I’ve been thinking a lot recently about pastors and church leadership. I’ve spent time particularly focusing on what qualities churches should be looking for in a pastor. In the midst of this, I read an article (which to my knowledge has since been removed) arguing that pastors were leaving pastoral ministry because they weren’t qualified.
It’s a bit of an oversimplification, but it does have mileage. But is the pastor to blame? I’m not convinced. Churches run the problem of hiring a charismatic pastor or leader because they attract people. But the Bible calls for character, not charisma.
The Bible spends most of the airtime given to the qualification of leaders speaking about character, yet in the church today the focus seems to be much more on gifts and charisma. If a pastor will attract a crowd or a particular demographic, we’ll take them. Or at least that seems to be a significant part of taking on a pastor or discussing candidates for leadership roles within a church.
It’s easy to go for the more charismatic leader because they appear to have leadership skills. But the ability to draw a crowd does not means faithfulness or Christlikeness. Give me a socially awkward pastor who is faithful to the Bible in preaching and pastoring the flock over a leader who is ‘cool’ but not faithful any day of the week. The church does not need charisma it needs Christ. The church needs men of character to lead the Lord’s people.
What does this look like?
Well it may not be as obvious as a slickly dressed, smooth talking pastor standing behind a pulpit every week talking about the newest trend instead of the Bible. Often it’s more subtle. For example, a sermon might not spend so much time getting into the Bible, pointing to Jesus or talking about sin but instead focus more on how to make your life better, or how to be a better person. The problem with this is that a motivational message with Jesus sprinkled on top will not save souls, but it will bring false hope and comfort to someone who is on their way to an eternity under God’s wrath.
It’s so easy for Christians to get caught up in the Christian lingo that we forget that just because we use certain words doesn’t mean that we’re being faithful. For example a sermon can be filled with love, peace, ‘God loves you’ and other wonderful gospel truths, yet be as far from faithful as possible. I remember hearing a sermon once about love. A lot of people hailed it as a wonderfully encouraging sermon. Someone spoke to me about it afterwards and said “he really preached the gospel, didn’t he?” My answer was ‘no’.
A pastor, preacher and Christian can speak about love and yet not speak of the love of God faithfully. Believe it or not, a person can speak about the cross and not speak about Christ faithfully. Too many Christians and churches have become satisfied on the droplets of milk that don’t sustain life instead of gorging on the never-ending feast that is the gospel and the Word of God.
To reduce the message of the Bible to a motivational talk to be better, to try harder, to do more, is robbing people of the truth and will lead to spiritual malnutrition. But more than that, it can cause people to whistle their way carelessly to the gates of hell unawares. People need to be taught the Word of God. People need to be taught the gospel. People need to hear the realties of sin and judgment and the mercies of divine atonement and grace.
The church does not need more leaders who have charisma, the church needs leaders who consistently preach Christ without hesitation. The church needs leaders who unashamedly stand firm in the knowledge and truth of the gospel against opposition. The church needs men of character to lead. The church needs men and women equipped to take the stumbling block of the gospel to the world and proclaim the message of Jesus without fear of opposition.
If you look at the book of Acts you’ll see the message that the Kingdom of God grows as it is opposed. We are not in that point in history, but the same if often true today; the Kingdom of God grows as it is opposed. Where is the church thriving in the world today? In countries that oppose the gospel and the Kingdom of God.
Leaders, pastors and Christians are not called to be liked, or to preach a message that is going to be accepted by all and loved by all. We are called to take the gospel to the world with the focus being on Christ and not our own popularity. We are called to spread a message of hope to the lost, wer’e not called to be liked by everyone and spread a soft message that neither saves nor equips Christians for the real world. We are called to be Christlike and in every way we possibly can to point people to Jesus. Having a charismatic preacher or pastor does not mean that he is faithful to the Word or more Christlike. Having a pastor who is a man of character, who always points you to Jesus and makes much of God and little of himself. That is a pastor you want. Charisma does not equal Christlikeness.