers that be, and put me in touch with them. When I called their office what I did not know was that many, many people call and say that they have a call from God to pastor a specific church, and that they are usually phonies. Later the gentleman I talked to said that when he got off the phone with me he spoke to the higher up person and said, ‘I think this is for real.’ We moved, and I attended the church for a while. I then told the interim pastor what God had placed on my heart and he got really excited. I became senior pastor (they only had one pastor, it was small) before I was even credentialed. Now, before you think it was all smooth sailing, by the time I got to the credentialing meeting I thought it was merely a formality. Somehow God had not informed the pastors on the board that this was the case, and the interview did not go as well as I hoped, though I was credentialed in the end. I thought I would be pastor for life, but that was also not to be. I don’t know why I was there only a brief time, but we did much while we were there. God has a plan and a time for everything, and one of my children needed more attention and needed to be far from the environment he was in. We moved, and he improved. Later he went downhill again, but as an adult, and that is a different story. The beauty of pastoring is knowing that you are called. I never felt anxiety over what I was doing, nor did I worry about what I was going to preach. I threw out my sermons when I was done because these were messages for this group, today, and they were not to be repeated. I was shepherding a small group, teaching them what the Lord needed them to hear now. Not that the messages weren’t good for everyone, but they were specific for this time, place and people. Some weeks God did not lay anything on my heart to preach until the last minute. Most of the time though I knew what I was to speak on after the Sunday service. God also directed people to me. I had the resources and answers to meet their needs when they called. It was fun. If I had no message, then we prayed, and truthfully those were the best services! I also encouraged my congregation to ask questions and talk back to me. (This can only be done in a small church, but it was fun.) People came to the church, but God also moved many away in that year. Some relocated due to jobs. One became a missionary and left quickly, it was amazing how the pieces fell into place. Still the church did grow, despite the fact that my goal was to fix the place up before we did much outreach. (The building needed much work, and there were ‘smells’ that had to be located… Four major ‘smells’ to be exact.) We ripped out carpet, painted, planted and decorated. One of my sons felt moved to rip out dead bushes. Not an easy job. (When children really want to do hard work, for free and do it well and quickly you kinda know it has to be God!) People also got saved. We baptized three and more professed faith for the first time. And we weren’t even ready yet. And then I knew we were to go. This was hard. I loved this church and felt like a perfect fit for it. But I was obedient, and knew my adopted son came first. I missed the work, and the people, but also knew that my calling was for that church, and not for pastoring in general.
I still have the ability to have people follow me. I am very careful about it, but find it strange when I, now the new person, am the one people look to for the answers. This is the true gift. You may have all of the right answers, but if no one is willing to listen or follow, you can accomplish nothing. You can also lead people astray. I kick myself when people misunderstand my words because there is a very real chance they will do something based on what they think I said. They will also tell everyone else I said it and make me look bad, but that is another issue.
Some say that the gift of pastor goes along with the gift of teacher and that they are never separate. I am not sure that this is true, but it is good for the pastor to be a good teacher if people are going to listen and follow. There are some however, who have people follow their example. They are quiet, and don’t say much, but everyone knows they do what is right. This may be teaching by example, or it may be just pastoring. I don’t know, and truthfully it doesn’t matter. What I do know is that pastor is a spiritual gift and there are many people with this gift directing the sheep in our churches, not all of them in the proper direction. (Everything can be abused.)