Biblical Expectations of Ministers
Most churches have, at some point, experienced a change in their leadership. Whether that meant a preacher retired, a youth minister took a preaching job somewhere else, or someone was relieved of their position, congregations must bear the turbulence of new families being brought in to help them in their walk and familiar faces moving on. In the midst of these turbulent times, it is only natural that the members develop expectations as to what the minister should provide or what the last did not.
Should he be married? Young or old? Have kids? Should he have experience? Should he have formal education? Should he be an eloquent speaker? Should he provide counseling to families? All of the questions asked are common as expectations for incoming ministers, but are these biblical expectations? Or are these simply characteristics of people we think would be beneficial? As there seems to be a lot of confusion as to what a minister's job responsibilities are, I would like to point to some scripture as guidance. It is, after all, the only source from which we should derive our expectations.
Biblical Attributes of Ministers:
Titus 1:7-9 "For the overseer must be above reproach as God's steward, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not addicted to wine, not pugnacious, not fond of sordid gain, but hospitable, loving what is good, sensible, just, devout, self-controlled, holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict." ***To argue that a minister is not an overseer of sorts is a stretch***
2 Timothy 4:5 "But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry."
1 Timothy 4:12 "Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe."
1 Timothy 4:15-16 "Take pains with these things; be absorbed in them, so that your progress will be evident to all. Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you"
2 Timothy 2:24 "The Lord's bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth"
1 Thessalonians 2:7-8 "But we proved to be gentle among you, as a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children. Having so fond an affection for you, we were well-pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become very dear to us"
I Corinthians 2:1 "And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God."
Hmmm.... What do we not see?
1) Master's degree required
2) In his mid-30's/40's with a postcard perfect family and a dog
3) 5-10 years of experience
4) Never makes mistakes
5) Responsible for all spiritual growth of the congregation
6) Minimum 5 baptisms per year
7) Make everyone happy by conforming to what they want
8) Does not have "normal" people problems
A minister is called to be a lot of things, but the above are none of them. Expectations for incoming ministers should be tailored to that of what the authority of the Bible places on such people. Jesus sent the 70 (or 72) with very little information as far as education is concerned. Yet, they went. Paul had no master's degree (though educated in Judaism). Peter never took a progressive route from youth minister to pulpit minister. Timothy was responsible for teaching people much older than he was. Titus consistently did the work of Paul when Paul could not. The examples go on and on...
What am I getting at with this?
The members of the congregation are more responsible for their growth in numbers and their growth in knowledge than any one minister could ever be expected to be. "Being fed" seems to be so common a reason for leaving a congregation or being discouraged from attending regularly. At least in the United States, this is not a viable reason. If you have a Bible, you can feed yourself--not to mention most of your questions can be clarified with commentary or google for that matter. If you come to church for an hour or two per week and hope to get all of your spiritual growth from a 20 minute sermon, you are not even trying to feed yourself, and it is no wonder you are not experiencing any growth. Don't eat? Can't grow. It's simple. A minister should provide an example for you to imitate, but they are not the only thing you should be mimicking. Let's try maybe reading the examples of those in the Bible.
While there are certainly things that a minister should be able to fulfill, it is not his sole responsibility to provide EVERY.SINGLE.THING to EVERY.SINGLE.PERSON in the church. There is absolutely no way to make every sermon, every Sunday something that "touches" or "speaks" to everyone.
A minister needs to be able to teach. He needs to be well-tempered and patient. He needs to be mature in his faith and willing to help those who are not. He should be caring and develop a sense of care for the members (Paul loved his disciples DEEPLY). He should be "absorbed" with the things relating to spreading the gospel of Christ. He should be dedicated to expounding on the meaning of the scriptures. He should be willing to learn by being humble and accepting the advice of his elders and the wise of the body. He should be gentle in his approach and loving in his execution. He should be firm in his beliefs and not shy from those "tough" subjects just because it may bother someone. He cannot be someone who causes division in the church, because he is not to be involved with quarrels.
So we can see, therefore, that a minister has high expectations given to him. But little do we recognize that the expectations we think about are not those that God thinks about. Whether the man is the best public speaker ever, that is not the concern. Joel Osteen is wonderful at fluffy, motivational pep talks, but his doctrine is as loose and distorted as they come. Whether he is married or not is a worldly concern, not that of God (refer to Paul), unless divorce is involved. If he has kids or not, is of no concern (refer to Paul). If he is young or old is of no concern (read 1/2 Timothy), but DOES HE PREACH TRUTH! Does he care! Does he love! Can he teach! Can he be trusted! Is his life tranquil! Is he honest! These are the things that are found in the Bible as what should be expected from a minister. Does he have a worldly administered "religious degree", God DOES NOT CARE. Should he tailor his sermon to meet the desires of the "popular," NO! He is to preach the truth. No matter what. His "boss" is God. He answers to God for the things he's taught and the things he's done. For "Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgement"(James 3:1).
Brothers and sisters, please bear with the changes. With that, maintain your expectations as to what you want in a minister. A minister is there for you, yes, but they are not only there for you. A minister is still a brother, whether he does well or not. These have dedicated their lives to the gospel. Therefore, do not put needless stipulations on them. Rather, study the Bible often. Cling to the words in the scriptures. Understand that they are human too. Teach each other. Learn from the elderly. Understand that life exists for the minister outside of Sunday morning worship. Feed yourself. If you have a problem, present a solution. If you want to learn more about the Bible, READ YOUR BIBLE. As a member, we cannot put all of the responsibility on other people. We need to shoulder a large part of that work. For "we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose" (Romans 8:28).
If there is anything I can do to help you, please let me know. I genuinely care.
Until next time...