I have in front of me the names of 20 pastors I know well. It did not take long to assemble the names by the specific traits I sought. Simply said, I wanted to find out whose names I would include in looking for pastors who are joyful. The list was simple, easy and fun to compile. Just noting each of their names brought a smile to my face.
Yes, I understand that such an exercise is highly subjective. I would not put my evidence before the rigors of scientific research. But I still think the results are worthy of note.
The common traits
Having gathered the names, I then asked these questions: Why do I think each of these pastors is joyful? More specifically, what traits do I see in them that illustrate the joy that they have? My reflections produced seven such traits.
1. They read their Bible daily. Their time in the Word is above and beyond sermon preparation time or teaching preparation. They make certain they read and study the Bible for their own edification and spiritual growth.
2. They have a daily prayer time. All of them have quiet times alone with God. Many include their spouses in additional prayer times. They feel they cannot be the servants God has called them to be unless they are in regular conversations with the God they serve.
3. They literally put their family time on their calendars. They make certain their children and spouses have time with them. Most of them have regular dates with their spouses and specific plans for their children each week.
4. They have a long-term perspective. These pastors understand that the criticism of today will be a non-issue tomorrow. They don’t feel the need to make disruptive changes because they have the luxury of an incremental pace. And they tend to develop rich relationships with members in the church because they plan to be around awhile.
5. They love to work with and help other churches. They have no sense of competition with other churches in the community. Indeed, they willingly and gladly work alongside them. They have great relationships with fellow pastors who serve in the same ministry area.
6. They have a great sense of humor. I have spoken to each of the 20 pastors on my list on numerous occasions. It is rare for our conversations to end without some healthy laughter. These pastors take their ministries seriously, but they don’t take themselves too seriously. They are willing and eager to laugh at themselves.
7. They rarely blame others or their circumstances. These pastors don’t typically exhibit a “victim mentality.” They take responsibility for their ministries and others. It is rare to hear them complain or engage in conversations about the inadequacies of others or the rotten situations they encountered.
The Apostle Paul wrote from a prison to the Philippian church: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4, HCSB). Paul’s joy didn’t depend on his circumstances; it was not measured by successes of human metrics. Instead, it simply but profoundly rested in the Lord. So it is with these pastors.
They represent churches in 15 states. They serve in churches as small as 75 in weekly attendance and as large as multiple thousands. Some have been in very difficult situations, while others have not. Regardless of their lot, they have all found joy in the Lord. The seven traits above are both the result of their joy and the cause of it.
These pastors are my heroes. I need to learn so much more from them.