Ouch! The question itself raises a variety of emotions; and not all good ones. I posted this question on Facebook to see what responses I would receive.
The origin of this question was somewhat different than how it was posed. It was actually a question raised by a pastor as he pondered his responsibility for creating an atmosphere and framework in which spiritual formation and missional engagement could take place.
He has been at his current church for around a decade. The congregation is facing a major decision that requires a perspective that demonstrates spiritual maturity about the decision. Yet, there appears to be a lack of spiritual maturity in the dialogue.
This has caused the pastor to wonder about his role and responsibility in generating spiritual maturity in the congregation. So the question: What is the responsibility of a pastor for setting an atmosphere and framework for spiritual formation and missional engagement? If the congregation individually and collectively is not growing spiritually, should they sue their pastor for malpractice?
If a pastor is not setting the atmosphere and framework for spiritual formation and missional engagement, what atmosphere and framework is the pastor setting? Are there other acceptable atmospheres and frameworks for pastors to set?
Where does worship leadership come in? Where does the ministry of pastoral presence apply? What is the place of spiritual ministry faithfulness? Are pastors at least to be a role model of spiritual formation and missional engagement?
Responses from Facebook
Let’s look at some of the responses I received on Facebook:
- “Jesus called the 12 to preach, heal, and be with him. Some sprouts of the Christian life need some ‘being with’ examples. The pastor and congregational leaders are role models for next steps in the journey.”
- “It seems to me the pastor should be the lead spiritual director and educator. However, you can lead a sheep to water but you can’t make it drink.”
- “It is the Spirit that does the growing in us. It’s the Spirit that produces the fruit. As branches, we bear nor produce fruit. We make room for that transforming presence to ‘move in’. As long as we’re focused on making growth happen and not ‘being’ and ‘doing’ with the spirit, I think we’re missing the point. To place the cultivation of an atmosphere solely on the pastor or solely on an individual shirks responsibility and doesn’t speak to the true interconnectedness of how God is present to us.”
- “If pastors don’t have some responsibility and role in the spiritual development of their congregation, then what’s the point of being a pastor? Having said this, no pastor can take full credit or responsibility for members’ growth or lack thereof. It’s our job to provide and guide, but it’s up to the individual and the congregation to partake.”
- “The shepherd can only take the flock to the pastures and to the water but the grazing and the drinking belongs to the flock. On the other hand, if the pastor is failing to take the flock to good pastures and water, the pastor must be held responsible.”
- “I don’t know how to respond, but I love the question. I wish we had a few that were so passionate about spiritual formation that they would ask the question (and I’m a pastor!).”
- “I don’t doubt there are clergy who are starving their flock with poor preparation, laziness, and boredom. However, I also don’t doubt that there are a good many pastors who prepare a feast for their flock who are so full of junk food when they arrive at the banquet; they have no room for the food that nourishes. Whose fault is that?”
- “Did your pastor know you were not growing spiritually and did they neglect to bring it to your attention? If so, then yes.”
- “While there are certainly different levels of depth and strength among pastors, the more common concern is watching deeply undernourished folks walking by the bountiful banquet while idly munching Cheetos.”
- “I think spiritual growth is something that happens when you are trying to do something else—like follow Jesus Christ. I still prefer Biblical words and concepts, like ‘making disciples’. That is done by accepting that responsibility and giving a balance of invitation and challenge.”
How would you respond to the question: If I am not growing spiritually, should I sue my pastor for malpractice?