By Rev. Dr. Gordon McClellan
“There are lots of ways to make a cake,” a friend likes to tell me. “But the best ones use sugar.“ If we extend the analogy to the church, we recognize that there are lots of ways to pastor, but the best pastors are defined by a few common ingredients.
Pastors who listen well to the needs of others reveal a deep sense of humility. These pastors make clear that listening creates a holy space in which all are recognized as equal in the eyes of God. James says it best, when he reminds us to “be quick to listen and slow to speak.” (James 1:19).
Pastors who understand their role as equipping others to take ownership of their spirituality, rather than doing it for them, understand fully what Paul was telling the Ephesians. “Equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God.” (Ephesians 4:12-13).
There is nothing less inspiring than a teacher who doesn’t live what he teaches. For pastors, living the Gospel in the reality of their own daily lives is more powerful than any sermon. Jesus says it best: “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16),
Outstanding pastors lead their congregations in ways that include all the people, in order that their church may serve as a true and living witness to the Kingdom of God that the Gospels describe. “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28).
Outstanding pastors understand the importance of confidentiality. They make sure that people feel comfortable sharing openly and honestly, by creating relationships of trust. “Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets, but he who is trustworthy in spirit keeps a thing covered.”(Proverbs 11:13).
Great pastors understand that sometimes the smallest gestures have the greatest impact. And perhaps the greatest gesture is taking the time to visit those who are home bound or lonely. “Whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them.” (Matthew 7:12).
Outstanding pastors have learned that the best way to lead is by people’s side, not ahead of them. This often requires patience. “If we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” (Romans 8:25).
It is the duty of a pastor to be informed about the realities of the world that her congregation faces. The better informed, the better able the pastor is to minister to the people under her care. “An intelligent heart acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.” (Proverbs 18:15).
The best pastors are the ones willing to learn from the insights and perspectives of those they serve. If a pastor thinks he already has the answers, the Spirit finds it difficult to enter. “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”(Hebrews 4:12).
To have compassion is to join in full solidarity with the needs of others. There is nothing more important or Christ-like than compassion. “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.” (Colossians 3:12).