Tag Archives: Character

What God Wants in a Pastor

pulpitOne of the hardest times in a church’s life is the leaving of and the search for a pastor.  There are many things that make this time difficult, but one of the most pressing issues is trying to discern who the next pastor is going to be.  God has not left us on our own to discern such things.  The church is His, being created by and kept by Him by the work of the Spirit through the Word, and He is not silent when it comes to how the church is to conduct itself and who or whom is to oversee/shepherd His church.  So we would do well, for the glory of God and the good of the church, to heed His instructions on what pastor is to be and do.  What follows is simply a collection of passages that give clarity to what God desires for His church in a pastor in 3 areas: character, calling, and concern (words have been emboldened to highlight the specifics of each area).

The Character of a Pastor (What has God called a pastor to be?):

  • 1 Timothy 3:1-7 – “If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. 2 Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. 4 He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, 5 for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? 6 He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. 7 Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.”
  • Titus 1:5-9 – “appoint elders in every town as I directed you—6 if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination.7 For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, 8 but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. 9 He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.”

The Calling of the Pastor (What has God called a pastor to do?):

  • Acts 20:28-32 “Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be alert
  • 1 Peter 5:1-4 “…shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock…”
  • Jude 3-4 “…contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.”
  • Hebrews 13:7, 17 “Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith… Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.”
  • 1 Timothy 4:11-16 “Command and teach these things. Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teachingPractice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching…”
  • 2 Timothy 1:13-14 “Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you.
  • 2 Timothy 2:15-17 “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness,and their talk will spread like gangrene.”
  • 2 Timothy 4:2-5 “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions,and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.”
  • Titus 2:15 “Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you.”
  • 1 Timothy 6:2-4, 11-16 “Teach and urge these things. If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing… But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which he will display at the proper time—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.”
  • 1 Peter 3:14-17 “But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.”
  • Ephesians 4:11-14 “And he gave… shepherds and teachers, to 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, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children,tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.”
  • 1 Thessalonians 2:11-12 “For you know how, like a father with his children, we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.”

The Concern of the Pastor:

  • James 3:1 “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.
  • Hebrews 13:17 “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.”
  • Ezekiel 3:17-21 ““Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel. Whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me. If I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, in order to save his life, that wicked person shall die for his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand. But if you warn the wicked, and he does not turn from his wickedness, or from his wicked way, he shall die for his iniquity, but you will have delivered your soul. Again, if a righteous person turns from his righteousness and commits injustice, and I lay a stumbling block before him, he shall die. Because you have not warned him, he shall die for his sin, and his righteous deeds that he has done shall not be remembered, but his blood I will require at your hand. But if you warn the righteous person not to sin, and he does not sin, he shall surely live, because he took warning, and you will have delivered your soul.” (see also Ez. 33:1-9; 34:1-10)
  • Acts 20:26-27 – “Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all, for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.”

A lot could be said about each one of these passages and their importance for the pastor’s work as well as for the church’s good, but God’s Word, at times, speaks the loudest when allowed to speak for itself.

If what has been presented above is what God has called pastors to be, do, and bear before Him and the church, to take away/deny any or to add our own desires of a pastor to these things is to mock the wisdom of God, reject good for His church, and hinder God’s work through His church.  It is not our church but His, and good will only come from heeding His Word in all things.


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Politics: A Distraction from the Lord’s Reign

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. – Philippians 4:8

Dear Sir,
The precept which I have chosen for my motto is applicable to many particulars which are but seldom and occasionally mentioned from the pulpit. There are improprieties of conduct, which, though usually considered as foibles which hardly deserve a severe censure, are properly sinful; for though some of them may not seem to violate any express command of Scripture, yet they are contrary to that holiness and circumspection which become our profession. A Christian, by the tenor of his high calling, is bound to avoid even the appearance of evil; and his deportment should not only be upright as to his leading principles, but amiable and engaging, and as free as possible from every inconsistency and blemish. The characters of some valuable people are clouded, and the influence they might otherwise have greatly counteracted, by comparatively small faults; yet faults they certainly are; and it would be well if they could be made so sensible of them, and of their ill effects, as that they might earnestly watch, and strive, and pray against them.

I know not how to explain myself better than by attempting the outlines of a few portraits, to each of which I apprehend some strong resemblances may be found in real life. I do not wish to set my readers to work to find out such resemblance’s among their neighbors; but would advise them to examine carefully, whether they cannot, in one or other of them, discover some traces of their own features: and though I speak of men only, counterparts to the several characters may doubtless be found here and there among the women; for the imperfections and evils of a fallen nature are equally entailed upon both sexes….

imgres‘Querulus’ wastes much of his precious time in declaiming against the management of public affairs; though he has neither access to the springs which move the wheels of government, nor influence either to accelerate or retard their motions. Our national concerns are no more affected by the remonstrance’s of Querulus, than the heavenly bodies are by the disputes of astronomers. While the newspapers are the chief sources of his news and his situation precludes him from being a competent judge either of matters of fact or matters of right, why should Querulus trouble himself with politics? This would be a weakness, if we consider him only as a member of society; but if we consider him as a Christian, it is worse than weakness; it is a sinful conformity to the men of the world, who look no farther than to second causes, and forget that the Lord reigns.

If a Christian be placed in a public sphere of action, he should undoubtedly be faithful to his calling, and endeavor by all lawful methods to transmit our privileges to posterity: but it would be better for Querulus to let the dead bury the dead. There are people enough to make a noise about political matters, who know not how to employ their time to better purpose. Our Lord’s kingdom is not of this world; and most of his people may do their country much more essential service by pleading for it in prayer, than by finding fault with things which they have no power to alter. If Querulus had opportunity of spending a few months under some of the governments upon the Continent (I may indeed say under any of them), he would probably bring home with him a more grateful sense of the Lord’s goodness to him, in appointing his lot in Britain. As it is, his zeal is not only unprofitable to others, but hurtful to himself. It embitters his spirit, it diverts his thoughts from things of greater importance, and prevents him from feeling the value of those blessings, civil and religious, which he actually possesses. And could he (as he wishes) prevail on many to act in the same spirit, the governing powers might be irritated to take every opportunity of abridging that religious liberty which we are favored with above all the notions upon earth. Let me remind Querulus, that the hour is approaching, when many things, which at present too much engross his thoughts and inflame his passions, will appear as foreign to him, as what is now transacting among the Tartars or Chinese.

John Newton (1725-1807), Blemishes in Christian Character, in John Newton’s Letters.

HT: Tim Keller

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Glorifying God by Affirming His Work in Others

Salvation is not in a code, but in a person. And so it is with character.

Just as salvation is not the keeping of an outward, superficial formula, or a recipe of good deeds, or a Religious Duty Checklist to be fulfilled by a person’s exertion of will and effort, so character does not amount to an external set of guidelines to which one musters up conformity in his own strength and willpower. Rather, just as salvation is from Christ, through Christ, in Christ, and to Christ, so character is Christ’s work emanating from within the believer and stemming from the vigorous life of the Spirit dwelling there. And in the case of the unbeliever, character is part of the common grace of God, as a gift to the individual.

Salvation is the work of Christ and character is the work of Christ. He does the work and he gets the glory.

God-centered affirmations point toward the echoes, shadows, and reality of a righteousness not intrinsic to the person being affirmed. These qualities are gifts, coming from outside people and being worked in them. Even without yet being fully complete, these qualities are nevertheless commendable, and are to be seen and highlighted.We can truthfully say to an unregenerate four-year-old, “God is helping you become more . . .” and fill in the blank with qualities such as: careful with your things (as a steward), cheerful around the house as a singer, cautious around dangerous things like hot stoves, and so on. While the child’s growth in character is commended, God is identified as the source.

Before being able to affirm people well, we need to learn to affirm God, the source of everything to be affirmed in people. He is the source, the template, the standard. In order to be on the lookout for what is commendable in people, we should see the commendable in God. And for what should God be praised? “Praise him for his mighty deeds; praise him according to his excellent greatness!” (Ps. 150:2).

In simplified summary, we see here two things for which God is rightly to be commended: deeds that are mighty and greatness that is excellent.

First, while it would be idolatrous to erroneously praise people for being powerful if “powerful” is taken to mean an underived, self-generated potency, it is fitting to commend people for “mighty deeds,” demonstrating God-given power to overcome things that should be overcome—things like bad habits, temptations, and falsehoods previously believed. It is a mighty deed to put to death sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry (Col. 3:5). Making progress in conquering such diabolical debilitations is commendable, a testimony to the grace and power of God in a person.

Second, praising people for excellent greatness is also fitting when we understand true greatness to be what Jesus explained it to be—serving in the strength God supplies and for which he gets the glory:

As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. (1 Pet. 4:10–11)

We are stewards of grace. Those who steward well should be commended for it, and God should be praised for giving them the grace to steward the grace given. God is not given the praise he deserves when we ignore or deny the work he is doing in people.

Sam Crabtree, Practicing Affirmation, 19-21.

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Characters in a Story: Who are You?

Who are you?  What kind of novel are you in?  What is the conflict?  If you were reading this story, watching an omniscient (really) narrator describe you, your innermost thoughts, your insecurities, and all your desires, would you have any trouble at all giving your character counsel?  Would it be oh-so-difficult to tell when that character was motivated from selfishness or pride? Would you love to see that story written?  Would you like to see yourself as you are, as you really are, with not one of your thoughts or impulses omitted?

Maybe you’re not a lecherous youth pastor, a hypocritical abstinence counselor, or a thieving neighbor.  But you are something.  A backstabbing friend?  An insecure bully of a father? An unfaithful husband?  A resentful wife?  What?  Trot out your thoughts, every last one, no matter how tiny, no matter how fleeting, no matter how awful or pornographic.  Project them on a screen for the viewing public.  We’d have you pegged in a heartbeat – just as you’d be able to peg us.  A good author could even work with the unhidden things, the things you’re actually willing for the rest of us to see.  Are you a whining fusser?  Do you complain about the weather?  Do you know how much work went into that weather system?  Maybe you resent any obstacle, anything that makes your day longer or harder.  You think you’re under-appreciated.  You, with the way you think about everyone else around you (your mother, your siblings, coworkers, or even your spouse), feel undervalued.  What exactly is your value?  Would the human race falter?

We are always on stage.  We are always in a novel, and even when no other characters are around, the art continues.  The Triune audience watches.  You have been given your body.  You have been given your ancestors, your natural strengths and your natural weaknesses.  The backstory is all in place.  You have been drawn, described, and placed on a stage unlike any other – the Globe.  And you have been given your freedom to act.  Your story has begun already….

We are all watching.  We are all watched.  To some people, this could seem glamorous.  The whole idea of being in a novel or film or reality show is quite appealing.  We know what kind of people they are.  We can see the shallowness, the superficiality of their self-love.  But for some reason, they can’t.  For some reason, none of us can when we are set on making fools of ourselves.  Listen to your dialogue.  Look at your thoughts.  Be horrified.  Be grateful that God loves characters, and loves characters on journeys, characters honestly striving to grow.  If someone else was delivering your lines, would you like them?  If someone else was wearing your attitude, would you be impressed?

What will your character do when the petty things happen, when your car betrays you in the cold?  When the pipes freeze?  When God knowingly places ice on the sidewalk beneath your feet?  When the sun sets beautifully while you needle your wife?  Do you laugh at the jokes and love the lovely?  Are you too important to be amused at your own infinitude?  Are you unaware that your bowels move daily?  How lofty are you?

N. D. Wilson, Notes from the Tilt-a-Whirl or DVD, 32-35.

Trailer for DVD:


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