We have already argued that “pastor as artisan” should be a primary metaphor for understanding pastoral vocation in the present day. As artisans, pastors shape and attend to the beauty of God’s dwelling, the church. Now comes the all important question: Just how, exactly, do pastors shape individuals and communities? Here, we need to see that pastoral artisans, like literal artisans, possess tools of the trade. These tools include teaching, liturgy, and systems of life together.
When we talk about teaching and liturgy, we are talking about the content and flow of our worship services. Teaching refers to the spoken words of the sermon that go forth to instruct the congregation. When pastors teach, they pursue a task that has been present in the church from its inception. Jesus himself was famous for his teaching, and the apostles considered teaching, along with prayer, to be at the center of their callings (see Acts 6:1-4). To teach is to appeal to the minds of congregants with the hope of reaching their hearts. When we teach, we lay out a vision of what the holy people of God – his temple – should look like in the world.
Moving now to liturgy, we refer here to the entirety of the worship experience. As such, liturgy encompasses teaching but views it primarily as one worship element among others. And, it is this language of worship elements that brings liturgy into focus. Often, we assume that high church expressions are liturgical, while low church expressions are not. Liturgy, though, has to do with the way we piece worship elements together. Thus, high church and low church expressions engage in liturgy because both engage in worship. The difference between the two is in the kinds of liturgy they employ. Regardless of liturgical tastes, the key here is to see that liturgy is a primary shaper of Christ’s church. Whereas teaching starts at the head and moves to the heart, liturgy goes in the opposite direction. As we engage over and over in patterns of worship, they form us at an unconscious heart level that we only realize and celebrate once they have done their work. When we plan and engage in liturgy, we script experiences that communicate – or fail to communicate – the kingdom. As such liturgy, which can fly under the radar, needs to be given appropriate attention as a powerful tool of the pastor for shaping God’s temple, the church.
Thus far, we have looked at the worship service as a primary space of formation as pastors employ the tools of teaching and liturgy to engage the minds and hearts of God’s people. These tools are necessarily targeted at a finite amount of time each week when we (hopefully) have our people’s full attention. Now, we turn to the tool that engages our congregants beyond our weekly worship meetings: systems of life together.
When we talk about systems of life together, we refer to the rhythms of congregational life beyond the worship service. These can include liturgical elements like the Christian year, but they are primarily concerned with how congregants gather, relate to, and care for one another. Acts 2:42-47 describes the system of communal life pursued by the early church:
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
Note here that the first Christians devoted themselves to regular meal-sharing and practical support of one another. Both of these practices actively involved early Christians in the work of Christ. By sharing meals that spanned socio-economic status, they experienced and modeled the unity of Christ. Likewise, by sharing possessions and selling property as needed, early Christians obeyed and modeled love of neighbor, even to the point of starting a kind of “widows’ fund” for vulnerable church members (see Acts 6:1). Rather than simply gathering to hear the apostles’ teaching and worship, the early Jerusalem church engaged in systems that extended teaching and worship into the rhythms of everyday life. The same can be true today.
When viewing the pastor as artisan, we need to see teaching, liturgy, and systems of communal life as the primary tools of pastoral work. Of course, there isn’t anything revolutionary in this statement. Worship and life together have always been primary pieces of pastoral work. The key here is to see these common tools from the artisan’s point of view. So often these days, worship is viewed as an outdated practice that must be updated for relevance sake or as an inherited framework that must be maintained. The same can be true of systems of life together. Viewed from the artisan’s viewpoint, however, these familiar parts of the pastorate are transformed into tools for the beauty of God’s house. The key to their use and implementation is not whether the culture views them as interesting or relevant, nor is it whether or not they live up to tradition. Instead, the key to teaching, liturgy, and systems of life together is how they shape God’s people. As tools in the hands of pastoral artisans, they become primary instruments in shaping a people fit for God’s dwelling.