In 1 Timothy 3, we see a list of characteristics or qualifications for church leaders. These include being above reproach, being faithful in marriage, being temperate, exhibiting self-control, being respectable, and being a good teacher. As we can see, it takes a special person to be a church leader and/or pastor.
In our last blog, we examined how Adventist church members perceived various aspects of church leadership. Today we will look more closely at how church members worldwide value specific pastoral skills and areas of competence. Participants of the Global Church Member Survey 2013 (GCMS) were asked questions regarding the importance of such skills and areas of competence.
A majority of members (89%) believed that it was quite or very important that their pastor practice biblical preaching and teaching. Eighty-three percent of members also believed that it was quite or very important for their pastor to have biblical expertise. These skills are of great importance as they allow a pastor to lead congregants into a closer relationship with Jesus through His Word, the Bible. At the same time, three-fourths (74%) of members also felt that it was quite or very important that pastors preach on contemporary issues and thus, help their members live their faith in the context of modern reality. However, the leading skill in the “very important” category was biblical preaching and teaching.
When it comes to interpersonal style, one in three (34%) respondents felt that it was very important for their pastor to have a formal, interpersonal style. However, the same number (34%) felt that it was very important for the pastor to have a relaxed, interpersonal style. These responses point to the value of diverse churches as not every church will meet every member’s needs.
A majority (80%) of respondents indicated that it was important that their pastor be comforting and reassuring. Over two thirds (70%) of members also felt that it was important that the pastor place feelings ahead of goals. While opinions and preferences vary among members regarding the disposition of their pastor, it appears that a majority of members prefer a pastor who is compassionate and demonstrates care for the congregants.
The GCMS showed that Adventist church members throughout the world prefer a pastor who is outgoing as opposed to one who is reserved. Nearly three fourths of respondents (73%) felt that it was important that their pastor be outgoing and socially engaging, while only 58% of respondents felt it was important that their pastor be reflective and reserved. Again, this points to the value of diverse church environments to meet the varied needs of members. However, in the “very important” category, almost half preferred a socially engaging pastor, while only about a third felt so about a reserved pastor.
Other Aspects of Leadership
Nearly three-fourths (73%) of survey participants felt that it was important that their pastor be accepting of new approaches and ideas. However, it is interesting that 56% of respondents felt that it was important for their pastor to do things as they have always been done. While it appears that many members would like their pastor to promote new ideas and approaches, there is something to be said about the comfort of what is familiar. Thus, it should be noted that those who considered that it was unimportant for a pastor to continue with the old way of doing things were almost four times more than those who considered it was unimportant to try new things.
Church members also seem to hold in high regard a pastor who is a strong, decisive decision-maker. Three quarters of respondents (74%) shared that this was an important quality for a pastor to possess. However, church members also value a pastor who encourages lay workers to make decisions, as three out of four respondents (77%) felt this was an important pastoral skill.
In the same vein, many church members appear to value a pastor who does not shy away from giving advice. Nearly four in five respondents (79%) shared that they felt it was important for a pastor to advise congregants when they come for advice.
A majority of GCMS participants (84%) believed that it was important for their pastor to be completely dedicated to the church. However, 78% also felt that it was important that a pastor maintain a balanced life. While these two areas may seem like opposites, it is comforting that overall, church members desire to see their pastor maintain a balance in all areas of life, ultimately achieving better health, and that some consider it possible to achieve both goals.
In summary, if we single out the “very important” category and look at the responses by a majority of the GCMS respondents, the following qualities/skills were marked as highly desirable in their pastors: providing biblical preaching and teaching, having biblical expertise, giving comfort and reassurance, advising people on what to do, being completely dedicated to their church, and maintaining a balanced life. Is this not a beautiful picture of a church pastor?
Yes, many church members worldwide look to their pastor as their spiritual leader. As a pastor, teacher, or church elder, how do you match up with the qualities, skills and qualifications listed in the 1 Timothy description of a good spiritual leader? When you consider these attributes that are valued in leadership, how do they match up with the rest of the world? How do you measure up to what church members hold as important?
Jesus made a statement that is important to remember, especially as a church leader and pastor, “… with men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26 KJV).
Therefore, let us be filled with the Holy Spirit and follow Jesus’ example. He accepted people the way they were and showed love and compassion to everyone with whom He came in contact. Leaders – strive to become the best leaders possible with God’s help, and members – strive to support and encourage each other, as well as your pastors and church leaders.
Createdin collaboration with the Institute of Church Ministry.
Published by ASTR