In the spring of 1998, I was deeply grounded in my atheist non-belief, but on one dark day in that time, my thoughts were not on belief in the divine or a lack thereof.
I had had my first romantic relationship, and it had come to an end. I was thoroughly in love with this girl, and she had ended our passionate love affair. I was beyond devastated, and wandered the streets of Delaware, Ohio in a numb, agonized haze.
At one point, I found myself at the office door of the University chaplain. I was not a Christian at all, but there I was. He looked at me and said "John, what's wrong?" I told him, and collapsed on his shoulder weeping. This man didn't try to convert me. He just listened to me and mourned my loss with me.
I wasn't a Christian, but I needed a pastor, and somehow, I knew it. Some embedded knowledge had seen through the pain and guided me to the chaplain. Looking back (now that I am in CPE), I don't know how I knew that this man would listen for me and care for me. But I did, and went.
At some point in our lives, we will all need a pastor. The cannot shield ourselves, outwardly or inwardly, from all of the slings and arrows that will come our way. In our broken world, pastors aren't just useful -- they're critical.