This blog is the second in a series on what success means for a pastor.
Christians in general and pastors, specifically, must be something before they can do something. If you reflect on John's Gospel, you will notice that Jesus identified Himself with seven "I Am" declarations. He starts with "I am the bread of life" (6:35) and concludes with "I am the true vine" (15:1). In the heart of His unfolding self-revelation, Jesus asserts, "Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am" (8:58). In each of these pronouncements, Jesus is communicating Who He is.
Woven into John's Gospel is a complementary set of "signs" which John describes as "the manifestation of His glory" (2:11). These are things Jesus did. They began with Jesus turning water into wine at the wedding in Cana (2:1-11) and concluded with Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead (11-45). I notice that even the chief priests and Pharisees acknowledged that "this man is performing many signs" (11-47). Jesus' activities and signs were a display of His glory. He was doing something. My point? Just like Jesus, we must be something before we can do something. This principle applies especially to the successful pastor. So, what more can be said about who he is?
1. A successful pastor is loyal. He is loyal to his Lord who called him, to his calling, to his family, and to his work as a shepherd of God's people. The word "pastor" actually means "shepherd." What the shepherd is to his flock, the pastor is to his congregation.
Recall Jesus' commentary distinguishing between a shepherd and a hireling. One is loyal to his charge and the other is loyal only to himself, in it for what he can get out of it (10:10-13). A successful pastor's loyalty in the right place should be unquestionable.
2. The successful pastor is open. By this I mean open to God's leading. He is not satisfied with maintaining the status quo or simply occupying a position. He is sensitive to God's leading and will move at God's direction. Moses wanted God to send someone else to Egypt to deliver the Israelites from slavery. God had to persuade Moses to obey. Initially, Moses was not open, eventually he was. He moved from obstinate to open. Contrast that episode to Isaiah's calling, "Here am I, Lord, send me" (6:8). Successful pastors are open to God's leading, they simply obey His voice.
3. A successful pastor is approachable and resistant. What do I mean by this? James tells us (3:17), the wise person is "easy to be entreated." They are approachable. They listen. Yet, they are not necessarily persuaded. God's leaders are working off an agenda not their own. Recall when Nehemiah was approached by Sanballat and the other enemies. They said, "Come, let us meet together....", Nehemiah responded, "I am doing a great work and I cannot come down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and come down to you" (6:2-4)? If you are working off God's agenda, be reluctant to get side tracked. Listen and then decide.
4. A successful pastor is authentic. He is not trying to be someone or something he is not. In the words of the old army slogan, he wants to be the best that he can be. I like what May Sarton wrote: "We must dare to be ourselves, however frightening or strange that self may prove to be." Dr. Seuss put it this way, "Today you are you, that is truer than true. There is no one else who is you-er than you." Each person is created with a different set of gifts, abilities, temperaments, and passions. No two people have the same experiences. All of this combines to make the pastor, as well as the person, unique. The pastor is most successful when he is himself.
5 A successful pastor is humble. Humility is the quality which is opposite of pride. Pride is self-sufficient. Humility is God-sufficient. Scripture says that "God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble" (James 4:6). Humility is displayed in two ways. First, God-dependence is seen in the pastor's prayer life. Prayer says, "God, I am depending on you." Second, it is seen as the pastor has an accurate understanding of who he is, who God made him to be. Consider Paul's admonition: "For through the grace of God given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith" (Romans 12:3). Humility says "I think of myself accurately."
6. A successful pastor is loving. He has a genuine love not only for God but also people. Recall Jesus' words to His disciples, "By this shall all men know you are My disciples, if you have love for one another" (John 13:35). The greatest demonstration of that love is to give oneself to and for those he loves. The pastor's call is to love his flock because he loves his Lord. Recall Jesus words to Peter. "If you love Me, feed My sheep, tend my sheep" (John 21:15-17). The same is true for the pastor.
7. A successful pastor is holy. He is not perfect. Holiness means "set aside for God." It is a growing hatred of sin and a desire to live clean lives. Jerry Bridges put it nicely: "Offer yourself to God, and in so doing that commit yourselves to the pursuit of holiness in order to please Him." The mark of holiness is a passion to pursue a growing relationship with God.
8. Finally, a successful pastor is prepared. Only seldom has a pastor been effective apart from a solid education. In today's world, a seminary degree or its equivalent is seen as optional by many. Those, however, who escape that preparation find themselves shortchanged. Those who are called and surrendered to the ministry for the long haul should pay the price in time and effort to gain a biblical, theological, philosophical, historical, and practical foundation. Historically, God always prepares a person before He uses him. The successful pastor is prepared.
These are my thoughts. What do you think?