What I expect of a pastor

In February we published Lawrence Downing s article as to what he, as a pastor, expects of a conference administrator. In this article Philip Follett gives the complementary view what he, as an administrator, expects of a pastor. He discusses what he expects a pastor to be, what he expects him to do, and he indicates some of the means by which he measures the pastor's performance.

Philip Follett is president of the Northern California Conference of Seventhday Adventists.

A young man just returned from the Seminary asked for an appointment. "What do you expect of me?" he inquired. I've been watching some of the other pastors, and I wonder if I can match their performance. I believe God called me to the ministry, and I'm convinced that I can be an effective pastor. But I want to know if I can meet the expectations you have of me in this conference."

That was a wise young man. His very asking of that question impressed me positively. Many of us are not brave enough, or secure enough, to voice such a question openly.

Of one thing we can be certain: Everyone has expectations of us. And everyone discusses them with other people. After a Sabbath morning sermon, church members talk about how well we met their expectations. Fellow pastors discuss what they expect from their peers. Conference office personnel talk about what they want to see from pastors, just as pastors share with each other what they need and expect from conference office staff.

MINISTRY has asked me to share what I expect of a pastor. That question is difficult to answer because it is so broad. I have different expectations of a pastor of a large institutional church than I have of a pastor of a district of two small churches. Because every church differs, as does every pastor, I must adapt my expectations of each.

Generally, I expect a pastor to be (and I believe he also wants to be) faithful, competent, well-rounded, and growing.

A faithful minister has a consistent dedication to God, His church, and the ministry. Church boards frequently ask about a prospective pastor, "Is he spiritual?" My answer is, "What do you mean?" To some people the word spiritual seems to refer to a mystical aura that is hard to define. I believe that the spiritual person is thoroughly dedicated to God and His service, that he places God's will above personal advantage, and that he loves God's Word and seeks to live by its principles.

A faithful pastor loves God's church and seeks its good always. "Christ . . . loved the church, and gave himself for it" (Eph. 5:25). Husbands are admonished to relate to their wives as Christ does to His church. That requires an attitude of respect, protective nurture, and care. While it is our responsibility to protect the church from being wronged or mistreated, we must be cautious lest our zeal to correct mistakes results in harm rather than healing. I expect a pastor to build up the church of God.

I expect pastors to function as members of a team, not as loners. Pastors need to develop a spirit of collegiality, a willingness to build each other, and they need to have enough security in their own work so that they can learn and benefit from one another's strengths. A strong pastor refuses to join in criticism that undermines his fellow pastors or other church leaders. I see his participation in, and attitude toward, workers' meetings as one index of his relationship with his fellow pastors.

I expect pastors to be competent in their practice of ministry. Our church members sometimes have the impression that those who have been employed as ministers feel that the church owes them a job until retirement regardless of their competence (or lack thereof). Laypersons who serve on committees of the church voice concern about our protecting incompetence in both office personnel and pastors. We must perform our work effectively if we want continued support by our members.

Pastors should be competent in preaching, soul winning, teaching, leading in worship, counseling, relating to people, planning, organizing, and leading a congregation—the list goes on and on. Which of these skills is most important? Different assignments require a different mix of skills. The pastor must be sensitive to his members and his own abilities in order to have the proper emphasis in his current assignment.

No pastor can function well for long unless he develops personal study skills and time-management ability. One of the most frustrating decisions for beginning pastors to make is how they will utilize their time, particularly how they will protect time for personal study. In school, bells and class schedules ruled their lives. In their first district they quickly learn that they have no one to tell them when to study, when to visit, when to plan, and when to give Bible studies. They must plan their own program, follow that plan, and maintain proper priorities. Some degree of frustration over that responsibility will probably continue throughout their lives!

A pastor does not become effective just by accumulating a series of skills. How he exercises these skills for the upbuilding of the church is the real measure of his ministry. This requires sanctified, sound judgment. That quality of judgment leads the pastor to exercise flexibility without compromising principle. A pastor who is too idealistic becomes unyielding and loses his ability to lead his congregation. On the other hand, one who reflects only the opinions and convictions of influential members loses the respect of spiritual leaders.

I want a pastor to be well rounded in his life. A pastor should give proper attention to his family, his personal needs, and all of life around him. His companion and children should know him as one who is interested in them and who meets their needs. A wholesome sense of humor is an asset. While he should be serious, a pastor should be fun to live with.

A pastor should not be closed off from his community and its concerns. He can contribute more if he has some interests apart from the books in his study. Jesus immersed Himself in all of life. His teaching reflected His acquaintance with farming, fishing, marketing, and finances. A pastor who is willing to share in the life of the people he serves will be better able to lead those people to Jesus.

As long as he lives, I expect a pastor to keep growing. I admire a pastor who is never satisfied with his present effectiveness, who is constantly taking steps to improve his skills and relationships. He sets goals for himself and works to achieve them.

Thus far I have dealt with what I expect a pastor to be. What do I expect in terms of his performance? God desires the church "to make ready a people prepared for the Lord" (Luke 1:17). Accomplishing this goal requires the church to serve its community, to lead people to commit their lives to Christ and His church, and to nurture and train believers in witnessing and service. The pastor should evaluate all of his activities and functions—preaching, teaching, counseling, and leading—in terms of their effectiveness in accomplishing this purpose. His primary task is to develop the congregation into a redemptive community in which Christ's life and will are known and practiced and from which people reach out to others with the message of His salvation. In accomplishing this task, he himself ministers, and he facilitates the ministries of his fellow believers.

In view of this, I expect a pastor to nurture the unity and brotherhood of the members of his congregation. I expect him by his own activity and through the ministries of his church to teach God's Word and lead people to make decisions for baptism. 1 expect him to nurture the personal lives and community spirit of the believers so that they will grow in Christ and become active in service for Him.

How do I measure the performance of a pastor? Not by any single criterion. One cannot easily measure the spiritual strength of a congregation. A healthy church has a good feeling of joy, optimism, togetherness, and commitment. And loyalty to Christ and His message should be evident. Statistics help reveal a church's health because they frequently reflect the spirit and involvement of a congregation. Worship service attendance, baptisms, financial giving, the reclaiming of inactive members, and total membership may all be indicators of the spiritual well-being of the church. For that reason the good pastor-shepherd counts the sheep and searches carefully after any that is missing.

Every year in our conference we ask pastors and lay leaders to establish objectives toward which their congregations work during the coming twelve months, and to develop plans for reaching these objectives. Something of a pastor's effectiveness is revealed as we review these targets with him and measure the church's work for that year against the objectives.

When I talk with pastors returning from the Seminary, I express one more expectation—I expect every pastor to make some mistakes. No one person can be and accomplish all that a pastor wants to. Because I know that I have limitations, I cannot expect any pastor to be without them. I am more concerned with how he handles his limitations and mistakes and how he learns from them than I am with whether he makes them. I want him always to feel secure in sharing with me the mistakes he has made, and I want to deserve his trust by helping him to grow as a result of that experience.

Pastoring is one of the most demanding, sometimes frustrating, yet deeply rewarding, experiences God has entrusted to humanity. My task is to be an enabler of pastors so that they can be more effective in their service and experience more satisfaction and joy in their lives. To that end I have expectations of pastors, but I also want deeply to meet their expectations of me. For as servants of Christ, we are all called to work together for the building up of the body of Christ.

Ministry reserves the right to approve, disapprove, and delete comments at our discretion and will not be able to respond to inquiries about these comments. Please ensure that your words are respectful, courteous, and relevant.

comments powered by Disqus
Philip Follett is president of the Northern California Conference of Seventhday Adventists.

April 1984

Download PDF
Ministry Cover

More Articles In This Issue

One Thousand Days of Reaping: the midpoint

During the first year of the One Thousand Days of Reaping, an average of 1,032 persons per day have united with the church! Now that the midpoint in time has been reached, the world director of this priority thrust for evangelism reviews what has happened since the program began and looks ahead to its conclusion and beyond. "Soul winning," he says, "is dependent upon divine agencies and must ever remain in first place on the church's agenda."

Preaching the Word

We, know our preaching should be Biblical—but how can we best use tine Bible in our sermons? The author suggests ways in which the Bible can shape our sermons, nurturing our congregations with God's thoughts and not merely our own. He calls for a balance in using both the Old and New Testaments, and indicates both the preparation and sermon types most fruitful with each.

Typology and the Levitical system—2

The author concludes his two-part series with this article. In it he deals with the questions as to whether there is a basic continuity between sanctuary type and antitype, and what role Hebrews plays in interpreting the Old Testament sanctuary. Is Hebrews the only New Testament interpretation of the sanctuary and its services and must it be regarded as the only and ultimate norm in interpreting them?

Where is the North American Division going?

Historically, there has been a unique relationship between the General Conference and North America that has resulted in a different organization and operation for the North American Division as compared to other divisions. Since the 1980 General Conference session, certain restructuring of the North American Division has been taking place, making it, in some respects, more like its counterparts in the rest of the world. Recently MINISTRY editor]. R. Spangler interviewed Charles Bradford, General Conference vice-president for North America, and Robert Dale, administrative assistant to the vice-president for North America, about the new situation and probed their aspirations and outlook for the division.

Ellen G. White and Biblical chronology

In her writings, Ellen G. White frequently made references to Biblical chronology—and a number of these references relate to Creation and the age of the earth. Many chronologies were available to her. Which one did she use? And how did she use it? The author considers these and other questions important for our understanding of her statements on chronology.

Growing members that read

The Christian who doesn't read is likely to be experiencing a very average relationship with his Lord and with the church. One of the best services you can provide your people is to encourage them to read.

Five faces of the minister's wife

Most people find their lives divided into stages—and wives of pastors are no exception. While the times of transition between stages often bring extra stress, you can meet them successfully.

Recommended Reading

Monthly book reviews by various authors

View All Issue Contents

Digital delivery

If you're a print subscriber, we'll complement your print copy of Ministry with an electronic version.

Sign up
Advertisement - SermonView - Small Rect (180x150)

Recent issues

See All
Advertisement - SermonView - WideSkyscraper (160x600)