What Do Pastors Do Anyway?

Rev. Michael Keith

"So, you're a pastor, eh? What do you do anyway?"

I remember being asked this question by a guy I met only a few weeks after I was ordained. Obviously, you can tell I live in Canada. I remember trying to answer the question by listing a bunch of things that are regularly on any pastor's "to-do" list each week. After I gave the list the guy said somewhat bored "Oh, yeah. Okay."

What do you think a pastor does? Some think we only work on Sundays. Some think we sit and pray all day. Some think we go around telling people what they are doing wrong. A pastor is not what a lot of people think he is. A lot of people will go to a pastor seeking advice or counseling for their lives. It can be flattering that people think you have some answers to life that they don't have. It can be a bit of an ego trip if people come to you seeking wisdom. But let me let you in on a little secret: Pastors have enough trouble trying to get through life in their own life - let alone knowing what is best for yours. Most pastors are not trained as counsellors. Most pastors don't have any more insight into which career might be best for you than anyone else who might know you. Most pastors don't know how to fix your relationship with your parents. That's not really what we do.

The best we can offer is to sit and listen to you. We might help you wrestle with whatever you are struggling with. If the bible has a clear Word on the subject we can point you in that direction. However, a lot of times the Bible does not have a clear Word on some of the things we struggle with deciding in life. We can pray with you and be by your side as you go through life. But we don't generally have any more insight into how to live life than anyone else.

Now when I get asked the question "What do you do anyway?" I have an entirely different way of answering it. When I am asked what I do as a pastor I answer: "I am a delivery man."

Pastors are delivery men. More than anything this si our primary responsibility. Everything else is secondary. We are delivery men. It is our job to deliver to you God's gifts. We do that in different ways - but that is really what a pastor is to do. We preach God's Word and deliver the Law and the Gospel to you. We teach the Word in Bible study. We baptize people. We deliver Holy Communion to God's people. We pronounce Holy Absolution. God's gifts of forgiveness, life, and salvation earned by Jesus are given out in the Word and the Sacraments in the Church. The pastor is the delivery man.

It is important that God's people know where to go so that they can receive God's gifts. That's why Jesus instituted the Church and the Holy Ministry. You go to 7-11 for a slurpee. You go to the Church for God's gifts. And just so there is no confusion God set up the Holy Ministry so you could be certain that you are receiving the real goods. So you can be absolutely certain that when you go to the Church and go to a called and ordained servant you will receive the gifts Jesus has for you because that is what He has promised. That is why there is this man who is given one job. He is ordained, he is ordered, to do this one job. He is to give the gifts of God to God's people.

So when you are struggling with guilt and shame, when you are wrestling with doubt and uncertainty, when you feel like God is a million miles away, when you have questions about God's Word and what it means - go see your pastor. This is what he does. That is why God has given you a pastor. So that He can speak God's sure and certain Word of love and forgiveness to you. So that he can discuss your questions with you. So that you can hear Jesus speak His words of forgiveness to you in the Holy Absolution. So that He can put Christ's body in your mouth and pour His blood down your throat so that you would be comforted that Jesus is not far away - but right here with you. This is what pastors are uniquely qualified to do.

So, what do pastors do anyway? They deliver God's gifts to God's people through Word and Sacrament in the Church.

It's a pretty cool job.

Rev. Michael Keith serves as pastor at St. Matthew Lutheran Church and SML Christian Academy in Stony Plain, AB Canada. He can be reached at keith@st-matthew.com.

Created: June 29th, 2015