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A Pastor's Name

What's In A Name?

The day of my birth, July 4th, 1951, my parents named me, Tom. Nearly 19 years later someone gave me the name, Pastor for the first time.  When I heard it, I soundly rejected it, and told the person I would never become a Pastor.  It’s been more than 50 years, and “Pastor” is still my name. I’ve grown to love the name and respond to it with indescribable joy.

I live less than a mile from my church. I live on the same street with several members of my congregation. Eighty percent of my congregation could leave their homes and walk to church, just like me. My next-door neighbor works at the local market less than a stone’s throw from the church. If I choose to walk to my office, I stop by the neighborhood donut shop to grab my morning coffee to greet members of my community. “Good morning, Pastor,” greets the barber or the financial planner or fellow grandparent, depending on what day it is. Even though I live in a sprawling metropolis called Orange County, I find little difference with my world and “Small Town, America.”

“Hey Pastor Tom, how’s the family?”
“Great sermon last Sunday, Pastor!”
“So Pastor, what do you think about the news of the Middle East?”
“Oh, #@*… Oops! Sorry Pastor. I didn’t see you standing there.”

Yes, my name is Pastor, but it’s more than a name. It’s a reflection of all that I am. And for many who watch my life, it’s a reflection of who God is. I heard former Focus-On-the-Family pastor, H.B. London, once say on the radio, “Health brings physician and patient together. Justice brings lawyer and client together. Learning brings teacher and student together. But God brings pastor and parishioner together.” There’s no greater position to hold in someone’s life than to be the nurturer of his relationship with Jesus.

This book is for those who serve the Body of Christ, and specifically, for those given the name, “Pastor”.

Did I say, “given”? Yes, the name can never be taken or earned. It must be given, and those who give you the name recognize something different about you. They assume you have been with God and further, you speak for God. Consequently, people either will love you or hate you; embrace you or avoid you; trust you or be suspicious of you; speak highly of you or discredit you; take comfort in you or fear you; they will seek out your company or else avoid you.

Over time, those who love you will trust you with their deepest thoughts and share their most sacred moments with you. “Pastor…

…we wanted you to be the first to know, we’re getting married!”
…you led me to the Lord 10 years ago today.”
…my wife told me she doesn’t love me.”
…my son was in a car accident! It doesn’t look good.”
…do you realize how many lives you’ve affected?”
…I’ve been having thoughts of suicide.
…thank you for being there when I needed you.”
…what’s God’s plan for my life? I’m so confused.”
…thanks for speaking the Truth. That sermon changed my life.”

A title in front of a person’s name does more than simply define a profession. “Doctor, Captain or Professor” signifies a contribution of virtue that adds to the lives of people. “Doctor” indicates a healer. “Captain” in front of a fireman or soldier’s name implies a leader or protector, and the title of “Professor” connects one too teaching.

But what about the title, “Pastor”? What does it suggest?

A pastor is likely to be a healer, protector, teacher, counselor, plumber, car mechanic and much more, all in the same day. A pastor might find himself unplugging a toilet, repairing the church van, counseling a married couple, teaching a Bible study and conducting a funeral while consoling a family for their loss, all inside a 24-hour period. Within 60 seconds this same pastor may console a church member, who just got the news of terminal cancer and seconds later be the first to congratulate a young couple for the pregnancy of their first child. I’ve lived many days where circumstances whipped my emotions in different directions. I’ve led a soul to Jesus Christ with great joy, turned around to confront a cheating husband, filling my heart with sorrow.

Such diversity necessitates absolute emotional stability; instantaneous flexibility; ever-present availability; a skill set beyond academia; expertise that is never fully attained; responsibilities too enormous to carry alone; demands too numerous to count and leadership too public to hide. And herein lies the greatest truth I could ever pass on:

Without God, being a pastor is impossible.

And unless you have stood in a pastor’s shoes, it’s difficult to understand how arduous the ministry can be. Ironically, it’s also the most glorious position any human being can hold. The ministry is both joyous and painful; wonderful and grievous, honorable and humbling, and only by the grace of God could you ever be successful.

Like parenting, being a successful pastor takes on-the-job training, and it’s only after kids are grown and gone, that parents can confidently tell you what works and what doesn’t. The purpose of this book is to share with you a lifetime of experience of what worked for me in the hopes of making you a better pastor.

From seminaries to seminars, I’ve attended many gatherings on the finer points of pastoring. Some were more helpful than others, but I often left these conferences feeling overwhelmed and terribly inadequate after listening to successful pastors talk about their churches and demonstrate skills I could never acquire. It took me more than a couple decades to learn that successful ministry takes being yourself and being more comfortable within your own skillset than trying to fabricate what someone else does successfully. In reality, successful ministry takes more than technique, programs and a honed skillset. Ministry takes God Himself.


That’s what makes pastoring different.

Doctors, firemen, soldiers, teachers, and other notable professionals rigorously train and earn their titles with years of training and grueling education. Candidates spend time and money to make the grade, pass exams, and compete for privilege, while subjecting themselves to personal sacrifice and scrutiny, background checks and exhausting interviews. Prestigious positions and coveted titles are almost always awarded to the chosen few; the cream; the first fruits; the best and brightest among their peers. And at the end of all their labors, they can confidently proclaim they have earned it!

Pastors earn nothing. Their ministries are given by God. The Apostles were deemed, “untrained and uneducated men” but were chosen to begin the greatest enterprise in human history. Imagine that! The Church has steered the course of Western Civilization and changed more lives than all other institutions combined, and ironically, its architects were ordinary men.

The leaders of the Early Church were handpicked. And so are you, not for your talents, brilliance or diversity of performance, but for the condition of your heart. Like fine furniture in the hands of a Master Craftsman, the disciples of Jesus attained their full potential because of God; working with God and for the glory of God alone. They were never known for their achievements.

They were known for their God.

Compared to the highly successful pastors or founders of ministries and mega-churches, you may feel unqualified, uneducated, and incapable. You might be the last to finish the race for position, prominence and popularity. You may feel intimidated when asked to carry out cleverly calculated plans for success. The demons of your past may still call you names like, Loser, Dummy, Ugly or Fat. But in the deepest chambers of your soul, you long for God; you are driven to your knees in prayer; you hunger to take your place with that “great cloud of witnesses” and do your part to change the world.

Indeed, you are likely to be known as a husband, father, grandfather, neighbor, homeowner, preacher, servant, carpenter, fisherman, yard keeper, diaper changer, dishwasher, plumber, writer, teacher, administrator, friend, pest controller, office manager, team builder and peacemaker. These responsibilities are a part of who you are, but none of them individually defines you.

You are defined by the name that only God can give. “Pastor”.

Pastor Tom Long
Heritage Christian Fellowship
7510 E Chapman Ave, Orange,
CA 92869
(714) 538-8261


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