Having been a pastor for over a decade, I have experienced my fair share of odd requests for guidance from families and individuals. In fact, you might be surprised at some of the things I have been asked. It is as though people expect that by virtue of being a pastor I have insider knowledge on divorce law/lawyers, the ethics of reproductive technology, parenting kids, parenting teenagers, marriage counselling, handling conflict with in-laws, how to invest money, what school options are best (i.e., private, home schooling, public)…and so many other things.
Oddly enough, my seminary training involved biblical studies, Greek, preaching and communication, theology, spiritual disciplines, music, pastoral visitation, and just enough counselling and family therapy to know when I am in over my head. That’s all she wrote folks! And, truth be told, pastors should not be experts in all of the other areas (and neither should they pretend to be!), and congregants should not expect that their pastors are expert in anything other than what they have been called to do: preach the bible and provide practical wisdom for life from a biblical worldview.
So, if you were to ask me about divorce, I would open the Scriptures and direct you to Matthew 5:32 & 19:9 as well as 1 Corinthians 7. If you were to ask about reproductive technology, I would remind you of the inherent value in all of human life and that we are known and identified by God as persons even in the womb (Psalm 139:16, Jeremiah 1:5). If you ask me how to handle conflict, I’d direct you to Matthew 18. If you ask about parenting, I’d remind you that God is quick to love, slow to anger. Jesus was firm on his kingdom principles, but loved people despite their actions. He pointed people in the right direction, saying go and sin no more. Even those who were to backstab him were still permitted a place around his table during meals. He never turned his back, offered lots of consistent correctives, and at the end of the day some of his closest people walked away from him—which was their choice and not a failure on Jesus’ part.
Basically, we point you to Jesus. That’s all we’ve got, and scripture tells us that is actually enough. Please do not expect us to be scientists, pharmacists, doctors, lawyers, human resources consultants, business-minded entrepreneurs, or professional counsellors—some of us have training in some of those areas, but we are not experts because our professional practice is pastoring and that is primarily what you will get. And when we pretend to know more than we really do…just smile, graciously thank us, and ask us to pray for you. That should help get us back on track☺.