Pastors come in different varieties which is why the term pastoral conjures different ideas in the minds of different people. A pastor is like the hand that is placed in the glove of a ministry position which then leads to that glove taking a certain shape of the pastor’s strengths, abilities, and spiritual gifts. Over time, if the partnership between a pastor and a congregation endures, that pastor will also be shaped by the needs and demands of those whom God has called them to shepherd. And if both that pastor and that congregation are particularly blessed by God, the breadth of the needs and demands of a growing congregation will be attended to by pastors rather than the unrealistic expectation of them being met be a pastor. But there are times when a pastor is called upon by the broader community to care for that broader community in those times of severe adversity resulting from some tragedy. Floods, bush-fires, transport disasters (air/sea/road), military incidents, famine, are just some broader community demands for pastoring that come to mind as examples. More often than not, the type of person that God equips to enter these tragedies is one who has been shaped by God through having to deal with their own tragedies. In these instances the pastoral glove takes the shape of a chaplain. A chaplain’s principal function is comfort. In writing to the Corinthians after a particularly painful series of events, the tragedy-seasoned apostle Paul was able to comfort those he was ministering to because he himself had been the beneficiary of comfort from God through others.
A little over a month ago my world nearly collapsed. I was sitting in the doctor’s surgery hearing him explain to me my immediate peril. I had just been diagnosed with a degenerative spine that could suffer permanent damage if I strained it too much. Not only was tennis out of the question, I was warned that even loading a dish-washer could be irreparably debilitating. I had one more tennis coaching commitment to fulfil which I did quite gingerly and left the court that afternoon thinking that this was my last time hitting a tennis ball on a tennis court. For something that had been a huge part of my life, it was a rather flat moment for me.