My perspective is very different from all of the lists I have read from others and that makes me a bit nervous. However, all of the lists I have read come mostly, or entirely, from a brain, head, and thinking perspective that leads to priorities of things like teaching, management, and leadership.
I understand those views but strongly feel that Christianity is mostly about a relationship with God, by the Holy Spirit, and through Jesus Christ. If you knew nothing of the Bible or Christianity and were asked to give an evaluation of the pastor’s role in the western church, I think you would determine that the best pastor is the best teacher or the best pastor is the best leader or the best pastor is the best fund raiser and asset manager or the best pastor is the best author, television personality, and social media manager.
From my vantage point, the best pastor is the pastor with a vibrant, life-giving, effective, powerful, and growing relationship with God, by the Holy Spirit, and through Jesus Christ.
Have you ever seen a pastoral job description that requires, “Pastor will consistently have growing revelation of Jesus.”?
My Top Ten Guidelines for Pastors
- Begin, sustain, and increase a personal relationship with God. Philippians 3:10
- Pastoring is about the sheep in God’s pasture, so we help our people begin, sustain, and increase a personal relationship with God. John 14:6
- Relationship with God is revealed, informed, and given shape according to God’s Bible. Therefore we teach, guard, proclaim, and preach the Bible. 2 Timothy 4:2, Amos 8:11, 2 Timothy 4:3
- The greatest commandment is simply to love God and love people so we lead our congregations into more meaningful, authentic, life-giving, healthful relationships with each other. 1 John 4:20, Exodus 20:1-17, Galatians 5:19-21
- When enough people are in life-giving relationship with God and each other and are in obedience to the Great Assignment, we create structures for ministry, resources, and effective release of the skills, giftings, and callings of the flock of God we then oversee, lead, and manage. 1 Corinthians 12:12-31
- When there are more sheep in the flock than the pastor can effectively tend, we identify, enable, and release elders, deacons, pastors, evangelists, etc. Titus 1:5, 1 Timothy 3:1-13
- Because the flock of God is of highest value to God (He gave His Son’s life), we protect and defend the flock from everything harmful and correct from those things that are in serious error. Acts 20:28-35
- Because Jesus has declared, “I will build my church,” we are evangelistic in everything we are and do. The Chief Shepherd is vitally interested in birthing more sheep. Jude 1:23, Luke 19:10
- Since the fold is growing and has sheep of various stages of Christian development, we enable, develop, and release them into fullness of the fruit and gifts of the Holy Spirit. Galatians 5:22-24, 1 Corinthians 12:1-11
- Because every person in the flock of God is worth the blood of Jesus, we leave the ninety-nine and search for the endangered, at risk, and those who have lost their way. Mark 2:17, Luke 15:4-6
Personally I feel the pressure to “scratch where Christians itch.” In thirty two years of pastoring I have never heard from a person in need of the Gospel, “Your teaching isn’t what I want you to teach.” Yet the person who views themselves as “mature” in Christ says, “I want to go deeper in doctrine, theology, and understanding.
Success in the Christian life is not measured by doctrinal knowledge, theological prowess, nor ecclesiastical insight. We are called to the Person of Jesus through Holy Spirit. I don’t know one soul winning person who cries out for greater teaching on doctrine and theology. All of the Bible classes, Christian Universities, church services, small groups, Christian books, magazines, and media preaching have created a SHRINKING percentage of the population who are Christians in the United States.
Long closed are the Sunday evening altar calls where we humble ourselves before God on our knees. Prayer gatherings are all but gone from the lives of many congregations. Sometimes I want to say, “Forget your weekend attendance. How many folks came to your prayer meetings this week? The Pastor’s Study has been replaced by the Pastor’s Office. It seems more important for the Pastor to know the potential donor and lead politicians than to spend time in knowing the Lord.
2 Timothy 4:3 states, “For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.” In my world, the itching ear is for anything that distracts people from their responsibilities in the Christian life. “Teach me more about the doctrine of Jesus and the theology of His cross,” people ask as a way of avoiding the simple, “Take up YOUR cross and follow me.”
Recently I read a four hundred page theology work on the ministry of Jesus between the cross and the resurrection. It was a terrific read. My brain is still trying to get my mind around what it says. Yet, the greatest of these is still love and go into all the world and preach the Gospel is still my assignment.
How many times do people declare, “The Bible commands us to be debt free. The reason I am so blessed is I have obeyed the Bible and I own no man anything.” Great. Tremendous. Now how about taking up the verse that says, “Sell all that you have and give to the poor.?”
Everyone who knows me well can attest to how much I love doctrine, theology, philosophy, ethics, epistemology, and the like. I have no plans to eliminate such pursuits from my life.
I am, though, crying out to God, “May I know YOU, your word, ways, motives, wishes, hopes, and expectations. May the Bible come alive with the Person of God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit.”
Before Jesus was born of the virgin Mary the world had the Word become word. The Old Covenant was Word becoming word.
When Jesus was born the world moved into a brand new era in God. The people couldn’t believe, receive, or grasp that God was doing a whole new thing in His world. It is as if God said, “Enough of the Word became word. It is now the season of the Word became flesh.”
As pastors in our world of today, we are called to have an expanding, deepening, and life-giving relationship with God (as revealed in the Bible) so that the Word continues to become flesh in and through our lives.