Pastoral Leadership (Part 1)

I have been asked to write a series of articles for this blog on the topic of “Pastoral leadership – What should it look like?” As we begin to look at this subject, I want to focus my first article on the biblical qualifications of a pastor/elder (I will use the term “elder” and “pastor” interchangeably in these articles since they refer to the same office in Scripture).

If elders are to lead a group of believers (the church, the called out ones), what should we look for in order to find men who can get the job done? What would we expect to find in a job description for a pastor? A quick look at a website that posts job offers for pastors revealed that most churches are looking for similar things. Here is a quick summary:

– A seminary degree
– A certain number of years of experience
– A visionary leader
– An excellent communicator
– A proficiency in computer skills

While these requirements can be very useful, are these the things that matter the most when it comes to leading a church? Let’s look to God’s Word for the answer! On two occasions, the apostle Paul writes about what kind of men to look for when appointing elders to lead local churches, once when writing to Timothy and the other time when writing to Titus. Let’s look at that last one. In Titus 1:5-9, Paul tells Titus to look for men who are:

– blameless;
– faithful to their wife;
– have children who are believers and who are not accused of having wild lifestyles or of being rebellious;
– hospitable;
– appreciate what is good;
– sensible;
– honest;
– upright, moral;
– self-controlled and disciplined;
– not arrogant;
– not irritable or quick-tempered;
– not drink too much;
– not a violent person;
– not greedy, does not make money in shameful ways.

We might be surprised that Paul didn’t put the emphasis on the level of training they have received, the years of experience they have in leading people, or to check if they are great communicators. As useful as these might be to a pastor, Paul bypasses them. Instead, he tells Titus to look at the character of the men and see if any qualify. Paul goes for the most important thing and lays out guidelines to help churches find leaders. That’s because God considers the character of a man (what that man is like) to be very important! If serious flaws are detected in the character of that man, then his training, his experience and his skills (like being a good communicator) don’t matter. That’s why God wants the focus to be on the heart of the individual. That’s where the search should begin.

To summarize this first article, pastoral leadership requires a Godly character. When a church looks to appoint or hire a pastor/elder, the first place to start is by looking at the character of that man and see if it lines up with the list of character traits God gives us in Titus 1:5-9 and 1st Timothy 3:1-7. Many churches today are experiencing leadership problems because they have skipped this very important first step when they appointed their leaders.

Compassion and Evangelism

Personal evangelism is about engaging the culture with the gospel. Some do so on Twitter, Facebook, and even have their own websites. Not surprisingly, it seems that social media is closing in or has even overtaken the Church to get people’s attention. It use to be that the Church would go out and evangelize the lost where now it is done from home, via a keyboard and screen. It seems desensitized and impersonal. No real physical contact with humans apart from words on a monitor, and relationship building is done at a distance. Between 1996 and 2006, the number of non-Christians viewing Christianity in a favourable light dropped by more than 20 percent, according to the book unChristian by David Kinnaman. Of the 24 million 16 to 29-year-olds in America, only about 500,000 (approximately 2 percent) view Christianity in a favorable light. This represents a radical departure from the Early Church, a Church that garnered praise from even its critics because of its love for outsiders, especially the poor and sick.

To be fair a statistic may be too limited in its scope and does not really identify the reason behind such a poor performance rating by Christians for their compassion for the lost. You cannot entirely rely on the opinion of non-believers due mainly to the natural inclination toward evil and definite alienation toward those who wish to live Godly. So their attitude towards Christianity is already jaded somewhat. Peter points this out in his first letter where he says that they think it strange that you do not with them plunge into the same flood of dissipation, and they heap abuse on you. 1 Peter 4:4. No one enjoys being reminded about the need to change their sinful ways. Still the perception is out there that the Christian does not seem to care as much as he once did. So how much Christian love is really being felt in our North American culture is anyone’s guess. You can be sure that Christianity does not operate in a vacuum. Cyber space is not the answer and definitely not meant to replace daily encounters with the lost. Personal contact with the public is much needed today. This does not rule out social media by any means. But Christians were never meant to operate as Nomads, writing up a storm, pressing send buttons and waiting for replies, then calling it a day. Jesus engaged people almost daily, and only went into exile when he sought to be alone with God for a time. Christians need to be more active in personal evangelism, the kind that requires face-to- face encounters.

The other aspect too often neglected is the need of another presence. I am not speaking of our presence where posture and presentation may lead the public to listen to our message, but more important, the presence of God in our lives. God promises to be with us in all that we do. The metaphor of the vine and branches in John fifteen where we remain connected to him not only assures us of His help but of fruit bearing as well. Therefore, we need to examine our lives and see where the breaches are at and ask God for help to obey him so that our lives may be productive. Our union in Christ means divine presence and enablement. Listen to the Psalmist’s desire for God “Whom do I have in heaven but You? And besides You there is nothing I desire on earth” (Psalm 73:25). That is real heady pursuit, the type that is commanded in Luke 10:27 where we are told to love the Lord your God and with all your soul, and with all your strength and with all your mind and love your neighbour as yourself. Love is not insubstantial. It is not wistful or fleeting. To adapt the famous line from Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Sonnet 43, “How do I love Thee? Let me count the ways.” The Biblical way to show love to God is by doing His commandments. If we truly wish to love God with our whole heart, we will incline our mind and our heart on doing what God wants us to do. The earlier reminder about heart commitment to God can be adjudicated only when we seek to commit every area of our lives to Him. It is a counterfeit proposal to speak of loving God yet to withhold obedience. As a result, our relationship suffers as power is sapped from our lives because of personal sin and disobedience. You must relate everything and everyone to your relationship to God, and like any relationship, as that of a child for instance, where love for your parents would lead you to want to do what they asked you to do—even if it was difficult, the same thing must be said of our duty to God. In every sense of the word love is a commitment not a pastime, which is constantly reinforced through obedience.

Christians would do well to get back to basics. Evangelism begins with our relationship to God. If our lives do not line up to the Scriptures, then our witness may carry little weight and God’s power will be missing from it. We may talk all we want about personal love for Christ but obedience is key. Christ instructed His disciples that if you love me you will keep my commandments. (John 14:15)