What should a Pastor be? – Part 1

After 16 years of full time pastoral ministry, I’ve walked through many situations – both difficult and easy.  I remember early on I began with some pretty naive and “idealistic” notions about being a pastor. (more about idealism later)  But through it all I believe that there have been quite a number of things impressed on me about being a pastor that are of great importance.  This is “Part 1” of I don’t know how many parts, because I know that I have a lot to say about this…

  1. A Pastor should hold some of the highest personal standards in his church

What do I mean by this?  Well, it all goes back to the idea of being an example for the flock – and whether you feel like that kind of terminology is offensive or condescending or whatever – just remember that it’s the terminology Jesus used to describe a spiritual leader  – a shepherd.  We who are in positions of spiritual leadership in the local church are shepherds, like it or not.  As such we have to set an example worth following.

What does that entail?  Not perfection, that’s for sure.  But a consistency and growth and increase in personal holiness that is evident.  We can’t expect the people of our churches to live in ways that honor God if we are not carefully monitoring our own lives to make sure that OUR lives are!  It may have to do with what we allow ourselves (and our families) to engage in, in terms of entertainment.  It may have to do with the way we speak – avoiding things that might be misconstrued like sarcasm, cutting remarks, or course joking.  Does that sound a bit “over the top?”  If so, let me ask you THIS simple question… can you picture Jesus, our model, doing those things?

We’ve got to remember who’s standard we’ve been called to preach and uphold – it certainly isn’t our own.

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7 thoughts on “What should a Pastor be? – Part 1

  1. Do you think a pastor of a church should verbalize his own sin to the congregation? Or is doing this being a poor role-model?

  2. Hey James,

    I think there has to be a good balance, and to me it has nothing to do with being a poor role model – in fact, I think it could serve to be just the opposite, a good role model, for a Pastor to be more authentic. Let me explain my take on this…

    A Pastor is in a very unique place for a human being. He needs to be an example to follow – no doubt about that. But he’s also not perfect, as you can probably attest from your own experience. So, he’s got his own sin struggles – everybody knows it, it’s just that nobody tends to talk about it. So – I think it’s both refreshing and appropriate for the Pastor to talk about his own failings to a certain degree. The people he’s leading need to know that he experiences the same types of things they do.

    But, having said that I don’t think it’s appropriate for him to indiscriminately share his own sins with the congregation as a whole, for a couple of reasons.

    1. People are not as gracious as they should be, even in the church (isn’t that ironic?). Many people are not mature enough in their own faith to accept that their Pastor is not perfect – and when he announces a failure, they bail out on the whole church deal. I believe this is one of the MAIN reasons that the situations like what happened with Ted Haggard occur. Don’t get me wrong, he’s responsible for his own sinful behavior – but because the people of the church can be so ungracious, he probably felt like he was stuck in it, and had to bear it all on his own. MISTAKE! There was evidently nobody he could share the burden with and receive appropriate accountability. A Pastor worth his salt will intentionally find those people and make sure that he’s being accountable and honest to someone, at least.

    2. People in the church don’t always have the Pastor’s best interest at heart (shock!). Some of the sheep bite!!! I’ve seen ocassions where a Pastor, in good faith and genuineness, shared a personal failing and it was used against him to run him out of the church. That’s tragic, when the man was only trying to set an example by being authentic about himself. Some Pastors, because of this will retreat into their shell of self-protection and try to stay aloof from the congregation (understandable, but very un-Christ-like, in my opinion).

    With all that said – Pastors need to be as authentic as they can, while understanding that a blanket confession of his own sins may be too much for some of the people in the church to handle. Thanks for the question…

  3. From my understanding of scripture we are to feed the sheep and protect the flock of God (a common theme I’m sure you will agree). I quite often ask myself “protect the sheep from what?” Scripture seems to answer this very clearly, “from wolves.” We are to drive the wolves out of the church. It seems to me that modern day evangelical churches are rather calling both sheep and wolf alike into their church. Trying to feed the sheep and convert the wolves into sheep, rather than, feeding the sheep and driving the wolves out.
    I only mention all of this because, isn’t it possible that a congregation that doesn’t hear the “sin” of his pastor regularly will (or can) hold him in a much higher regard of holiness? Rather than a cursed sinful man like the rest of us? And do we really want members to hold pastors in such a high standard of holiness?
    It would seem to me that any members who are trying to cause division in the church consistently should be regarded as a “wolf” (not to say that they are). What do you think?

    Thank you

  4. I don’t think it’s right in God’s eyes to set up an atmosphere where the “wolves” are being driven out of the church. Jesus, when telling the parable about the weeds among the wheat said to leave them until the end. And, if you look carefully at Acts 2, people were joining their number daily and the only evidence we have of what was going on was their regular, daily meetings together in their homes and in the temple courts. There were obviously some non-believers among them.

    Part of what we protect from is false-teaching. I think you’d agree that when we believe lies, that can greatly effect our lives and testimonies, not to mention our effectiveness for Christ’s sake.

    If a person in the church is causing division, I don’t think we should characterize them as “wolves” without being pretty sure. Some are immature, others are ignorant, others may in fact be wolves, but it takes some time to figure that out. But that’s not to say we shouldn’t deal with the problem. It’s always safe to take Paul’s instructions to Titus to heart in a situation like this – Titus 3:10 – and as always, to do so with an attitude of true concern (love) for the people involved.

  5. I am new to this forum.
    But I like what the pastor has said.
    There is a fine line to walk for all Christians between being honest about our sinful nature and naming sins.
    We live in a celebrity environment. We want our pastors to publish books and be known in the community(not for witnessing and denouncing sin).We want him to know famous people. Whether this be a sports, political or religious figure. We have all these people on TV ready to say and do the most vile things simply for the “15 minutes of fame”.
    The apostle Paul went on to say “he was the chief of sinners.”
    1 Timothy 1: 15. He didn’t go on to name alphabetically his sins.
    We like to take sanctification and growing in grace out of our lives and put in the “TEN RULES” to walk by. Another result of pastors and religious authors wanting to sell books. One other point I must make and I do not know the answer besides we as Christians need to keep maturing, but we need to be able to keep pastors and religious leaders accountable for even what we perceive to be wrong doing”Flee the appearence of evil”. I have been a pastor, a deacon a lay-pastor, Elder and held just about every position in a church(yes, including working in the nursery with my wife). The problem is we put the pastor pedestal. While his function and responsibilities are unique and hopefully come from God, He is still just an under sheperd. We should care for him and his just like we would hopefully take care of others within the church. I am not saying he is not in a unique situation. But when we treat him unique and this is when the trouble starts.We are always separating between them and us. Professional religious leaders and the rest (lay people). I have more than once been in a church that whatever the pastor says goes. If he says brother so and so is sinning and to leave him be the leaders will like sheep follow blindly. The pastor went to Seminary and can read Greek. Who am I to counsel him on anything. He is our spiritual leader – this is a wrong. The pastor(s)tend to pick there leaders and can fire them also. We are the ones enabling the leadership to go astray, by not studying and searching “Acts 17:11 … the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.”
    Anyway, I think the article was on spot…
    AL

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