More times than I can remember, I’ve met with local church members to talk about their next pastor. Sometimes that discussion has been with a small group of leaders. At least once it was with about 200 people, ranging from young children to sages, all eager to share their wisdom.
The process, however, was always similar. We started with a large marker board and listed the characteristics the church valued most in a leader. We did not evaluate the list, we “just wrote it down.” Usually, by the time we were done the board was filled with columns of desirable traits.
Even the most casual observer could see that no one person could ever do or be all those things. Some of them were even mutually exclusive: “We want a young pastor—with several years of experience” or “We don’t want a theologian—we want someone who will preach deep sermons.”
At the conclusion of one of those meetings, when the enormity of what they were seeking dawned on them, one lady spoke up. “Pastor Lemon, you pick our pastor and we will be fine with that.” Her motion died for lack of a second.
How about the pastoral role in your local church? What are your expectations? Do you think of your pastor as God’s gift to your church? According to Scripture, this is exactly the case. Look at Ephesians 4:11 (NLT): “Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles … and the pastors and teachers.”
How do we respond to a gift? When my toddler grandsons bring me things, I always try to show gratitude—even if it is a scrap of paper or speck of fuzz. Sadly, I am not convinced that I am as careful with a “gratitude attitude” for the things God gives me. Do I thank Him for my pastor? The pastor(s) He gifted to the church I attend?
And what do I expect of my pastor? Perfection of character? Perfection of grammar in the sermons? Perfect family? Upwards of 60 hours per week on the job? Sabbath morning is but a fraction of his or her duty time. Sabbath morning is critically important, but it is still relatively small in quantity.
Scriptural expectations are clear: “Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ. Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching” (verses 12-14).
What conclusions should emerge from all this? First, I suggest that you not despair if your pastor is not all the things listed on those marker boards. For you see, the pastor is not in this thing called leadership alone. We are all in it together. All those characteristics, while they may not indwell your local pastor, most certainly are in the church as whole.
As we come together in maturity in the Lord under godly pastoral leadership, there isn’t anything the church cannot do and become as we work together missionally with a view to the Lord’s return.
Your pastor is God’s gift to His church. Like it or not—he or she deserves our support and respect. And God deserves our gratitude.
Thomas L. Lemon is president of the Mid-America Union.