I believe a pastor often wrestles with his own identity because of the desire to be a “successful” pastor. Invariably, pastors experience the pain of comparison and the pressure of producing quantifiable results (i.e., more attendance, more baptisms, bigger budget, etc.). All of this can sometimes lead to momentary panic attacks riddled with self-doubt while chasing the latest fad.
Today, it seems that a pastor must be a social media guru, a master of marketing, an effective motivational speaker and, of course, the latest version of cool.
It may feel that way because that’s what we tend to see when we view the pastors of the seemingly most popular churches. In the middle of all this, just relax and remind yourself of truth with which to anchor the ministry.
First, be yourself. God did not decree that a certain personality was required to be an effective pastor. It’s extremely easy to confuse ministry success with personality. You and I don’t have to be a certain type in order to be a good pastor. Don’t conform to a stereotype, whatever that may be in your mind. Be comfortable in your own skin. Be authentic. Be yourself. Trying to be something you’re not is just too exhausting and not sustainable.
Know what God wants you to fulfill as a pastor. As far as I can discern from the Bible, there are only two absolute and irrevocable responsibilities. A pastor must provide accurate information to the congregation with the Bible and provide the proper inspiration with a godly lifestyle.
Every time a pastor stands before the congregation to give a sermon, whether to a packed house or faithful few, his job is to accurately preach the Word of God. He must rightly understand it himself so he can effectively teach it and appropriately apply it. God uses the truth in the Bible to transform people and grow them in Christ (Hebrews 4:12).
The pastor is the one who equips believers for service (Ephesians 4:11-12). The pastor is the one charged with teaching what is right and warning about what is wrong (Titus 1:9). This is a tremendous responsibility and the pastor’s primary task (1 Timothy 5:17-19).
Other necessary matters are not unimportant. You’ll have to organize, administrate, make visits, cast vision and keep repeating what is important. However, you can and should get others to help with many of those tasks. But you must never allow secondary things to take away from your primary responsibility—to teach the people God’s Word to the best of your ability. Don’t slight your preparation time. Make sure the congregation understands this.
And I must never forget that my authority to preach God’s Word rests on my living a life that is worthy of imitation (Hebrews 13:7). I may be an amazing communicator, effective organizer, and abound in charisma, but if I am not being the man God says I must be, the ministry will come crashing down in time, crushing many of those who had trusted me.
Pastors must live in 1 Timothy 3:1-7. I don’t believe this is an exhaustive list, but the idea of above reproach comes through loud and clear. The pastor is to be the example to the flock (1 Peter 5:1-4). A solid preaching and teaching ministry must be upheld by an authentic man of God who pursues this high calling with earnestness. He must bring himself into constant submission to God’s Word as he teaches it to others. To be above reproach neither means to be beyond criticism nor implies perfection. However, it does mean that no one can legitimately point out a disqualifying character flaw. All believers should strive for this, but pastors must be this.
We pastors must be happy with allowing the great God who called us to use us just the way He made us. We must not insecurely think we must be a certain kind of personality to be effective. We must remind ourselves to work hard at preparing and delivering thoroughly biblical sermons that expertly expound the text and apply it properly. And we must set the moral example so that we can confidently say to our flock, “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1).
Be of good cheer fellow pastors! And any time you’re feeling unsure, unequipped or just out of touch, remind yourself of your job. Preach the Word. Set the example. Be yourself. The rest is just details.
Daryl Cornett is pastor of First Baptist Church of Hazard, Ky., and a chaplain in the U.S. Air Force Reserve.