Marks of a Good Pastor (Part 1: Gospel Preacher)
Who is a good pastor? How do we know if the guy in the pulpit is doing his job? Do we measure him by his appearance: suit and tie, kakis or jeans? Do we measure him by checking the church’s financial, attendance, or baptism numbers? Do we measure him by his stories and his ability to hold our attention on Sunday? Do we measure him by his ability to reach young families, to care for senior adults, or to connect with millennials? What makes a good pastor a good pastor?
And as those who belief in church elder lead and congregation ruled church polity should be heavily invested in this question. Church members should not assemble to discuss the color of the pastor’s office, the location of the projector, or the pros and cons of pews. The church members should assemble to ensure that their pastor’s follow the gospel, to verify that their worship is God centered, and to protect their congregation from theological error. The people of God have been appointed by God to fight for and promote the spiritual well-being of their congregation. Church members regularly exercise this authority through picking, vetting, and encouraging their elders and pastors. So what makes a good pastor?
Paul helps answer this question for Timothy, his mentee in the faith, and us in 2 Timothy 2:14-19. He tells us that the faithful pastor is one who faithful reminds others of the gospel, who charges others not to quarrel about words, who is approved as a faithful worker, and who avoids irreverent babble.
He Reminds Others of the Gospel
Paul tells Timothy in verse 14 to “Remind them of these things.” Anytime, we encounter pronouns not directly tied to a noun, we must hunt to find what “these things” is referring to. A quick survey of chapters 2:1-13 indicates that Paul is referring to the gospel. Paul is telling Timothy in strong words to regularly expose his people to the gospel. Remind them of the truth that God created the word, the man fell through sin, that Christ saves through his death on the cross and his resurrection, and that we all must respond to the gospel. As Greg Gilbert notes in his book, What is the Gospel, that the gospel can be summarized in four words: “God. Man. Christ. Response.” The faithful pastor is the pastor who regularly shares the gospel in all of their public messages and in all of their private counseling. The faithful pastor is not someone who simply recounts their testimony nor someone who can tell moving stories. The faithful pastor is the man who recounts the gospel day-in and day-out.
The pastor must be tied to the gospel because the gospel is the only power, source, and resource available to the Christian. There is no deeper truth. We do not get saved by the gospel so that we can reach some greater, some more powerful, or some more glorious reality. Paul notes in Colossians 2:6-7
Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.
The Christian grows down. The Christian grows by meditating on the gospel and by applying the gospel to their everyday life. C.J. Mahaney noted,
The Key to joy, growth, to passion isn’t hiding from you. It’s right before your eyes. It’s the gospel.
The faithful pastor is the pastor who faithful shares the gospel. And we all need to hear the gospel day-in and day-out because we all regularly suffer from gospel amnesia.
We give into to sexual sin because we think God has withheld good things from us forgetting that God has given us his son. We dive into debt because we buy into the lie that life in found in experiences, vacations, and stuff, forgetting that meaning in found in Christ who liberated us from ungodliness and troubled consciences. We get angry and snap out our kids because we forget that God is the perfect ruler of the universe and has ordain even our craziness that comes with our kids. And when we sin, we tend to stumble into depression because we forget that God has covered all our sins on the cross. We ultimately sin because we forget, twist, or misuse the gospel. We all need to be reminded of the gospel if we hope to live faithfully for Christ. We all need faithful pastors to direct us back to the gospel.
The faithful pastor will regularly declare the good news of the gospel in all that he does. Dr. Albert Mohler, The President of Southern Seminary rightly noted that,
We [Christian Leaders and Pastors] are to find our identity and meaning in this story and in no other story. It is to be the story that frames our thinking, our living, and our leading. This is the story that tell us who we are, how we got here, and where we are going.
The gospel is all we need and all we have. Our pastors share this conviction if the hope to be faithful godly pastors.
Pray for your pastor, asking God to make him gospel focus. Pray that the gospel will dominate and control your pastor’s life. Pray that your pastor will faithfully declare the gospel in both his private and in his public ministry. Pray for God to give you a man who reminds you of the gospel!