Eleven Pastors That Encourage Me
Recently, I wrote a post titled 10 Pastor’s I’m Concerned About.
It definitely touched a nerve.
I wouldn’t say it went viral, but it made a few laps around the blogosphere to say the least.
One of the questions that surfaced repeatedly in the comments was what I thought a pastor should be like—one I wasn’t concerned about.
I pondered this for a time, and meditated on the Scriptures, because I didn’t want to just repeat what I had already written. What I came up with is, what I believe, a healthy list of traits, characteristics, and philosophies of pastoral ministry. At the very least they are ones that encourage me.
I didn’t focus on the biblical or otherwise denominational qualifications as those are the focus for another kind of post. Rather I focused on the ideals I would look for in a pastor—ones I felt I should strive for in the pastorate.
These ideals serve as guardrails for my own personal growth, but perhaps they will also serve the request of some to share what kind of pastors I’m not concerned about.
And just to forewarn you, this is a blog post and not a theological journal. Of course there will be some broad-brushed generalizations. And, there will be what seem to be false dichotomies because there is not room to explore every nuance. Consider these talking points, launching pads for further discussion.
Oh! And because I’m the author of the post, and I’m a male, I will be using male pronouns (a modern writing standard that suggests using the pronoun associated with the author’s gender).
So, without further ado, here are 11 traits of pastors that encourage me.
- I’m encouraged by the pastor who sees church planting as the mission of the church.
The mission of the church is making disciples of Jesus, and I’m encouraged by the pastor who sees congregations, not just converts, as part of ministry. There is good research—and 2,000 years of experience in church history—that suggests meaningful discipleship takes place in younger, smaller churches where the mission of the Great Commission is the central focus. Of course “smaller” is subjective, but according to the experts and historians, 150-200 congregants offer the most intimacy and efficiency, simultaneously, for rich meaningful discipleship among believers.
- I’m encouraged by the pastor who loves the people he serves.
When the pastor genuinely loves the people he serves and sees their pains as his pains, and their celebrations as his celebrations, their struggles as his struggles, he will do the most good in the world. This is, no doubt, the most taxing part of the ministry, but I believe it’s this sort of meaningful relationship that gives the pastor permission to speak plainly with the people he serves. It opens the door to teach and speak truth into the lives of those he loves. And he won’t have these kinds of relationships with people if he is gunning for the next step in his ministry career.
- I’m encouraged by the pastor who shepherds people out of a deep, contemplative relationship with God.
I alluded to this in the last post, but to look at it from the flip-side is helpful. Eugene Peterson speaks to this issue best, in my opinion. But simply put, the pastor who is motivated in ministry by a deep abiding personal relationship with God (Acts 6:4) offers more lasting, spiritual value than the pastor who is motivated by the latest trend in church-growth books and conferences.
- I’m encouraged by the pastor who remains humble and teachable without being moved by every wind of doctrine.
Pet doctrines and pet issues are like pet rocks. They make a big splash in the moment and are forgotten by next year. Last generation it may have been the theatre, worship music, and Sunday school. This year it seems to be human trafficking, Calvinism, and homosexuality. Who can begin to speculate what the hot topics will be in generations to come? The pastor who remains faithful to his call to pray, study the Scripture, and equip the church for the work of the ministry will have to deal with most doctrines and issue in time. And he should. But I’m encouraged by the one who continues to learn and grow, personally, without constantly vacillating and jumping from one hobby-horse to the next.
- I’m encouraged by the pastor who is not defined by a denominational agenda.
Denominational agendas can become like political party-line agendas. Most of us in America are tired of Democrats and Republicans stubbornly guarding party-line agendas instead of working together for helpful legislation that serves the American people. I imagine we weary of seeing it in the church as well. I’m encouraged by the pastor who sees the denomination as a servant to the church and its mission—and not the other way around.
- I’m encouraged by the pastor whose chief aim is to glorify God and not please people.
Pleasing people in the congregation is like pleasing a denomination. A pastor can strive to cooperate with people’s desires so long as they don’t derail him from his primary mission—glorifying God and equipping the church to do the work of the ministry—which is making disciples of Jesus. I’m encouraged by the pastor who knows when and how to tell people in the church, no.
- I’m encouraged by the pastor whose personal walk with God is more important to him than his public reputation.
Pastors will receive their fair share of criticism from self-righteous people who think they have been given the ministry of critique and criticism. These Pharisees are often too spiritual for any pastor and spend their lives jumping from one church to the next, never satisfied, and always having a story or two to tell. I’ve received my fair share; and I’m sorry for every pastor who faces such ill-aligned scrutiny. But it’s not an excuse to protect one’s reputation at the expense of his personal walk with God. I’m encouraged by the pastor who is more concerned with the later than the former.
- I’m encouraged by the pastor who loves the whole body of Christ in its diversity and refuses to cater to special-interest groups in the church he serves.
Churches will always be filled with people who have special interests. Calvinists, Arminians, home-schoolers, family-integrated folks, charismatic gift seekers, KJVonlyists, and hosts of other interests permeate the church universal. But the pastor who recognizing the foolishness of catering to the group who pays the bills or makes the most noise, and has the courage to oppose such pressure, gets kudos in my book. I’m encouraged by the pastor who appreciates the diversity in the body of Christ, and yet continues to seek the unity of the body for the glory of God and the advancement of his kingdom.
- I’m encouraged by the pastor who understands the gospel and its efficacy in all of life—both in conversion and social justice.
The fundamentalist/modernist debate of the 20th century really provoked this disparity. Of course there were larger issues—like the deity of Christ—at stake. But the fight caused a breach in the church that opened the door to the 21st century with the prospect of the gospel’s work of conversions in one corner and the prospect of the gospel’s work in social justice in the other. I’m encouraged by the pastor who sees the gospel is both/and, not either/or.
- I’m encouraged by the pastor who is committed to his wife and children more than he is committed to his success among the brethren.
I’m embarrassed to say there was a time in my ministry where I unwittingly lived out this fallacious ideology. I loved my wife and children. I really did. But the denomination I was part of at the time taught me my identity was wrapped up in the opinion of “the brethren.” I needed my family to “tow the line” so I could be successful in the ministry “I was called by God to accomplish.” I don’t blame the movement entirely, but it certainly cultivated this ethos. And it resulted in lots of anger, frustration, and abuse. I nearly drove my family into the grave. Thankfully, the Lord granted me repentance and I learned my identity was in Christ, not my performance. I’m deeply encouraged by the pastor who knows his identity is in Christ and he is free to minister to his family instead of drive them—sometimes away from God.
- I’m encouraged by the pastor who properly understands contextualization.
In other words, he “gets” his culture, but refuses to accommodate it. And he “gets” his tradition, but does not hold to it, blindly. The pastor who knows how to present the truth of the never-changing gospel of grace to an ever-changing culture of brokenness has profound insight and a special skill-set.
There are eleven pastors that encourage me. Who encourages you?
About Scott Postma
Scott lives in North Idaho collecting more books than he'll ever read in a lifetime. He helps people cultivate their capacity to perceive and appreciate the good, the true, and the beautiful by sharing rich insights into the arts and humanities, meaningful perspective on faith and culture, and valuable tips on writing and teaching. You can subscribe to the tribe and follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and Google Plus.