Years ago, someone handed me piece of paper on which was written the following words, “The perfect pastor preaches exactly ten minutes. He condemns sin, but never hurts anybody’s feelings. He works from eight in the morning until midnight and is also the church janitor. He is twenty-nine years old and has forty years of experience. He makes fifteen house calls a day and is always in the office.”
I have been involved in ministry for over half a century. I have also been privileged to preach in a variety of denominations, across cultures, in the United States and in many foreign countries. I’ve heard comments from “I didn’t come so far for such a short message” to “ you preach too long.” People have said, “I love the mountain humor you use,” and, “ I don’t think you should use funny stories in the pulpit.” Some seem to think the narrative paradigm, which I often employ in my preaching, is a strong tool for me, while others think it is too simplistic. I have been criticized for not using the King James Version exclusively and criticized for using it. The list could go on.
I want to share with you some thoughts on what makes an effective pastor. They are based on scripture, observation, and decades of personal experience:
- My first qualification seems so obvious as not to be mentioned; yet in recent years I’m not sure it’s obvious. God must call a true pastor. Many approach the role of pastor as a vocational choice. Good training can help a person be an effective church manager. They can be skilled at programming, finance, counseling, and public speaking, but unless they are called they will not be what God desires or what the congregation needs. In John 15:16 Jesus said, “You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that you should go and bring forth fruit, and that fruit should remain…”
- Secondly, and closely related to the first, the person must have a genuine salvation experience and the witness of the Spirit. Jesus said to a religious leader in His day, “You must be born again.” (John 3:7) Jesus also said, “And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall in the ditch.” (Matthew 15:14)
- A true pastor must have a passion for souls. Jesus said, “For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.” (Luke 19:10) It stands to reason a pastor will want to follow Jesus’ example. A fire burning in their heart for a lost and dying world is the mark of a Christ like pastor.
- I think the role of true pastor requires a strong commitment to hard work, long hours, and at times sleepless nights. Preparing Biblically sound, doctrinally accurate, and challenging messages is time-consuming. Paul’s advice to the young preacher, Timothy, was “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”(ll Tim. 2:15) Preaching, mentoring, and disciplining believers is at the core of the Great Commission. (Matt. 28:19,20)
- A pastor must be a compassionate person. They must move beyond sympathy for people’s hurts and needs. They must be willing to enter into the situation and help. Compassion means being a listening ear, a helping hand, a burden bearer, and providing Biblical counsel. The scripture teaches this about Jesus, “But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd.” (Matt. 9:36)
Even when the pastor possesses the quantities described above, the formula for a successful church is not complete. The individuals in the congregation must pray for and support God’s person in the pulpit. They must respond to the message with willing hands and feet. One of the chief roles of the pastor is to train and equip those to whom the Lord has spoken. The church members must then assume the responsibility to take the Gospel to family, friends, neighbors, and to the work place. Pastors and church members are to be co-laborers for Christ.
~ Brother Roy