Character Traits for Pastor/Elder
I have had the high and distinct privilege of working with Pastors and local churches for the past 30+ years. I have found most Pastors to be godly and caring.
Following this Introduction, I will feature character traits that should be evident in the life of an Elder/Pastor (episkopos; presbuteros; poimein) presented over several issues of this News Letter. I will share observations I have made in working with Pastor/Elders. I will share anecdotal events I encountered along the way related to character or the flaws in same. Pastors are people. As such we are sinners. As such we are not perfect. We do have a high calling and need the prayers of God's people who serve with us. Remind them of this fact often. Every New Testament church found in the text of Scripture evidences a plurality of Elders. This is the New Testament norm.
Much of the difficulty we as Pastors encounter is of our own making. In plain language sometimes we just 'do stoopid'. Correcting character flaws is a great antidote to 'doing stoopid'. God matures leaders over time. He uses the circumstances we face as His educational institution to refine and transform us. One of the key elements in maturity is to learn from our sin, mistakes and the exercise of poor judgment. Proverbs has much to say about individuals who fail to heed a rebuke ( Prov. 17:10). For a beneficial and somewhat terrifying glimpse into our calling I HIGHLY recommend Dangerous Calling by Paul Tripp. Perhaps one of the most poignant aspects of this title is his autobiographical posture as he writes. I promise you will see yourself all over these pages. It will reveal a host of character flaws of which you need to repent. The God of The Ages will meet you there and He is Merciful beyond all we could ask or think.
Most could make a list of 'did I actually do that' items in short order. The text supplies examples of such. It's called repentance. Moses, Peter, and Paul each made dramatic blunders in their efforts to honor the Lord in a leadership role. God forgave. They repented, learned and benefited from those experiences. They became more competent and effective as leaders. Rest assured that the circumstances in which you find yourself as a leader will be used with precision by the LORD to shape you and bring glory to the Lord Jesus Christ! Fear not is the most frequent command in Scripture (363 times) so what are you afraid of? He is with you/us!
It is not a cliche' to say that ministry effectiveness is profoundly shaped by leadership competence and excellence. Doing the wrong thing or not doing the right thing is often an issue of the character of the leader.
What is character? How does character shape our capacity for effectiveness in leadership?
Moral character or character is an evaluation of a particular individual's stable moral qualities. The concept of character can imply a variety of attributes including the existence or lack of virtues such as empathy, courage, fortitude, honesty, and loyalty, or of good behaviors or habits. Moral character primarily refers to the assemblage of qualities that distinguish one individual from another.
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. (Romans 5:1-5; consult also Heb. 1:3)
I am contacted with some frequency by churches preparing to call a Pastor. My observation is they always endeavor to 'hear him preach'. They almost never accurately assess his character or his ability to lead. These are two 'top drawer' issues in effective Pastoral Ministry. Failure to assess these aspects of a leader is a fatal mistake and contributes to the frequent turnover in Pastoral ministry - 'churning'.
Summary - I have developed a list of 25+ character traits of a godly leader. I will feature these in subsequent issues of our News Letter. If you want to get a head start on grappling with this issue of character I highly recommend The Book On Leadership by John MacArthur. He has a list of 26 characteristics of a true leader on page 209. This title and The Conviction To Lead by Dr. Al Mohler rank very high on my list of helpful titles that equip Pastors for the glorious task of Shepherding God's people. God uses them to transform His people. He is Worthy and He delights to see you mature Pastor. Press on!
Character Traits - This is a preview of the format I will employ to highlight Character Traits essential for the Pastor/Elder.
#1 Academic - There was a day when Theology was known as The Queen of The Sciences. This title accorded honor to both Theology as a scholarly discipline and to those men who served as Pastor/Elders. Their skill as scholar/exegets was recognized by all segments of society.
The Juris Prudence of the legal system in our nation is based upon the scholarship of Samuel Rutherford. He was not a Lawyer. He was not a Politician. He was a Pastor/Elder! He wrote Lex Rex, Law is King. This title sets forth Law and Justice as drawn from the text of Scripture by precise accurate exegesis of the text using the original languages. Prior to his publication of this title, the order was Rex Lex, the King is Law. Truly a monumental example of diligent scholarship that has shaped generations of life on multiple continents. He was a Pastor/Elder and an excellent academic in the best sense of that title.
"The most notable trait of great leaders, certainly of great change leaders, however is their quest for learning." (John Kotter, Leader to Leader, p. 78)
What evidence do you have that you as a Leader possess this quest for continuous learning?