Malinda Berry’s metaphor of the church as a tree includes the image that pastors should function like a tree’s trunk that carries nourishment from roots to leaves and from leaves to roots.
Many years ago the church sent young men to the Southeast to serve as pastors of newly planted churches. We were poorly prepared for what was expected of us. We invited Paul M. Miller of Goshen College to come and help us to better understand ourselves and our ministry. Miller was a native of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania and began his adult life as a dairy farmer. But when he lost several fingers in a farm accident, he decided at age 31 to sell his dairy farm operation and began training for pastoral or missionary assighments. While serving as a pastor of the East Goshen Mennonite Church he earned four advanced degrees. In 1952, he began teaching at the the Goshen Biblical Seminary. In 1961, he completed work on his ThD. at southern Baptist Biblical Seminary.
Miller joined the academic community (the leaves), but he never forgot the churches (the roots) of his youth and young adulthood. He often returned to Lancaster County and moved easily among the its people of his youth.
Miller was like a “leaf” when he came to the southeast. He came with information and encouragement, like light and a fresh breeze . He told us that if we had been ordained in Pennsylvania we would have had models around us who would have helped us know what was traditionally expected of Mennonite pastors. But instead, we had been ordained in the southeast bereft of the benefit of clearly set expectations.
Consequently we would need to develop new roles, relate to the people we served to learn what they expected of us, and set new goals for ourselves and our congregations. Miller gave us both the freedom and the obligation to change and be change agents.
We now come to the reason for this blog. The Old Fool wishes he could be a little like Paul Miller among today’s pastors. It is true, our world is changing, the church is changing, and the role of the pastor is changing. And the Old Fool has changed and is changing still. Change is oftimes stressful, but the Old Fool would like to make it easier for us all. He wishes pastors to be as sturdy as a tree’s trunk.
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