21st century pastors, Jesus followers and The Book

A commentary comparing contemporary Church expectations with 3 letters from The Bible – (an assignment for a class at church)

Ever wonder what exactly are the key characteristics of a healthy pastor, a Christian leader, in the twenty-first century?

Don - "Love, Hope, Believe"

To get an idea about what people expect from a modern pastor, one might consider the questions asked when you tell someone you’ve got a great pastor.

How big is his – and sometimes her – church? This request is not for building measurements, but attendance figures.

How did he score on the Modified Houts Spiritual Gift Analysis? What’s his Birkman? DISC? Does he embrace Maxwell’s 21 irrefutable laws of leadership? Or (more controversial for some) Covey’s 7 habits of highly effective people? Collins’ characteristics of a Level 5 leader? And, what about the results from his Purpose Driven Life workbook?

How many books has he published? If he doesn’t have any books out, does he at least have a popular blog? How many subscribers? Facebook friends? Twitter followers?

Which authors does he cite? Recommend?

What seems clear is that none of this, even embracing the enquiry for written materials, is about evaluating sound biblical basis for great pastoral ministry. It may, for some, even be about looking for an alternative to engaging directly with The Book, biblos in Greek. You know, the 1300 page volume that many mistakenly think requires a personal library to understand; and, too much time, effort and attention to get through on your own. It’s less effort to accept the illuminating pronouncements of a favourite pastor-author, especially if his stories are way more 2016.

It’s not common coffee-shop-talk to ask if a pastor exhibits traits written about in The Book, twenty centuries ago.

Still, here are a few thoughts written by the mentor Paul in letters to his mentees Timothy and Titus that might be relevant. The letters are in The Book.

A pastor is an overseer who must be living a life above reproach – sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach; not given to addictions, violence, quarreling or greed. This kind of person is well thought of by family, friends and acquaintances who are not as close.[1]

Other key requirements?

Hold faith in God, with sound doctrine, and a good conscience. Be faithful to the prophecies, guidance and direction received from trustworthy people. Train for living a godly life through study of the Scriptures, good service and following the example of faithful mentors and Christian friends. And, set an example in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity – evidence of the pursuit of righteousness. Pay attention to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. Do not show partiality.[2]

Pray. Pray prayers of requests that require God’s participation for answer, prayers of mediation for the needs of others, and prayers of thanksgiving. Pray for all people, especially political leaders and those in government.[3]

From this place of personal integrity in relationship with God and people, publicly share the Scriptures, exhort and teach. Equip other faithful followers of Jesus to teach. Do the work of an evangelist, sharing the full gospel.[4]

Be prepared for the hard stuff of lovingly correcting others when they drift away from sound doctrine into false teachings, myths and repetitive recounting of their personal qualifications to lead. Rebuke those who persist in sin, publicly within the congregation if necessary. Encourage godly contentment with an awareness that greed and sinful behaviour will have to be challenged.[5]

Do not be ashamed of the true testimony about Jesus, the Son of God risen from the dead, and be prepared to share in suffering as a result, patiently enduring evil.[6]

And the pastor’s followers? They would simply listen to the pastor and read the pastor’s stuff, right? Especially those who follow, like and share his stuff on social media.

But do the followers have any responsibility beyond that? Does Paul have anything to say about that? He does. And, it’s in The Book.

Having experienced the grace of God, Jesus’ followers are called to be sincere in faith, continuing in spiritual growth through relationship with God and other Christians.[7]

There’s more.

Adhere to sound teaching. The way to assess its soundness is to know not only the messenger but the Source of the message – able to affirm it with a knowledge of The Book – as part of our stewardship of the faith.[8]

Pray. Prayer is not confined to being actioned by leaders; and, the same kinds of prayers are to be offered up by all people – both privately and in conjunction with others, without anger or quarreling.[9]

Christians are to care and contribute. Care for family members in need. Care for widows and orphans as a community of believers. Make sure pastors and leaders are properly compensated for the service they are providing on behalf of Jesus.[10]

The mature are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, love, and steadfastness, teaching what is good to younger Christians.[11]

Followers of Jesus are to accept training that enables renouncing ungodliness and worldly passions in order to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in the culture in which we find ourselves. And, to patiently wait for the promised return of Jesus to this world. While waiting, Christians are to be submissive and respectful of government authorities, ready to do good works, gentle, courteous, avoiding quarreling, speaking evil of no one, guarding the deposit of faith given by God and prepared to suffer for it.[12]

So, according to Paul, church-types are actually followers of Jesus; not followers of the pastor. In fact, it appears from what Paul wrote that even the pastor is to be first and foremost a follower of Jesus! And, if he – or sometimes she – is getting the job done properly, the great pastor is directing the congregation entrusted to his care away from following him and toward following Him, all the while providing a positive example of what following Jesus is.

Who knew first century standards might be considered trustworthy Church constants, still relevant in the twenty-first? It turns out, they are.

There’s more. It’s in The Book.


[1] 1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9

[2] 1 Timothy 1:18-19; 4:6-10; 5:21; 2 Timothy 1:6, 13-14; 2:15, 22; 3:10, 14; Titus 2:7-8

[3] 1 Timothy 2:1-2

[4] 1 Timothy 4:11-16; 2 Timothy 2:2; 4:2, 5

[5] 1 Timothy 1:3-4; 5:20; 6:2-10; 2 Timothy 2:16, 25; 4:2; Titus 1:10-15; Titus 2:1; 3:9-11

[6] 2 Timothy 1:8; 2:3, 24; 3:12

[7] The base of who Paul, Timothy and Titus are as Christians and implication of whom the pastor is to lead that is contained in all three letters, and more particularly: 1 Timothy 1:5, 12-16; 2 Timothy 1:5; Titus 2:11-14; 3:4-6

[8] 1 Timothy 1:4

[9] 1 Timothy 2:8

[10] 1 Timothy 5:1-18

[11] Titus 2:2-6

[12] 2 Timothy 1:8, 14; 2:3, 11-14; 3:12; Titus 2:11-15; 3:1-3, 8, 14