Shepherd’s Care: The Pastor as “Person”

I want to use upcoming posts to look more closely at a much-needed dimension of pastoral life—the necessity of remaining rooted in our personhood.

The basic definition of “person” is human.  Related to the general definition is also the idea of individuality.  Both aspects are indispensable for those of us who are clergy.

The importance of it for those of us in ministry can be seen when we abandon personhood.  We can forget we are “human,” and set out to go beyond the limits of humanity.  We forget that supernatural tasks require supernatural power, and that amnesia creates the “downward spiral” (Dr. Archibald Hart’s idea) that we have looked at previously.

Forgetting we are “human” also leads to pride and presumption.  When we stop looking at our failures, we begin to think we are only the accumulation of our successes.  When we stop looking at our vulnerabilities, we begin to think that we can “play with fire” and not get burned.

Losing touch with our personhood also results in the adoption of an “image” over individuality.  It may be an image borrowed from one of our heroes, so that we become mimics of someone else’s ministry.  Or it may be an image that blends us into what Thomas Merton called “the mass man” which systems and institutions create to identify “the good boys and girls.”

The only way to avoid these pitfalls is to hang on to our personhood.  God was pleased to make us unique and unrepeatable (which includes both strengths and weaknesses), and it is only as we are willing to be “who we are” that we find both the authenticity and the vitality to serve God as we are and where we are.


About Steve Harper

Dr. Steve Harper is retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 45 books. He is also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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1 Response to Shepherd’s Care: The Pastor as “Person”

  1. Rhonda Stapleton says:

    Thank you, Steve. This was a true gift to me today. I receive permission to stop buying into the expectations of others on me, as well.

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