Paper Training a Pastor

I bet many of you clicked in just to see how I would connect pastoring to paper training a puppy. Here is your obligatory photo:

In actuality, though, I am stealing the term “Paper Trained” from the art of music, not puppy training.

“Paper Trained” was a term I came across when I was learning to fiddle. It was used by fiddlers to disparagingly talk about classical violinists. Fiddlers highly value “feeling” the music and were rather hard on people who could only play with sheet music in front of them. The goal of the fiddler is to tap into the music of the moment, which could be any variety of style. This required a finely tuned ear (which it turns out I don’t have) and a willingness to give oneself to the moment. The rigid style of classical music didn’t fit this philosophical stance of the fiddler.

The reason I bring this up is that, very recently, I was praying for a guy named Boomer and the word that the Lord gave me for him was “It isn’t the paper that makes the pastor.” Boomer looks like a rough and tumble kind of guy, he is grizzly and tattooed and quite in love with God. He is also going through the Vineyard version of seminary, which is great and I highly encourage, but I could sense that the Lord didn’t want Boomer to lose his edge. Pastoring is a lot like fiddling, we need a sensitivity to what the Holy Spirit is doing in the moment and not come try to dogmatically fit every situation to our theological understanding.

Jesus once spit on a man’s eyes to heal him. How silly would it be to make that into a theological practice? “Oh yes… in order to heal glaucoma one must first produce a sufficient amount of phlegm. Having blessed the phlegm, one then proceeds to administer it to the area in question via projectile propulsion.” Nonsense. Jesus did what He saw the Father doing, He was led by the Spirit every moment. He never healed the same way twice and rarely prayed in any given format. When Jesus gave His disciples the Lord’s Prayer he was teaching them how to pray, not giving them a set-in-stone manuscript.

Pastors must give themselves to the moment. Pastors must surrender themselves to what the Spirit wants to do in the lives of His people. We are conduits of the Presence of God and we need as clear and unhindered a flow as we can get. Rigid philosophical or theological ideas of how God works get in the way. Our ears must be attuned to the music of Heaven so our feet can enter the Dance.

One the flip side, fiddlers are limited in their playing. They can only play the music they themselves can hear and this is a major limitation. For this reason, paper is a wonderful conduit of revelation. I am not knocking books, education or learning in any way, I simply want to relegate it to its proper place. I think mainline denominations are crazy – they take their future leaders out of a congregation, cram their heads full of inapplicable knowledge and then turn them loose to care for the hearts and soles of people they have never met.

But we in the Charismatic world have a lot we can learn from our Mainline and Liturgical friends. Pastors should be people who study, especially the Word. Pastors should be students of history so our culture doesn’t trap us into a one size fits all type of religiosity. Pastors should be, as Malachi says, “those whose lips guard knowledge.”

Physical training has some value, so does mental training, but godliness has value for all things. Learning to be led by God, learning to Listen and Obey, is foundational for the work of Pastoring. Do we need to check these words against Scripture? Absolutely! In fact, so much of my hearing from God comes through the written Word of God. But it is also possible to fall into the plight of the Pharisees who studied the Scriptures diligently but weren’t able to recognize the Voice of God speaking to them.

There is a renaissance afoot in the Vineyard, a reclaiming of the “radical middle.” We will once again be the people with Evangelical theology and a love for the written Word as well as those with Charismatic practice – the gifts of the Holy Spirit manifest in full flower. We will be led by those who pray, who study, who listen and obey. I am so excited for what God has in store!

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