Six Characteristics of the Pastor Who Deserves to Be Followed

pastor who deserves to be followed

I received some pushback recently regarding a couple of blogs I wrote about allowing pastors to lead their churches. I argued that most churches that are actually making devoted followers of Christ out of the raw material of lost people have pastors who are expected to actually lead. And this is the kind of pastor who deserves to be followed.

Actually leading means that these privileged pastors are allowed to pray down visions from God for their churches and to develop coherent, coordinated ministry strategies designed to achieve that vision.

I’m not claiming that the Bible demands this kind of arrangement. I do claim that the Bible illustrates it and experience demonstrates that it’s the most effective model for missional effectiveness.

Let’s face it, most churches are pursuing pasted together, composite, let’s-try-to-please-everybody visions with pasted together, composite, let’s-try-to-please-everybody ministry strategies.

But the objection was a good one: Most of us pastors aren’t ready for this. Most of us pastors don’t deserve it.

So what are the characteristics of the pastor who deserves to be followed and entrusted with this kind of leadership mandate?

A pastor who deserves to be followed has impeccable character, and everybody knows it. 

While they may arrive on the scene with their impeccable character developed, it usually takes a few years for the congregation to realize they have it.

A pastor who deserves to be followed has a deep-down biblical humility, which is not self-loathing, but an honest understanding of their strengths and weaknesses. 

When pastors only want to talk about their strengths, you know that they have only the fuzziest vision of God and probably haven’t seen themselves very clearly either.

A pastor who deserves to be followed has a walk with God that lends credibility to their vision casting. 

Moses had signs from God to build credibility. (The leprous hand and rod-turning-into-a-snake routines were pretty spectacular.) He also scaled a mountain which smoked and quaked and rocked out to the sound of a heavenly trumpet. He came down from the mountain with his face glowing.

Most of don’t have such wondrous special effects, so we have to convince people in more mundane, time-consuming ways, like reflecting God’s glory while under attack or enduring hardship and loss with heavenly grace.

A pastor who deserves to be followed has demonstrated love and devotion to their churches with no sense of ownership or entitlement. 

Pastors who talk about “their people” and “the folks who are in the church because of me” don’t deserve the kind of authority I’m talking about.

Pastors who truly love their churches will stay on if they are convinced it is the best thing for the ministry or move on if they are convinced that that would be the best thing for the ministry. They’re obsessed with Jesus’ kingdom, not their own.

A pastor who deserves to be followed inspires others with a faith and enthusiasm that is long-term and genuine. 

Just about anybody can pump up some enthusiasm for a short sprint. Can you keep it going, because you have learned to rejoice in the Lord and enjoy Christ, for the whole marathon?

A pastor who deserves to be followed has demonstrated skill in the nuts and bolts aspects of leadership. 

Leadership begins with a discontent with the present and a dream of a better future. That’s the fun part, but it’s just the beginning. As a friend concluded a few years back, “the trouble with this leadership stuff is that eventually it deteriorates into hard work.”

The hard work aspects of leadership involve persuading others to join you in achieving the vision and then actually getting them to the God-given destination. Most of us have to demonstrate some ability to do these things on a small scale before our churches are willing to let us try it on a larger stage.

Are you a pastor who deserves to be followed?

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Brian Thorstad
Brian Thorstad is a Redevelopment Transitional Pastor. He is the author of Heaven Help Our Church! (A Survival Guide for Christians in Troubled Churches) and Redevelopment: Transitional Pastoring That Transforms Churches.