Hey, Calvary Fremont –
I am writing this to pastors. Listen in and weigh in if you would like to add a thought or two.
What do congregations want from their pastors?
Do they want their pastor to be a popular conference speaker who is asked to speak in a lot of venues across the nation or around the world? Are congregations not well-served if their pastor is not well-known and well-loved in larger circles?
I don’t think that the congregation cares if their pastor is well-known or little-known – as long as he knows them and loves them and is known by them and loved by them. His celebrity abroad is nowhere near as important as his presence at home.
Do congregations want their pastor to have a Ph.D. with certain Biblical and philosophical and technical competencies demonstrated at a professional level? Are congregations not well-served if their pastor is without advanced degrees?
Congregations are not as concerned with advanced degrees as they are with Biblical knowledge, homiletical skill, and pastoral competencies. If the pastor can bring a solid word and live with authenticity and is approachable and humble – this is what’s life-giving to a congregation.
Do congregations want their pastor to be a pastor of pastors and a leader of leaders and someone who has his finger on the pulse of whatever family of churches he belongs to? Are congregations not well-served if their pastor is a small fish in a big pond?
Congregations don’t care if their pastor isn’t a pastor to pastors as long as he is a pastor to them. As long as he has his finger on the pulse of what matters to them, the congregation he serves will be satisfied.
My father worked for Sears Roebuck and Co. and then was hired by Montgomery Ward. Though he was yearly recommended for store managership, he was never promoted to that level. It never occurred to me to be disappointed in my dad because he didn’t rise above departmental leadership. He was my dad. He loved me. He put a roof over my head. He guided me in the things of God. He put money in my hands. He even spanked me a few times. He gave me good Christmases. I never thought of my dad being popular with others, or a leader of others, or a man of advanced degrees. Though he went on to build award-winning houses and passed the bar at age 62 and became an attorney – this occurred in my adult years. And yes, I am proud of him for this – but I would have been proud of him without these accomplishments and whatever acclaim they may have brought him.
Pastor, your first obligation is to be present with the people God has called you to serve. You are not to strive to make a name for yourself, to brand yourself, to market yourself. With or without celebrity, with or without advanced degrees, with or without wider influence – your job is to pastor the people in your church. One of the most insidious problems with the ministry is when a man’s ego is bigger than his calling. Your calling is to be a grain of wheat that falls into the earth and dies. Even as the earth enfolds the seed, carries it down, and buries it – so your calling will bury you. If your security is in being seen and known by others – as a celebrity, an expert, an influencer – you corrupt your calling. When your ego is bigger than your calling, no one is safe. An insecure pastor is a dangerous man.
My Bible College President, Woody Phillips, gave sound counsel to us young men preparing for the ministry. He said, “Don’t seek to broaden your ministry; seek to deepen your message. You deepen your message and leave it to God to broaden your ministry.” This resounds through the halls of my soul 50 years after he said it. The congregation you serve doesn’t care about how popular or educated or influential you are – they care about the life you live and the love you give. You don’t have to be a celebrity or an expert or a movement influencer to be a loving and faithful pastor. Before you are anything else to anyone else, be a humble and holy man of God in that little plot of ground where Christ sent you to die. Be thrilled with God’s assignment for your life.
I grew up in churches served by faithful men of God. If they were known outside of the local congregation, I didn’t know it. No one bragged about the pastor – they just depended on him to be what God had called him to be.
Be blessed and stay healthy and follow Jesus – Pastor Tim
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