Portrait Of A Biblical, Healthy Pastor…
As we continue talking about the mission & vision of Elevate Church Mankato (vision is where God wants to take us and mission is how He will take us there), it is also important for you to know what a Biblical, healthy pastor is supposed to look like, and thus for you to know the Biblical, healthy pastor I am trying to be.
This will also help you know what I do, what I don’t do, why I do and don’t do those things, and therefore what your roles are in this local family.
So let me start by telling you what a Biblical, healthy pastor is not and does not:
- I am not an entertainer
- I am not a celebrity
- I am not a professional Christian (and you are all not “amateurs”)
- I am not a motivational speaker
- I am not a businessman and this local church is not my company
- This is not MY church—it is Jesus’ church; I am simply a steward, an interim shepherd until Jesus returns. DO NOT come here because of me! I will eventually let you down; attend Elevate because of what the Holy Spirit is doing here, because He has prepared you for this local church and this local church for you!!!
- I am not supposed to do everything or even most things here (more on that later)
- I am not trying to have Elevate be a mega-church or have the most people attending among the Mankato churches–I want this local church to be healthy, to be close to Jesus relationally and becoming like Him in our character/integrity
- I am not in competition with other pastors–I meet with 15 Mankato pastors regularly to pray together and encourage each other! Team Jesus! 🙂
- I am not climbing some pastoral career ladder—I am not stepping on YOU in order to get somewhere else! (though of course God will use my time here to prepare me for His future plans)
- I am not a leader first; I am a servant first (Matthew 20:24-28)
- I am not here to please you (make you happy); I am here to love & serve you & do what I and others believe is best for this entire local church (which sometimes will NOT make you happy!)
Here is what a Biblical, healthy pastor is and does:
- Puts his marriage and children first and the local church second. This offends certain people, this bugs them. They are used to seeing pastors work so hard at church that they neglect their marriage and children and they think this is normal, just the price pastors pay for being pastors. Or maybe such people neglect their own marriages and children because of their work schedule and thus think that pastors should do the same. NONSENSE! I and the pastors I know work HARD as pastors—laziness in the Bible is condemned! But we don’t work so hard at church that we have nothing left to give our marriages and children. A pastor that waters the spiritual lawn of the local church—leaving it lush, thick and green—but neglects the spiritual lawn of his family—leaving it brown, patchy, weed infested and full of dog poop—IS NOT A BIBLICAL OR A HEALTHY PASTOR! They may be good at filling the seats or entertaining the masses or managing the machinery of the church but they are not a Biblical or a healthy pastor. Period.
- 1 Timothy 3:4-5, 12 NIV: He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full respect. 5 (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?)…[He] must be faithful to his wife and must manage his children and his household well.
- What if the spouse’s opinion of the pastor’s ministry at home carried as much weight as the elders’ review of the pastor’s ministry at church? It should…and that is why I ASK the Elevate Boards to talk with my wife and ask her how I am doing washing the feet of her & my children at home.
- Equips others—YOU!—to do the work of ministering! A local church won’t grow closer to Jesus & each other if it only feeds on the meals prepared by the pastor; a local church will grow MUCH closer to Jesus & each other as they step up to learn how to prepare those meals for others, as they learn to step out of the boat where it is temporarily “safe” and step out onto the dangerous and uncomfortable waves to follow Jesus and learn to do the work of ministering to others, for we are ALL a royal priesthood, we are ALL ministers of God’s grace!!! Look at the verses below–the Body of Christ is built up and becomes mature as well ALL do the works of service God has prepared for us!
- Ephesians 4:11-13: So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
- The difficult part of this is when people in a congregation only sit back to watch what the pastor or others can do; if all of the local church does not step into the roles & good works that God has prepared for them, those roles and good works will not happen within a local church, people won’t grow, and eventually people will leave…So both pastors and the people have an important role!
- A shepherd. Gently but clearly guiding you, not from behind with a closed fist but from the front with an open hand; not just telling you but also showing you where God wants you to go by going there first and clearing the way of landmines and snipers! The first rider in a biking peloton suffers more by getting the full force of the wind & protecting the riders behind. The point person on a patrolling platoon doesn’t get arrogant that he is “leading”—he knows he will get shot at first! This is Jesus’ model for Christian men and pastors…(1 Peter 2:20-22)
- Guide you to the well of God’s Word & help you drink deeply from it! Genesis 29:1-3: “Then Jacob continued on his journey and came to the land of the eastern peoples. 2 There he saw a well in the open country, with three flocks of sheep lying near it because the flocks were watered from that well. The stone over the mouth of the well was large. 3 When all the flocks were gathered there, the shepherds would roll the stone away from the well’s mouth and water the sheep. Then they would return the stone to its place over the mouth of the well.”
- Protect you, at times, from giants—false beliefs, other Christians, & false messages from the culture—David put the stone that killed Goliath in David’s shepherd’s pouch! 1 Samuel 17:40: Then he took his staff in his hand, chose five smooth stones from the stream, put them in the pouch of his shepherd’s bag and, with his sling in his hand, approached the Philistine.
- Be among and with you—not locked in an ivory tower but in the mud of life with you— with integrity of heart and hands of skill. Pastors—once a month clean the toilets at the local church where you serve. Humbly kneeling at the pooper helps us humbly stand in the pulpit! Psalm 78:70-72: He chose David his servant and took him from the sheep pens; 71 from tending the sheep he brought him to be the shepherd of his people Jacob, of Israel his inheritance. 72 And David shepherded them with integrity of heart; with skillful hands he led them.
- Encourage you in painful times to stay close to Jesus and His people, not to isolate yourselves; to come together not to run away during hard times. Isaiah 13:14: “Like a hunted gazelle, like sheep without a shepherd, they will all return to their own people, they will flee to their native land.”
- To hold you close to my heart & gently lead you—that is, to truly grow to love you & care about you and to hurt when you hurt! Pastors’ power in the pulpit is directly tied to our love in the lobby. Isaiah 40:11: He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.
- To submit to Jesus daily so that I am becoming more like Him, that my heart is being transformed to match up with His heart. There are many people currently who are FAR from being like Jesus but who have a large following; they may be successful in the eyes of the world but they are NOT shepherds in the eyes of God. Pastors should be guinea pigs as we allow the Holy Spirit to do radical work in us so we can encourage & invite others to let Him do so in them. Jeremiah 3:14-15: “Return, faithless people,” declares the Lord, “for I am your husband. I will choose you—one from a town and two from a clan—and bring you to Zion. 15 Then I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will lead you with knowledge and understanding.
- To consistently pray—to send more KNEE-mails than emails, to truly ask the LORD for wisdom & guidance instead of church-growth gurus, to read His Book more than I read the latest trends of pastoring/church management. To OFTEN listen to God in stillness and quiet. Jeremiah 10:21: The shepherds are senseless and do not inquire of the Lord; so they do not prosper and all their flock is scattered.
- To show you in the Bible how to rest in God, how to rest not through more t.v. but more of God’s spiritual i.v.—the Bible and the Holy Spirit. Jeremiah 33:12: “This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘In this place, desolate and without people or animals—in all its towns there will again be pastures for shepherds to rest their flocks.
- To not get as much as I can out of you but to give as much as I have to you, to not use/devour you so that others can look at this local church and think I am great, but to serve you & point you to Jesus so that others can look at this local church and know that HE is great. Even when our goals are noble our methods matter; we cannot chew people up in order to climb mountains. Ezekiel 34:8-10: “Because my shepherds did not search for my flock but cared for themselves rather than for my flock… This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I am against the shepherds and will hold them accountable for my flock. I will remove them from tending the flock so that the shepherds can no longer feed themselves. I will rescue my flock from their mouths, and it will no longer be food for them.”
- To pursue you & care for you and train others to do the same—at a church this size I personally cannot do all the shepherding! Ezekiel 34:16: I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak…I will shepherd the flock with justice.
- To teach you ALL of God’s Word, what HE says and not just what you want to hear, to not only KNOW the Bible but to learn to FOLLOW it every moment of every day. Ezekiel 37:24: “‘My servant David will be king over them, and they will all have one shepherd. They will follow my laws and be careful to keep my decrees.
- To learn how to live in God’s strength, not my own; to not rely on MY skills/experience/energy but on God’s wisdom and power and Holy Spirit. Micah 5:4: He will stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.
THAT is what a pastor does—THAT is a Biblical and healthy pastor. Anybody want THAT job? 🙂 That’s why the old joke–“must be nice to be a pastor and work only one day a week!”–is tragically hilarious! As I prepared this message this week I often WEPT over the profound responsibility that comes with pastoring, over my own deep inadequacy, but also over the LORD’S powerful ability to turn clay like me into fine china through the hot furnace of His testing and trials. Biblical/healthy pastoring apart from direct/daily connection with Jesus is IMPOSSIBLE, but WITH Him it is not only possible but GUARANTEED!
Unique Pressures of Being A Pastor
Pastors face unique stress—not more/less than others, but unique.
“I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches” (2 Corinthians 11:28).
- Pastors will be judged more closely by God. All Christians will have our actions looked over by God; pastors (and teachers of the Bible) will get not looked over but closely audited. This is sobering, and it should be! We pastors can cause A LOT of damage to people, like a drowsy airline pilot or a distracted surgeon.
- James 3:1 NIV: “Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.”
- Pastors face intense spiritual attack every moment of the day. NOT because we are more important than other Christians, but because we are more prominent. Pastors live each moment of our earthly lives covered head to toe with the spiritual red dots of satanic snipers, the evil spiritual forces in the heavenly realms, and they NEVER run out of bullets (fiery darts) or take a holiday. (In this sense, a pastor is always on-the-clock, is always pastoring. Athletes still have to take care of the bodies in the off-season; if they never work out or just eat anything they want and show up to training camp wildly out of shape, they will be out of a job. The same is true spiritually for pastors.)
- A grenade that explodes in the middle of the Sahara Desert still explodes, but few are hurt. A grenade that explodes in the middle of a movie theater on a Friday night has the same explosion but MANY more are hurt/affected.
- If demons—or our own sinfulness!—can get pastors to commit certain sins, it causes devastation like a grenade in a crowded movie theater.
- Thus, Biblical, healthy pastors have to defend, deal with, and protect ourselves from the moment-by-moment spiritual attacks that seek to bring us down and harm God’s people.
- For Pastors, it’s all about character/integrity, and not about ability/skills. Look at the qualifications for being a pastor/overseer/elder in 1 Timothy 3:2-12 and Titus 1:6-9 —NONE of God’s criteria have to do with their skills/abilities, ALL of the God’s criteria has to do with the person’s character! And WHAT a high bar Jesus has set for pastors—YIKES! It is only by His grace every day that I can survive such a role in His family…
- Many of us would still purchase a company’s computer if we found out that the technician who built the computer was a self-centered grumpy jerk; many of us would still eat at a restaurant if we found out that one of the advertising agents for the company was a self-centered grumpy jerk. But few of us would continue to attend a local church where the pastor is a self-centered grumpy jerk.
- Uniquely, a local church’s health is at least in part tied to the pastor’s spiritual health, his character and integrity. This is a good thing, but it’s also a sobering thing, it is a cross to bear. Every time I get up here before God & you I bear my soul, whether you realize it or not, and I want to present a soul to you not that is covered in make-up trying to look better than it is, and not that is abandoned in a back alley hopelessly accepting its brokenness, but that IS under-construction, under the renovation management of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, where you see the Carpenter’s tool scattered throughout because HE is at work daily here in my soul. If you see granite countertops and marble floors in my character but no tools of the Carpenter Jesus in plain sight, pray for me and then talk with me cuz that’s a dangerous state for me to be!
- 1 Corinthians 2:1-5—Paul didn’t have ability that most people want their pastors to have…Paul WOULD NOT have been hired by most American churches today!!! But he had integrity and character, he knew how to get out of the way and let the Holy Spirit work through him! That’s the kind of pastor I want to be—a Biblical and healthy pastor…And so it was with me, brothers and sisters. When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God.[a] 2 For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3 I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. 4 My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, 5 so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.
- American consumerism has spread like mold within the American Church.
- Feeding and nurturing a congregation made up of a wide spectrum of seekers/believers is not easy. That’s why I try to have as much of the Bible in each message as I can, because even if my words don’t offer much nourishment for you, God’s Word ALWAYS has the nourishment we need, so feel free to tune me out and just focus on reading God’s Word in your seat—that’s ok too! 🙂
- But many people get up and leave a local church if they aren’t “getting fed” and this creates quite a bit of pressure for a pastor. God definitely does move people to different local churches in different seasons of life, but many who leave local churches do it out of other reasons when God actually does want them to stay, and one of the main ones is that they aren’t “getting fed” by the pastor or that the local church isn’t providing for them the programs/amenities/intangibles that they want or making the decisions they think should be made. This can be HEARTBREAKING for shepherds. And thus we must constantly battle the temptation to please people to keep them coming back…
- Please click HERE for the ways that I prepare a sermon.
Finally, please click HERE for the kind of pastor I want to be…
Ultimately, the pastor I want to be is the same kind of Christian, man, husband and dad that I want to be–
May people say this at my funeral:
“M.J.’s beliefs and actions showed that he loves Jesus.
M.J.’s beliefs and actions showed that Jesus loves us.”
THAT’S a successful life…and that is a Biblical, healthy, and successful pastor…the pastor/shepherd that God is making me to be…
I wont build MY church;
I wont build Jesus’ church;
Jesus wont build MY church.
JESUS will build HIS church,
Through ALL of us! (Matthew16:18)
Quotes On Shepherds/Pastors
“A shepherd cannot shine. He cannot cut a figure. His work must be done in obscurity…and calls for continuous self-effacement. It is a form of service which eats up a man’s life. It makes a man old before his time. Every good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep”
“It is by no means easy for a young man to become a shepherd & he ought not be discouraged if he cannot become one in a day or a year. An orator he can become without difficulty. A reformer he can become at once. In criticism of politics & society, he can do a flourishing business the first Sunday. But a shepherd he can become only slowly & patiently by traveling the way of the cross.”
(Charles E. Jefferson, Earth: 1860; Heaven: 1937).