Here's why humans make the best Pastors

Sunday School got it wrong.

I’m all in on Sunday School, but stories about the “great heroes of the Bible” do pastors a real disservice. There’s only one Hero in the Bible, the One who shows up and covers the humans with grace, turning their feeble ministry efforts into world-changing miracles. A more careful reading of the Bible shows Abraham, Moses, Elijah, Peter and Paul in their full human-ness, with all their doubts, fears, bumbling mistakes and inadequacies. It turns out that in the history of God’s call into ministry, he always calls humans. They make the best pastors.

“Hey look, it’s…”

It’s not a terrible thing when little kids point at the Pastor and say, “Hey look, it’s Jesus!” but ministry effectiveness comes to a halt when adults do. Our most powerful ministry happens when people look at us and say, “Hey look, it’s me.” Humans make the best pastors. People of real flesh and blood. Real people with real fears and real flaws. Human people who others recognize as filled with the same questions, facing the same struggles, stumbling along by grace the same as they are.

Jars of clay

Most of the New Testament (and almost all of the Old) is built around stories of people struggling along by faith who, when they’re at their best, every once in a while have enough faith to recognize the work of God in their midst. Peter and Paul and Elijah and Ruth and Joshua speak to us so well because we can hear them saying what we need to hear most: “Been there!” The gospel is best delivered in jars of clay. God’s greatness is always on display most clearly in our weakness. It’s why he called you (of all people!) because humans make the best pastors.

Counter-intuitive modeling

Effective ministers have learned the hard lesson along the way that our best witness to the gospel of Christ is not in our holiness and piety, but in the way that God’s grace has brought healing to our brokenness. My freshman basketball coach was 6’9” and a recent star forward at Oregon State. He taught me almost nothing. I learned all I know about hoops from the junior varsity coach, 6’3” like me, who figured out how to play center for a college so small I can’t for the life of me remember the name of it! You’d think that our perfect families and our perfect devotional lives and our all-star faith, hope and love would be good models for those we serve, but the truth is that humans make the best pastors.

Appreciation

I appreciate pastors every month of the year not for their sermons that go viral, but for grinding it out week by week (by weak!) relying on the Spirit and on the grace of God to bless their humble deeds and inadequate words to change lives. And your words and deeds do change lives, because humans make the best pastors. I’d love to hear about when you first started to discover this important lesson!