Beyond the confines of formal training

Attitudes and actions needed to enrich ongoing pastoral ministry

Nehemiah M. Nyaundi, ThD, is the editor of Journal of Adventist Thought in Africa, located in the department of theology and religious studies, University of Eastern Africa, Baraton; Eldoret, Kenya.

The essential roles of the pastor are to spread the gospel and to shepherd those who respond.

But along with these basic capacities, pastors are administrators, family counselors, accountants, spouses, and parents, to name only some of the functions of the contemporary pastor. These duties are performed in a community that demands increasing professional ism. Although the importance of professionalism may not be as strong in the developing world as in the first, ministers everywhere must be prepared to serve professionally beyond what they have learned in the confines of their formal training center. Only then can we have authentic ministry. 1

Success-building qualities in ministry

The qualities needed for successful ministry are many. The Bible records a typical "send-off" ceremony whereby a newly graduated minister is sent into the field. This is the occasion in which Paul "swears in" youthful Timothy and in so doing outlines in detail for the young man his responsibilities, giving him a recipe for success in ministry (2 Tim. 2). This is somewhat similar to what a college or university training does for the prospective minister: it puts in his or her hands the tools necessary for the ministry. But this by itself is clearly not enough.

Certain qualities and characteristics that one can only gain in real life experiences with God and the congregation are essential for successful ministry. These qualities cannot be measured by something like a college GPA. It is only through commitment to the journey of ministry that these characteristics can be developed. Here are some of them.

A sense of personal calling

The ongoing need for every pastor to feel personally called by Jesus Christ cannot be over emphasized. Adventists have always felt a need for this sense of calling. 2 Prior to entering the ministry, indeed as early in life as possible, the individual must have met Jesus Christ and felt the power of personal conversion to His Lordship. Love for Jesus Christ simply has to be supreme. Then the individual will be motivated to be a witness to the gospel. Love for people and for soul winning is stimulated when Jesus Christ becomes one's personal Savior and Lord.

Good mental, physical, and spiritual health

The rigors of ministry can stretch a pastor to the limit. The minister is required to be constantly on the move. Much physical and emotional energy is called for. The pastor must also be intellectually capable. He or she needs a well-rounded education. In the pastor ate, ministers interact with the intellectual and learned, as well as with the illiterate and lowly. Pastors must be able to adjust so as to be able to address all kinds of people.

A contextualized ministry

Though professional training received at college or seminary is essential, pastors who become successful quickly learn the art of taking what they have learned and practicing it in the context of their congregation and of the culture in which they serve. Contextualization provides relevancy to ministry. In other words, pastors need the ability to move from the theoretical knowledge acquired in an academic setting to the real-life, practical setting where ministry becomes meeting the various needs of a congregation. 3 While the trainee is still in college, he or she has access to reference books and relevant literature. These study helps are usually not available after graduation. In the field, the trainee, now turned minister, must learn to be resourceful, working alone without many of the assets formerly available.

Community knowledge

Beginning pastors need to have ad equate knowledge of the society in which they are serving. They must be able to meet the believers where they are. They need to identify the dietary habits, working routine, seasonal pas times, and other distinctive cultural practices that are unique to the people they serve.

Flexibility and adaptability

Pastors need to acquire a flexible and adaptable stance. They must cultivate a teachable spirit, so that there is in them a willingness to learn and unlearn. Much patience and tolerance is required in order to be prepared to meet the variety of ideas that will crop up in all the phases of their ministry.

Regular upgrading

Both the intellectual and practical demands of ministry are constantly changing. This means a successful minister cannot afford to stagnate, lag be hind, or be satisfied with present knowledge, or past performance. Up grading and continual education are essential parts of ministerial life. The pastor must keep up on current affairs and trends. Pastors must, like Timothy, endeavor to show themselves "approved." Adequate reading and study are indispensable. A true and dynamic presentation of God's Word can best be done by one who gives ample time to study. Philip was able to satisfy the need of the Ethiopian eunuch because he knew the Scriptures and how to interpret them (Acts 8:29-35). The pastor must have a balanced, inquiring and analytical mind. This is useful when unfamiliar situations start to show up in the field.


Pastors need to be humane and understanding, loving, caring, appreciative, respectful, and approachable. They must have good interpersonal skills in order to nurture believers and attract nonmembers. If appropriate characteristics are applied effectively, pastors will endear themselves to believers and unbelievers and perform ministries worthy of God's high call to Christian ministry.

1. See Rich DuBose, "Who Needs Pastors?" Ministry, April 1997.


2 See Seventh-day Adventist Minister's Manual, 17-19.

3. Adventism emphasizes the integration of faith and learning. See, for example, the effort by Humberto M. Rasi (compiler) Christ in the Classroom: Adventist Approaches to the Integration of Faith and Learning, vol. 18 (Silver Spring, Md.: Institute for Christian Teaching, Department of Education, General Conference of Seventhday Adventists, 1997).

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Nehemiah M. Nyaundi, ThD, is the editor of Journal of Adventist Thought in Africa, located in the department of theology and religious studies, University of Eastern Africa, Baraton; Eldoret, Kenya.

December 2000

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