Friday, March 22, 2019

12 Attributes of a Good Christian Pastor

Over the years of my Christian life, I’ve learned what I would expect from a pastor. I will share some of my observations with you. These 12 things represent my opinion on what I consider a well-rounded pastor.

NOTE: This assumes the pastors in question are well-grounded, evangelical Christians. Therefore, I say little about actual doctrine or theological alignments. For example, when I say "salvation", I am not specifying whether a pastor should teach an Arminian or Calvinistic view.

1. A well-rounded pastor will never discourage in-depth Bible study.

2. A well-rounded pastor emphasizes the need for in-depth Bible study. So even if he doesn’t discourage Bible-study, if he doesn’t mention the dire need to Biblical study among his congregation, it is a dereliction of duty on his part. I make this a separate line item because it has been my observation that most pastors are simply silent on the subject. The Bereans would be appalled (Acts 17:10-11)

3. Understand that the pastor’s job is not simply to preach the Gospel. While there may be occasions where their congregation NEEDS to hear the simple Gospel only (as was the case in 1st Corinthians 2:2), a tuned-in pastor will know when this is the case. His job is to make disciples, not simply "believers" (Matthew 28:19), which involved more than the simple Gospel. This means preaching the Gospel of Salvation (Soteriology), the nature of Christ (Christology), the prophecies, end-times (Eschatology), the moral imperatives that accompany Christianity, and every other discipline contained with Christianity.

4. A well-rounded pastor will emphasize the need to get alone with God in one’s “prayer closet” (Matthew 6:6).

5. A well-rounded pastor will acknowledge the need for spiritual warfare, and not only acknowledge it, but also teach that it is the job of the whole congregation to engage in spiritual warfare, not just the “Spiritual Leaders”.

6. A well-rounded pastor is one who has mastered the Christian disciplines himself, and is a man of prayer and getting alone with God in worship (Spirit) and a man given to the Academic aspect of Christianity (Truth) (John 4:23).

7. A well-rounded pastor is not simply concerned with attendance numbers, but prefers quality above quantity in their congregation. A spirit-led pastor would prefer to only have five attendees if those five are in-touch with God, and genuinely hungry for His Spirit, than to have a house full of half-hearted “cultural” Christians.

8. As a tangent to number 7, a balanced pastor will not necessarily accommodate church growth, and will know when to accommodate and when not to. Being aware of God’s will in these matters is very important, as building bigger buildings is not the default position when a Church experiences growth. Remember Gideon’s Army (Judges 7:4-7). It is a constant temptation to accommodate rising attendance numbers, as, naturally, more butts in pews typically means more dollars in the offering plate. However, a spirit-filled pastor might find that he has to deny his herd instinct. It might be that a growing church is like a pond. It needs inlets and outlets of water in order to be able to support life. Without these inlets and outlets, the pond will eventually stagnate and die. So will a Church. When a Church experiences rapid growth, a balanced pastor will inquire of God what to do. It could be God wants the pastor to expand and absorb the rising number of attendees, or it might be that God wants the pastor to off-load some of its more mature disciples to smaller sister churches that might be struggling to find mature and qualified servants, ministers and leadership. Inlets and Outlets. As I said, finding God’s will in such cases is imperative, and there should never be a default position.

9. A good pastor will never discourage church attendance, but will make it a point to teach it in its proper context. Modern western services have centralized the “Church Service” within Christianity to the extent that it has become the only “essential” discipline within Christianity. A good pastor will teach that Church was not always a corporately owned building where people met a few times a week to worship and hear preaching. It was an actual community, where familial ties and bonds were created. Christians protected each other and kept each other up. If you want a decently accurate idea of what the early Church looked like, watch the recent movie “Paul: Apostle of Christ”.

10. This is quite possibly the most important one because it is such a common mistake, and nearly lethal to the spiritual maturation of the Christian. A good pastor will not side step or fail to teach eschatology in depth. The promised return of Christ to gather the Church and take her home to the wedding supper of the Lamb is ESSENTIAL. It is, in my opinion, 50% of the Gospel. In addition, a Gospel that neglects eschatology is wildly incomplete. Paul went so far as to call the promise of His coming the “blessed hope” (Titus 2:13). I think the reason it is so neglected is that there’s so many theories on how eschatological events will unfold, or even if they’re going to unfold at all, that he is afraid it will create divisions within the congregation. Of course, it might, especially if the church rigidly holds to one theory as its own. Nevertheless, any clear thinking, level headed, spirit filled Christian who has studied eschatology knows that it is a nuanced and convoluted subject. Moreover, that it is impossible to know how, and especially when, eschatological events will manifest. The priority for a pastor is to make his congregation able to recognize these events should they begin happening in earnest.

11. A good pastor doesn’t urge his congregation to abstain from things such as politics or civic activities, like running for office, or coaching a rec-league ball team. In fact, regarding politics, a pastor will let his congregation know that geo-politics is the stage upon which echatology’s drama will unfold, and should be observed as close as possible without becoming a stumbling block to one’s spiritual health.

12. This one is something I have observed personally, but can find precious few pastors who fully embrace it. A pastor will endeavor to understand the personality type of every congregant, and not expect him or her to be something they are not. Being an introvert, this is something that has become a very real thing to me, as most pastors are extroverts, and demand extroversion from their congregants. Of course, they would not use the term “extroversion”, but would opt for a more pious sounding word like “boldness”. A pastor should understand that every personality type has strengths and weaknesses, and will learn what to expect from different personalities within their congregation. The reason I consider this as important is that not all personality types respond to the Gospel the same. For example, an introvert might be more receptive to the Gospel if his contact with the pastor was more one-on-one, and less involved with the "social" aspects of the modern church culture. Introverts, by their nature, cannot handle "groupthink" very well, and will need to feel like their conversion was truly inspired and individualized in nature, rather than joining a herd into a particular worldview. Pastors are shepherds, and should have a shepherd's heart. Sometimes shepherds have to deal with the entire herd, and sometimes they have to deal with individual sheep. Good shepherds know how and when to do either.

I write this realizing that not all pastoral ministries are alike, and there should be some pliability depending on the nature and location of the congregation. This is a very general rule that I would most rigidly apply to my own demographic of western Christianity. Whereas, a church in, say, China, or Saudi Arabia might need a more "boots-on-the-ground" approach.