What do churches want in a pastor? This question has swirled around in my mind for years.
Given that no pastor can or will be a second incarnation of Jesus Christ, no church will find or select a sinless man to lead their church. This means every search committee will have to decide what’s most important to them as they prayerfully consider calling a pastor.
During my time in ministry I’ve come to see that pastors are typically either more of the “shepherd type,” or the “preacher type.”
Let’s flesh this out together.
Years ago I read an article by John Bisagno in his Pastor’s Handbook. The chapter title caught my attention right away: “Pastors or Preachers.” Here’s his thesis: While pastors are basically called to preach and shepherd their people, they are typically more gifted in one area.
Admittedly working with stereotypes, Bisagno nevertheless delineates the differences between the two: The “shepherd-type” is usually not a strong preacher, but is quite adept at caring for people—particularly in the areas of counseling and visitation (whether in home or hospital). In sharp contrast, gifted preachers are not usually skilled counselors and generally are not wired to spend an inordinate amount of time doing hospital or home visits. Apparently, this is because strong preachers tend to be introverts.
To be sure, through personal study or continuing education weaker preachers can take steps toward improving in the pulpit and weaker shepherds can enhance their counseling and visitation skills.
Nevertheless, Bisagno helpfully reminds readers that whether a man is more of a shepherd or more of a preacher comes down to his personality. And it’s at this point that Bisagno makes a distinction between personality and character. He notes that “[w]hile human character can be changed, human personality rarely can” (226). Whether you agree with the last statement or not, the argument Bisagno advances is that the gifted counselor and the dynamic preacher are “two entirely different personalities.”
Distinguishing between personality and character clarifies this discussion greatly. Here’s why: Keeping this discussion in the realm of human personality means that neither the weak preacher nor the weak shepherd is guilty of moral transgression. Stated differently, we’re not talking about moral defects; we’re talking about the way God has wired a man.
Although you didn’t ask for my opinion, since it’s my blog I’m going to give it anyway.
I am inclined to agree with Bisagno that a lot of this comes down to personality. While I suppose there might be a pastor out there who excels in the areas of preaching, teaching, counseling, evangelizing, managing, fundraising, “CEOing,” cheerleading, visiting, sweeping, mowing the church lawn, changing church light bulbs, shoveling snow, and conflict resolution, all the while making time to update all the church’s social media accounts—and, of course, seeing to it that he’s caring for himself and his family, something tells me this is rare.
So, what’s the way forward? First, pastors must be honest. We need to be honest with our churches about what our strengths and weaknesses are. It’s better to get this out in the open so that people know what to expect. Trust me, expectations are powerful things. And, as someone once said, expectations are planned resentments.
Secondly, churches need to be realistic. Your pastor isn’t going to do everything well. It’s not possible. He can read all the books, take all the classes, attend all the seminars. But the bottom line is God has wired him a certain way. Therefore, it’s better to let him develop where God has naturally gifted him, and either get volunteers to make up for where he lacks or, if your church is able, to hire around his weaknesses. This will make everyone happier.
Here endeth this post.