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What can I say to parents who have lost an infant? Where do I find the time to be a good pastor and a loving husband and father, too? These are just some of the tough questions most pastors ask at one time or another. And the answers don't come easy. Robert Anderson's practical guide to the pastoral ministry highlights the many aspects of a pastor's job. Here is a volume of excellent ideas, advice, and general rules for the contemporary pastor in his ever-changing ministry....
What can I say to parents who have lost an infant? Where do I find the time to be a good pastor and a loving husband and father, too? These are just some of the tough questions most pastors ask at one time or another. And the answers don't come easy. Robert Anderson's practical guide to the pastoral ministry highlights the many aspects of a pastor's job. Here is a volume of excellent ideas, advice, and general rules for the contemporary pastor in his ever-changing ministry.
The Pastor's Character and Calling
A few months ago a young seminary graduate stood before an ordination council, defended his doctrinal statement, and was about to leave the room while the council decided his fate when from the back of the church auditorium the voice of an old man was heard to insist, "Just a minute, young man. I have one more question for you." The older pastor directed the younger to open his Bible to 1 Timothy 3 and read the passage concerning the character qualifications of an overseer. After the young man did so, the older man, now standing erect, looked intently at the candidate and said, "Young man, does this passage describe you?" Not wanting to sound conceited the young man hedged, trying not to answer the question directly.
"Young man," said the elderly saint, "does or does not this passage describe you?" "Well, I guess so," was the cautious reply. Once again the old man persisted, "Guessing is not good enough. Does this passage describe you or not?" Finally the reply rang out, "Yes, sir, this passage describes me." The old man's retort was immediate, "Mr. Moderator, I have no further questions. I am fully satisfied."
During the course of each school year dozens of inquiries come across my desk regarding men who are being considered by churches and mission boards. I am supposed to rate those individuals according to qualifications that are specified in the reference form. Without exception, each inquires as to the abilities of the person being considered, his personality traits, and the talents of his wife. Rarely does a questionnaire deal with character traits.
Despite the fact that we call ourselves "evangelicals" and claim to be biblical in our approach, we fall far short of the biblical standard in this matter. Although the Bible often states the kinds of things that elders, pastors, or overseers do, nowhere does it specify the talents we may expect in them. Nowhere does it state that they must be exceptional managers, visitors, pulpiteers, or teachers. Although they need those qualities to perform their duties, the Bible's major emphasis is in an entirely different direction; instead of insisting on how well a person is able to perform a certain function, it focuses instead on what kind of a person he is.
The Pastor's Character
Who is a pastor? He is an ordinary person who knows the Lord Jesus Christ as his personal Savior, has experienced the call of God in his life for full-time Christian service, and knows that he is fit for such service because he meets certain biblical character qualifications. Because the Bible makes this emphasis, I think that it is fitting for us to examine those qualifications prior to looking at the gifts that should be present in a person looking seriously at making the pastorate his lifelong ministry.
"Above Reproach" (1 Tim. 3:2; Titus 1:6-7)
The person who will succeed in the pastorate is one who has no hidden agenda, no skeletons in his closet that eventually will come out and haunt him. In his classic The Preacher and His Models, James Stalker says:
The great purpose for which a minister is settled in a parish is not to cultivate scholarship, or to visit the people during the week, or even to preach to them on Sunday, but it is to live among them as a good man, whose mere presence is a demonstration which cannot be gainsaid that there is a life possible on earth which is fed from no earthly source, and that the things spoken of in church on Sabbath are realities.
In speaking of a man whom he knew who met those qualifications, Stalker relates:
We who laboured along with him in the ministry felt that his mere existence in the community was an irresistible demonstration of Christianity and a tower of strength to every good cause. Yet he had not gained this position of influence by brilliant talents or great achievements or the pursuing of ambition; for he was singularly modest, and would have been the last to credit himself with half the good he did. The whole mystery lay in this, that he had lived in the town for forty years a blameless life, and was known by everybody to be a godly and prayerful man.
Stalker ends this appraisal by insisting that "the prime qualification for the ministry is goodness."
Such goodness demonstrates itself in a number of ways that will be illustrated as we consider some of the rest of the biblical qualifications.
"The Husband of One Wife" (1 Tim. 3:2; Titus 1:6)
For centuries it has been debated whether or not the biblical injunction that an elder or overseer be the "husband of one wife" means that a divorced person may never have any place within the professional ministry. Personally, I do not think that is what the passages mean. Having stated that, however, let me assert what I say elsewhere in this book, that "divorce" isn't even a Christian word. I believe in the sanctity of marriage and that true Christian marriage is "til death do us part." A pastor, as a model for his people, should work the hardest of all people to keep his marriage intact and flourishing. Few things bring greater discredit to the church of Jesus Christ than pastors who divorce or are divorced by their wives.
Except in the most rare of cases, if divorce becomes a fact, a pastor should step down from his pastoral position and, if he intends to continue in professional Christian service, should plan to serve in some area other than the pastorate. In most cases, as a matter of fact, he will have no alternative. That decision will be made for him by his congregation. If by that time he has not faced his situation realistically, when he attempts to secure another pastorate the facts of the case will dawn on him. Very few congregations, including many of those who consider themselves members of "liberal" denominations, will agree to calling a pastor who has divorce in his background. The single exception to this may be if the divorce has occurred prior to his conversion.
Therefore, if a man is intent on remaining in the pastoral ministry, he had better consider his marriage to be the most valuable asset he has and put as much effort into it as necessary to keep it alive and well. (Later, I will consider in greater detail the relationship a pastor should enjoy with his wife.)
There is, I feel, an even deeper, more important aspect of these verses than avoiding divorce. Many Bible scholars believe that the passages often translated "husband of one wife" are more properly translated "a one-woman kind of man." That delves into the situation even more deeply.
In the past few years, the church has been rife with scandal concerning clergymen who are cheating on their wives. Many times they are individuals God has used mightily—men with charm, poise, talents, and ability. Because of their irregular schedules, the daily temptations they face, and a variety of other reasons, clergymen are in a position where temptations of that sort are abundant.
The best advice I can offer to any man in the ministry is that he should flee from those temptations. He should not allow himself even to be present in situations where they are present. He should never go unescorted to see a woman who is alone at home. When he visits a woman in the hospital, he should be absolutely discreet in his behavior, watching carefully where he touches her and then being careful not to hold on too long to what he touches. More than anything else, he should avoid those things that corrupt the mind and erode the conscience. He should be careful not to view films or television indiscriminately, and under no circumstances should he feed the prurient recesses of his mind with pornography. When the seamier aspects of life invade his mind no matter how careful he is to try to keep them out, he should go to the Lord immediately and ask Him to cleanse his mind and make it pure once again. When a woman makes obvious advances toward him, he should flee those advances and should also avoid that woman as much as possible, so that she does not confuse the care he shows for her with what she may view as assent to her advances.
The pastor should avoid all appearances of evil, and this is especially true in his dealings with women other than his wife. The slightest, most innocent gesture may be misinterpreted by a woman living out her fantasies in regard to the pastor. The pastor who encourages this in any way, especially in not-so-innocent gestures of flirtation, is placing himself in a position in which he is likely to experience great trouble.
The pastor must by all means establish and preserve his reputation as being a "one-woman kind of man." He does that by exerting great effort to become and remain extremely close to his wife.
He enhances his good reputation by mentioning often in public how attached he is to his wife, how dependent he is on her, and what a marvelous wife she is. If she lacks many "marvelous" characteristics, perhaps he can dwell on the few she does have. If we look hard enough we are bound to find something for which we can praise a person.
"Temperate" (1 Tim. 3:2)
The Greek word here means to be strong in a thing and self controlled, especially in the area of appetites. The key thought here is moderation. We are to avoid excesses whether those excesses consist of observing inordinately long work hours or practicing gluttony in our eating habits. The pastor who greedily pushes his way to the head of the potluck line and loads his plate with unreasonable quantities of food is not going to be a suitable model for anyone, nor is such action likely to endear him to his people. Likewise, a pastor may have sources of income other than his salary, but if he lives in a pretentious manner, dresses excessively well, or continually drives the most expensive cars, he is not being temperate in his behavior. The person who intends on staying in the pastoral office should establish a moderate life-style for himself and his family and stick by it. That does not mean that the pastor has to live in the slums while his parishioners live in mansions. He may live well without being extravagant and without appearing ostentacious.
"Prudent" (1 Tim. 3:2; Titus 1:8)
The word prudent carries with it the connotation of sensibility. There are a number of things that may be permissible but not prudent. If a person does those things in certain settings, he is bound to offend or antagonize people. A prudent man is one who does not engage in behavior he knows will be offensive to others. He is not loud or rude or boisterous in places and situations where such behavior is not considered acceptable. He does not flaunt a "macho" image, attempting to convey exaggerated images of his manhood. He is not overly competitive in his activities. I have seen people exhibit imprudence even by playing Scrabble with a killer instinct. God does not need such dreadfully insecure individuals in His pastoral service.
"Respectable" (1 Tim. 3:2)
The King James translates this word "of good behaviour." Intrinsic to the meaning of the Greek word is the idea of orderliness of personality, modesty, and decorum. Recently I heard a lady say, "It is so nice to have a pastor who you know always will say the appropriate thing. He actually thinks before he speaks. We haven't always had pastors like that." God wants people who have a sense of dignity about them. I do not mean stuffy people. I mean people who know how to conduct themselves properly. It is sad when the people of a congregation are continually being embarrassed by the speech and actions of their pastor, who should be a model for them. Coarseness, vulgarity, off-color jokes, offensive actions, lack of table manners—none have their place in a person who is going to occupy the position of pastor. Many pastors who are morally pure and have hearts right before the Lord will engage in some inappropriate action that repels others from accepting any ministry they would have been able to render.
Respectability pertains not only to speech and actions but also to dress. The person who hopes to become and remain a pastor will be one who finds out what the standards of respectable dress are in his community and then observes those standards. Standards, of course, will differ with the community. In Hawaii it is often considered respectable for a pastor to conduct the morning worship service in a short-sleeved shirt, without tie or suit coat. In North America that would be considered inappropriate. There is a standard of dress considered respectable for any professional in each community. The pastor should observe that standard.
In the seminary in which I teach, as a part of a course in philosophy of ministry I regularly bring in our assistant librarian to teach a class in etiquette. Unfortunately it probably is one of the classes that is received the most poorly. I say unfortunately because it is the class that often is needed the most. Not many of our graduates fail in the ministry because they fall prey to doctrinal errors. Numbers, however, have made an improper impact on the ministry simply because they are "klutzes," are continually making themselves offensive to people—and they will not change. Simple things—such as practicing acceptable table manners, placing a mint in their mouths when dealing with people in close proximity, and refraining from picking the nose, ears, or teeth in public—would give those people substantial mileage in being more acceptable to others. If they learned a few social graces in addition and were able to remember to express gratitude to people for every kind action no matter how small, they would be making major progress toward becoming the type of respectable person the Bible demands for the position of pastor. The person who basks in his crudeness and considers it a necessary part of his "macho" image probably should seek another vocation besides the pastorate.
"Hospitable" (1 Tim. 3:2; Titus 1:8)
The Greek word here means to be a "lover of guests." The Bible indicates that the person aspiring to the ministry must be a hospitable person. That does not mean that a pastor and his wife do not need privacy. It does mean that they will agree that their home is, in part, a tool for ministry to others. If they are hospitable, they will have a rich ministry themselves, and they will establish an appropriate model for others.
Some years ago my wife and I moved into a new community and began attending a nearby church. Although the program of the church was acceptable, we were chagrined to observe that in the four months we attended there, no one made any effort to invite us to their home or even to suggest that we join them at a restaurant for a snack following an evening service. After we had ceased attending the church, someone gave us a plausible explanation for its lack of hospitality. The pastor and his wife very seldom entertained in their home, and when they went out for a snack, they always did so with the same, small group of people. Because the pastor and his wife were not hospitable, the church lacked a positive model of hospitality and became known as an inhospitable church. Christians are to be hospitable people, and unless a prospective pastoral couple intend to serve as models of hospitality, they probably should consider some other area of Christian service.
There is the other extreme of course, where the pastoral couple is so hospitable they seldom have a moment of privacy. People seem always to be with them, and the pastor and his wife wear themselves out. There is a point where a person in public ministry needs to get away from people and retreat to the quiet confines of his home. That should not be carried to an extreme, however, to the extent that the pastor and his family live in virtual seclusion. The key is moderation, and the goal is a happy medium between the extremes. (More will be said concerning hospitality in the chapter concerning pastors' wives.)
"Able to Teach" (1 Tim. 3:2; 2 Tim. 2:24)
Elsewhere in this book I will speak to the dangers of those who are caught up in what I call the "pastor-teacher syndrome." That occurs when a pastor barricades himself in his study, spends forty-plus hours a week wrestling with the text, and refuses to be out among the people or to carry on the many so-called perfunctory duties of the ministry. God has room for very few of those types today, and if a person going into the ministry views himself as carrying on a "specialized practice" he had better reorient himself. In most cases, the person entering the pastorate is going to find himself called upon to assume the role of "general practitioner."
However, regardless of how broad and diversified he finds his ministry, a major portion of that ministry must necessarily be centered upon teaching. He will be called upon as a teacher in several roles. First is his pulpit role. This is the most public expression of his teaching tasks, and he should place a great deal of effort into it making sure that his sermons are interesting, instructional, and well-delivered. A good clue as to whether or not a person will be a good preaching teacher can be found in whether or not he is an interesting person. Before a person aspires to the ministry, he should sit down with others who will rate him objectively in his communicative skills with people, his present pulpit abilities, and his pulpit potential.
Excerpted from The Effective Pastor by Robert C. Anderson. Copyright © 1985 The Moody Bible Institute of Chicago. Excerpted by permission of Moody Publishers.
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Part 1: The Pastoral Role
1. The Pastor's Character and Calling
2. The Pastor's Personal Life and Study Habits
3. The Pastor's Tools
5. The Pastor's Wife
Part 2: The Pastor's Relationships
6. Living in Harmony with His Family
7. Shepherding and Leading His People
8. Working Effectively with Church Officers
9. Dealing Honorably with All
10. Pastoral Visitation
11. Pastoral Counseling
Part 3: The Pastoral Tasks
12. A Biblical Description of the Pastor's Tasks
13. Planning and Conducting the Worship Service
14. Sunday Evening Services
15. Midweek Activities
16. Special Events
17. The Lord's Supper and Baptism
21. Services of Child Dedication
Part 4: The Pastor's Administrative Tasks
22. Planning and Managing
23. Promoting Good Public Relations
24. Handling Correspondence
25. Conducting Church Business Meetings
26. Supporting Christian Education
27. Aiding the Youth Ministries
28. Improving the Music Ministry
29. Encouraging Fellowship
30. Motivating for Stewardship
31. Leading a Building Program