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What a Layman Expects of His Pastor

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Archives / 1974 / July



What a Layman Expects of His Pastor

H. P. De Castro Lobo
-one of the vice-presidents of the Brazilian Bible Society, one of two directors of the Compania Sul America de Seguros, and an elder in the Rio de Janeiro Central church at the time this article was written


THE church, as a congregation, does not always remember that its pastor is also a human being. The Scriptures make a point of the fact that each year in the sanctuary ceremony the high priest offered a lamb as an atonement for himself and his family before he ministered for the people. He was subject to the same weaknesses as those for whom he interceded.

Another detail, unfortunately also often forgotten, is that over the pastor rests the divine unction, a sacred separation, a consecration to divine service. If each lay man always remembered this important truth in respect to the ministry, then he would examine his demands in the light of this important spiritual reality.

Of course, we can't expect our members to always keep these facts in mind. Therefore, the pastor should be prepared to put up with the situation that exists, remembering that the church is not a museum of saints but a great hospital for pilgrim sinners who are advancing with difficulty to the heavenly Canaan. However, he must keep in mind that he is the leader of a group and that such leadership requires certain indispensable qualities. As a pastor he must be the representative of his mission or his conference before the congregation. Because of this, much is naturally expected of him. His work cannot possibly succeed without divine resources and approval.

With this background in mind, let us briefly take a look at those qualities the layman can rightly expect to find in his pastor.


The layman rightly expects his pastor to be a good example. "Actions speak louder than words." His sermons, preaching, conferences, and counsels should inspire the church, but it is his example that will lead the church to action.

The apostle Paul, notwithstanding his evident Christian humility, had the courage to declare: "Be ye imitators of me, even as I am of Christ" (1 Cor. 11:1, A.S.V.). The layman expects that his pastor's example be such that he can imitate him. And that includes the pastor's family, as unfair as that may seem at times.

Faithfulness to Principle

The layman expects his pastor to be 100 percent Adventist, to be a living expression of the message, and to live according to principle. In his teaching and preaching the pastor must be firm and certain in his presentation of Biblical and denominational principles. Any thing to the contrary betrays his high calling.


It is only right that the layman expects his pastor to really shine when it comes to courtesy. Courtesy, says Amado Nervo, is life's most outstanding perfume. Macaulay defined it as benevolence in small things. In the Bible, the majestic figure of the patriarch, Abraham, appears as a model of true courtesy. The servant of the Lord tells us, "If all our people teachers, ministers, and lay members would cultivate the spirit of Christian courtesy, they would far more readily find access to the hearts of the people."--Testimonies, vol. 5, p. 31.

Enthusiastic and Happy

Shouldn't the layman also expect his pastor to be enthusiastic and happy? Certainly the congregation is sensitive to his enthusiasm and happiness. Someone has said that there is no better way to do something than to do it with enthusiasm. According to its etymological root, the word enthusiasm in classic antiquity signified "possessed by divinity" and defined a charismatic state resulting from an optimistic attitude. In respect to the virtue of happiness, the Pentateuch tells us, "Thou shalt be altogether joyful" (Deut. 16:15, A.S.V.). The apostle Paul gives us similar counsel: "Rejoice always" (1 Thess. 5:16, A.S.V.).


The layman expects that his pastor certainly will be discreet. It seems that in every congregation there are accusers of the brethren. For this reason the lay man expects that the pastor will know how to examine both sides of a question with discernment, and proceed as Jesus would.

If the pastor would keep a "book of accusations" for those who come to him with tales about others, to register in it the charges they had, with the stipulation that they must sign those charges, this book would rarely, if ever, be opened. Satan is not only the father of lies but also the grand father of rumors. Anyone who joins in this work renders valuable service to the enemy. The minister certainly must not circulate that which is brought to him in confidence. Neither should he readily accept negative accounts concerning his sheep. This can only damage the churches and perpetuate discontent.


A member also greatly appreciates the pastor knowing as much as possible about what is going on, in order to pass on to the congregation that which is relevant to their needs. He is happy to dis cover that the well-informed minister reads Adventist publications. This stimulates his flock to do the same. As a result of keeping well-informed, he builds the level of knowledge in his congregation. Most of all he is expected to be well-informed concerning those things God reveals and expects us to know.

A Capable Speaker

The pastor, of course, is not always expected to be preoccupied with being a "good speaker" anymore than he is expected to feel inferior for not being such. The orator often runs the risk of attracting listeners more to him self than to his message.

On the other hand, the layman expects his pastor to exert him self to be a practical, capable preacher, using good diction and delivery. He prefers a brief, direct, effective, and spiritual message, generally not lasting much more than half an hour. The sermon should be prepared well enough so that the preacher doesn't depend much on his notes.


You can't blame the layman for expecting that his pastor be organized, for "order is heaven's first law" (Counsels on Health, p. 101). The pastor cannot, of course, even begin to carry the entire burden of organizing the church, but he should be responsible for training the members to bear responsibility. This responsibility involves not only the work of the church but its evangelistic out reach. Every layman should be enlisted in at least one practical and specific activity.

Friend of Repentant Sinners

The layman expects that his pas tor have training and experience in communicating with those who err, differentiating between the sinner and the sin. Just as God loves the repentant sinner and desires to regenerate him, yet at the same time feels an aversion for the sin, the pastor is to hate the sin, but not the sinner. The apostolic church at Ephesus did not hate the Nicolaitanes, but their "works" (Rev. 2:6). Those who yield to sin and have been knocked down and humiliated by it, when led to repentance by the living ministry of the right kind of pas tor, may become some of the strongest members of his congregation.

Without Respect to Persons

If you were a layman, wouldn't you expect your pastor to treat each member with equal regard, without any show of favoritism? The pastor naturally relates more amicably with some than with others, as was demonstrated even in the relationship between Jesus and the disciples. But, without exception, the congregation appreciates a pastor who is friendly and cordial to all.

Absent by Exception

The pastor is ordinarily expected to be present at all church meetings. The layman knows that there are times when the minister must be absent, but as much as is possible, he appreciates having him present, including attendance at the Sabbath school teachers' class.

The more the pastor is absent from committee and church meetings, the more likely it is that his absence will be felt and the more problems will develop.


Finally, the layman expects that his pastor be idealistic in the broadest sense of the word.

In view of the fact that the end is near and the conflict between rebelliousness and moral values is becoming broader and deeper, even the minister himself is in danger of becoming confused and compromising the ideals of his vocation.

William James suggested that the best use that we can make of our lives is for them to be consumed in something more durable than life itself. Thrilled by the sacrifice displayed in the glorious stories recounted concerning patriarchs, prophets, apostles, and Christ Himself, the layman expects that his pastor will be committed to such ideals.

His idealism should be evident in a tender regard for his congregation. His work, however hard it may be, will be a consuming passion. His ideals will also reach out to appreciate and support his col leagues in the ministry. He will not be preoccupied with secular things. Nothing can incline him to even consider bartering his sacred occupation the most important and solemn among men for any other more lucrative in a world so preoccupied with self and materialism and so sick with the leprosy of egotism.

The layman rightly expects his pastor to be profoundly and irrevocably tied until death, or until the close of time, to the greatest work that can be done today on the face of the earth.

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