Last week I was able to hook up with an old friend of mine who happens to be a pastor as well. He's not a senior pastor, a youth pastor, a ministry pastor, a worship pastor nor a, family's pastor. He's an "Availability Pastor." Have you heard of such thing? I hadn't 'till then. When I first heard him state his new title I had two feelings. One of disturbance and another one of compassion. Let me try to flesh my reactions out.
Disturbance - It's quite disturbing to me at times that the Church of Jesus Christ has institutionalized to the point that ministers perform according to labels. If you're a worship pastor you sing - can't preach. If you're a senior pastor, you preach and so why would you want to visit with someone who's sick? It disturbed me that I've followed this flow and that the western American church has become so industrialized that ministry roles have been created according to an organizational system and a personal profile to the point of naming someone "Pastor of Availability." I've never found these labels while reading the New Testament. Plus, what's this guy supposed to do anyways?
Compassion - To me it sounded like they had created "the bench pastor position." Now, I know my friend and I know the church he has worked for for many years. He has been instrumental not only in my spiritual formation but in the life of many godly men and women to this day. My wife included. Why would you put someone like him on the bench? He's a strong player! Much stronger than some of the "starters" I know they have. That's how I felt. For a minute I felt sorry for the guy and sorry for his church.
But then it dawned on me that if there was a title to define who he was and what all pastors are supposed to be, that was it! - Pastor of Availability. While in the New Testament you can't find the titles we've created for pastors, you find that pastors were available to people and to whatever Jesus required of them at the time. If healing the sick was needed they were there, if preaching was required they were there, if counseling was required they were there. They ministered to children, to the youth, the elderly and to people in prison.They were not bound to a tittles except that one of availability. Which to me is one that communicates both humility and boldness. Humility because they existed to serve as Jesus served and boldness because no challenge was a challenge. I could never imagine Paul saying to Jesus: "-Lord, send John, he has the gift compassion. He's our outreach pastor!" Nope. They did whatever came their way. They faced demons, incredulity, diseases, conflicts and, crisis whenever and wherever needed.
So- what at first was source of disturbance and compassion latter became a source of fascination and reflection. I started to ask myself: why am I not a pastor of availability as well? I know from my own experience that the title I have received has many times handicapped me to truly be what Jesus wants me to be. I recall myself saying "I won't see him. That's not my job!" or "I don't have time to sit with that couple, I have to sermonize." I know that there's always a risk of being distracted off of our focus/ responsibility but is it possible that sometimes Jesus wants us to be available to meet random needs of people? And is it possible that we have hidden behind titles and have used them as an excuse to minister spontaneously? I'll say yes. What about you?