The pastoral epistles outline over forty expectations for a pastor. This means that God takes the role very seriously and we should too. Multiple times, in the pastoral epistles we see Paul remind Timothy of his high calling by reminding him that the King who will “judge the living and the dead” is observing his ministry. James famously warns, “Let not many of you become teachers, my brothers, knowing that as such we shall incur a stricter judgment.” (James 3:1). Based on this, I recommend every young man reflect long on Scripture, and prepare well in study, before stepping to the pulpit. John Knox, the famed Scottish preacher, asked God for Scotland. But, when finally offered the chance to preach, he was so overwhelmed by fear that he locked himself in his room and cried for three days.” Here are seven elements which should exist or be grown in a man called to pastoral leadership:
1. A shepherd maintains theological tenants for which he will sacrifice. A shepherd holds to a set of non-negotiable lifetime convictions. He expects others subscribe to these, he never changes these to be political or popular, and he will leave a situation before surrendering these. If the shepherd has no rod, no fence, and is afraid of wolves, the sheep will forever feel insecure.
2. A shepherd works harder than others for less money than others. A shepherd’s work ethic should be evident to the point that it never allows his spiritual calling be brought into question. He does not choose his ministry based on money. He does not whine. He does not campaign for the next post. His spouse does not act like a martyr. He does not look for handouts or utilize the congregation for side income. He accepts that sheep are the work of ministry not the reward for ministry.
3. A shepherd enthusiastically uses the product he promotes. What a shepherd does shows who a shepherd is. Therefore, a shepherd must have enough faith in his ministry (or its future) that he passionately involve himself, his wife, and his children in it regardless of illness, income, or schedule. The sheep of a church are to be FAT (faithful, available, teachable) while their leaders are to be FATTER (faithful, available, teachable, tither’s, evangelist’s, and discipler’s) If a shepherd is not diligent in investing his time and money he 1) Robs God, thereby disqualifying himself from leadership 2) Forfeits the respect and honor of his word 3) Removes the chance for God to strengthen faith muscles 4) Loses the realness of heaven where true treasure lies 5) Mutes the confidence of those who follow him
4. A shepherd sinks and swims alongside his loyal team A shepherd operates with the mentality, “Whether we sink or swim we’re all in the boat together.” This means four things: 1) The leader is first to sacrifice during hardship or expansion and never asks anyone do what he has not done first. 2) The leader encourages those within his ministry who showcase both allegiance and competence. 3) The leader redirects those in ministry who showcase allegiance but lack competence in their selected field. 4) The leader gently (but immediately) reproves and potentially removes those in ministry who lack allegiance to the team or ministry.
5. A shepherd does not spend what he does not have A shepherd must be wise in forecasting the coming needs of the sheep allowing them peace that they will have food to eat. It requires courage to build a budget every year, and even more courage to cut spending if that budget is not met. But the sheep must see that the shepherd is optimistically confident in the future of ministry and that money will not limit God’s work.
6. A shepherd accepts that every word, attitude, and action is evaluated. A shepherd expects the sheep to conduct themselves based on his example. Similar to living in a glass house, the eyes of sheep observe his ways, and he must walk in personal holiness, using every interaction to further the vision: What questions does he ask? How does he joke? What disturbs him? Whom does he praise? What will he criticize? How does he spend money? How does he dress? How does he interact with family? Does he exaggerate? How is his hygiene? Is he lazy? Is he punctual? What does he watch for entertainment? What are his hobbies? Does he prepare or wing it? Does he sing in church or look bored?
7. A shepherd will communicate objectives clearly. Without goals, the sheep wallow in the mud of ambiguity. In multiple contexts Paul used the Greek word agon to describe ministry (i.e. “I have fought the good fight” is use of the Greek word agon). Agon is a metaphorical term used of men entering the Coliseum for combat. The shepherd takes it upon himself to be responsible for “winning and losing” a spiritual battle and for insuring that every soldier in his platoon properly articulate, and return safely from, their mission. What level of transformation is prayed for? What is a worship service that glorifies God? How many people in the city should be invited to church? How many should be equipped on the current campus? How many small groups should meet for fellowship? How many children should memorize all 66 books of the Bible? Clear goals show effort and allow a means for individual soldiers to assess their individual gift and ability. This level of goal setting will: 1) Keep the eternal timeline visible for every soldier 2) Provide time for soldiers to celebrate victory and mourn defeat 3) Attract other soldiers equally committed to the task 4) Motivate soldiers to greater personal sacrifice.