Biblical Qualities of a Good Pastor: Key Scriptures & Commentary


Lord’s Library contributor Jared Helms offers a comprehensive commentary on the Biblical qualities of a good pastor, with key Scriptures. Check out Jared’s YouTube channel and two blogs: A Light in the Darkness and Blind Faith Examples.

Ministry Leaders Series BadgeWhat makes a good pastor? It is a question most Christians will face at least once in their life on Earth. Our answer is important because pastors shepherd souls, represent the faith to those within and without it, and exercise spiritual authority. They can do a lot of good or a lot of harm. We bear some responsibility as we call pastors, vote on them, and affirm them week after week. So, we have some responsibility to answer our question, and to answer it well.

Of course, the world has its ideas of what a pastor ought to be, and is quite keen on sharing them with us. We are often just as keen to hear it and bring it back to church with us. After all, the entrepreneur is generating so much interest and investment, the CEO has completely revitalized a failing business, and the influencer has gathered such a big crowd. The world has so much success to point to, and it is so alluring; especially when our own success seems to be lacking.

But the church is not a business or any other sort of organization the world knows. The local church as part of the Church Universal is otherworldly in the truest sense of the word. It is an embassy of Heaven on the Earth, established by, and directed by God Himself for our good and His glory. The virtues, or vices, which succeed in the world will bring only heartache and destruction to the church. God requires a different set of virtues which He lists in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 (see below the fold).

By examining these virtues, we can see what makes a good pastor, and how he is very different from the heroes of the world.

The Gospel

Biblical Qualities of a Good Pastor

Biblical Qualities of a Good Pastor? Foundational Attributes

  • 1 Timothy 3:1: “This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.”

The secular job description lures candidates in with promises of excellent pay, generous benefits, and the opportunity to garner prestige, all of these are absent. Elsewhere Paul does speak of pastors’ right to a living wage, but it is not mentioned in detail. Else Paul elaborates the joys of ministry, but he refrains here. The aspiration and the desire are wetted by the sheer nobility of the task.

The first quality mentioned is an aspirational desire for the work of the pastorate, not ability, not talent, not education, or job experience; a desire to do the work. Notice Paul speaks of the task, not the office or the title. Those are not the targets aimed at, but it is the work itself that a good pastor wishes for. It is the work itself that God calls men to.

Behind this desire then we should see a deep and abiding relationship with God. In this, prayer, Scripture reading, and meditation on the word of God are key. If they are absent then desire is doubtful. For if you are truly interested in the work of the Kingdom, you will be interested in knowing the King.

Therefore an Overseer Must Be Above Reproach…

  • 1 Timothy 3:2: “A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach;”

The divisions from this point on are my own. see also Titus 1:6-7: “If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly. For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre;”

God is concerned with moral character. The pastorate requires an exemplary life that is not easily drawn into disrepute. Moral failing would paint the faith in the wrong light for believers and non-believers undermining not only a ministry but the message itself. The man who talks the talk must also walk the walk or else the words might ring hollow.

We are not of course speaking of perfection, but of striving towards it as Paul describes in Philippians 3. We might think of Daniel chapter 6 where the jealous officials of Darious’ court had to have prayer outlawed in order to bring a charge against Daniel. That is how it should be with the pastor; he should have no glaring sin in life. He should also clearly evidence the fruit of the Spirit. See Galatians 5:22-23: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.”

A moral backbone reduces flexibility in ways that occasionally hinder numerical growth, financial gain, and the like. There are places that promise increase that a moral man simply cannot go. The world is perfectly willing to let morals slip a bit if it gets results, but God is not. The standard for pastors is high, but not impossibly so.

The Husband of One Wife…

  • 1 Timothy 3:2B: “A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach;”

See also Titus 1:6: “If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly.”

The point above again applies here, but the emphasis given on the picture of marriage is representative of Christ and the Church in Ephesians 5. Failure in this area is even worse. The more literal translation would be, “A one-woman man.” If a man is not dedicated and steadfast in marriage, how will he be in ministry? The imperatives are not just about keeping up appearances, they are very directly about fruitful ministry.

It is clear at this point that the requirements to be a pastor have to do with private life as much as professional life. By inquiring into personal matters such as fidelity we cross a line that no secular institution can, this in itself is evidence that a secular approach to hiring will not work in the churches, or in the para-church ministries that work alongside them.

We must take a moment here to address a common misunderstanding that a pastor must be married. That is not what the Scripture says, it says that a man must be devoted to one woman, and it may be that he has not yet met that woman. It might also be that he has the gift of singleness and is devoted to celibacy. What is prohibited is promiscuity. To disqualify unmarried men would prevent Paul and Jesus Himself from shepherding our congregations, not to mention a whole host of faithful pastors from church history.

Sober-Minded, Self-Controlled, Respectable…

  • 1 Timothy 3:2C: “A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach;”

See also Titus 1:8: “But a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober, just, holy, temperate;”

A pastor has to appraise a number of difficult situations in the course of his work, and he needs to think clearly in order to discern the wisest course. He cannot be reactionary, so he must be able to control himself. These two qualities go hand-in-hand to enable a man to speak the truth in love to those who most need to hear. These two qualities allow him to have the freedom to work as God’s servant and in a state to listen to Him.


  • 1 Timothy 3:2D: “A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach;”

See also Titus 1:8: “But a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober, just, holy, temperate;”

There is a solid definition of the qualities so far, a man is either devoted to a single woman or he isn’t, he either has a good character or he doesn’t; but with hospitality, the definition is not so black and white. Hospitality has come to mean something very superficial in the wider world, while in some churches it has come to mean something absurdly demanding. It is certainly not enough for a pastor to appear hospitable; he cannot slap on a warm and welcoming veneer as needed. Nor can we expect him to open his home and his family at all hours and without warning to our entry.

At the least, this man must be approachable and accessible to the congregation. He needs to have some ability to make people feel welcomed into the church, and into his office. More than this, he must be able to care for them in the truest sense, to seek to take care of them. That is the root of hospitality. So, it is the expression of hospitality that may vary, but the heart must ever be present.

What Makes a Good Pastor? The First Ability

  • 1 Timothy 3:2E: “A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach;”

See also Titus 1:9 and 2 Timothy 2:24:

  • Titus 1:9: “Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers.”
  • 2 Timothy 2:24: “And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient,”

At last, we come to ability and talent. It is clear from the context of the pastoral epistles that we are talking about the ability to teach the Scriptures. The first thing then is to have someone who knows the Scriptures, and knows how to study them rightly. See 2 Timothy 2:15: “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”

The second thing is to be able to effectively communicate the meaning of Scripture to others. That does not require great eloquence, wit, or proficiency in multi-media presentations. Those things can be helpful, but they are not necessary.

We might think that the larger our church, or the bigger the pastor’s salary, the more talented he ought to be; but that is simply not true. Every soul in the congregation has been purchased by Christ’s infinite sacrifice, infinity divided by any number equals infinity, and so every single soul is of infinite worth in the eyes of God deserving the very best that is available. We trust that God provides the best knowing better than we do what that is.

Don’t miss that last point. What seems best to us is not always the best. We are often taken with flashy production, witty turns of phrase, humor, vocal quality, academic excellence, good looks, nice clothes, emotional display, and the like, but what really counts is faithfulness to the Text and clarity. Everything else can help or hurt the message.

Not all teaching happens behind a pulpit or lectern either. Some of the most impactful instruction happens in the counseling room, at the bedside, at the table, in the hallway, and even through the written word. So as with hospitality, the expression of teaching ability varies. Some men are focused on the pulpit, others do their best work in private meetings. Some present their instruction in a measured monotone, while others must express the emotion generated by the truths they are expositing. Faithfulness and clarity are the only true measures that can be applied here.

Paul elaborates on this point in his letter to Titus.

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. SeeTitus 1:9: “Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers.”

The ability to teach means more than delivering simple instruction. It also encompasses rebuking those who are stubbornly persistent in error. The pastor has to be competent to wield Scripture for every good purpose that God provided it for. See 2 Timothy 3:16-17: “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.”

Not a Drunkard…

  • 1 Timothy 3:3A: “Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous;”

See also Titus 1:7: “For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre;”

The effects of alcohol on the human mind are not conducive to a consistent witness. The Scripture does not outright ban the consumption of alcohol even for ministers, but it does ban drunkenness, and that has led many (this writer included) to abstain from drinking altogether. Nevertheless, that is not the requirement of Scripture, and we ought to be very careful about going past the Biblical requirements.

The Lynchpin of Successful Ministry

  • 1 Timothy 3:3B: “Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous;”

See also Titus 1:7-8 and 2 Timothy 2:24:

  • Titus 1:7-8: “For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre; But a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober, just, holy, temperate;”
  • 2 Timothy 2:24: “And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient,”

Paul takes care to emphasize gentleness, and we should take note. Jesus Himself is the paragon of gentleness and humility which is closely related to it. We have examples of gentleness in our Lord’s handling of Zacchaeus in Luke 19, Nicodemus in John 3, the Samaritan woman in John 4, Thomas in John 20, and a disgraced Peter in John 21 among so many others.

However, the greatest picture of gentleness is that of the Son of God being falsely accused, beaten, mocked, made to bear the shameful cross, and hung upon to die a slow and agonizing death without ever protesting. It is in those steps every pastor must follow. Never striking back in anger against an attack, but trusting themselves to God. See 2 Timothy 2:25-26:

  • 2 Timothy 2:25-26: “In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will.”

Gentleness does not mean weakness. A pastor is not called to be timid, but courageous. They are not called to back away from confrontation, but to boldly speak the truth in love. The pastor who refuses to go easy on sin has not shown himself harsh, but the pastor who uses sin as a whip to move his people onward has.

The pastor who calls a sinner to repent has done nothing wrong, but the pastor who calls out sin to shame a sinner has disqualified himself. The difference between gentleness and bullying is ultimately in the heart. It is very good for the pastor to avoid even the appearance of being less than gentle, but he must not allow a fear of being called a bully to keep him from doing his job. That balance is very difficult to strike.

This is especially true when a pastor is under attack. The natural instinct is to defend oneself and one’s family by counter-attacking, but that is not the way of Christ. He could have utterly destroyed those who came against Him as witnessed in John 16:5-6, but he did not: “But now I go my way to him that sent me; and none of you asketh me, Whither goest thou? But because I have said these things unto you, sorrow hath filled your heart.”

At the same time, He did affirm the many false charges that were brought against Him. As Jesus trusted himself to the Father, so too must our brothers in ministry.

The world does not understand gentleness as a virtue. It likes its leaders to be “dynamic” and even “disruptive.” You can find those words on a lot of ministry job listings. The world wants men who drive success, casting visions and then doing whatever it takes to realize them. The local church cannot afford to have such a man leading.

The vision is already cast, the means already present, the war is already won, and the call is to shepherd a flock not drive a herd. When we call men in the mold of the world’s great leaders, we call men who are entirely opposed to the character of Christ. See Matthew 11:29: “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.”

The world’s dynamic leaders often leave a trail of broken bodies in their wake, but Jesus would not have this. See Isaiah 42:3: “A bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench: he shall bring forth judgment unto truth.”

Consider how God relented when the Israelites were too scared to go into the land of promise the first time they stood at its border. The world would have driven them in, but God sent them back into the wilderness for another forty years.

We must abandon the models of the world, and return to the Biblical ideas before any more harm is done. How many souls have been broken and beaten down, turned away, and disillusioned by the worldly leadership of men like Mark Driscoll, Bill Gothard, Bill Hybels, Carl Lentz, and others? How many young ministers have been held to such poor standards, and led to cast themselves in a broken mold?

God’s ways are better than ours. God’s way works, our own history proves it time and time again. Why do we demand a king like all the other nations have when we have the Living God as our king forever? We can read of the woes Israel suffered when it demanded such a ruler. See 1 Samuel 8 and following. Why do expect it to be different today than it was then?

If we can have nothing else in our ministers let us have gentleness. Let this be the non-negotiable fundamental trait that we will not be without. Gentleness is perhaps the most difficult virtue to possess, but it is among the most valuable as it seasons all others.

An Expression of Wisdom

  • 1 Timothy 3:3C: “Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous;”

See also Titus 1:7 and 2 Timothy 2:24:

  • Titus 1:7: “For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre;”
  • 2 Timothy 2:24: “And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient,”

Quarreling and bickering is an awful waste of time at its best, and at worst becomes a poison that divides bodies. A pastor must be wise enough to avoid the trap of arguing worthless points, insisting on unimportant items, and going back and forth with an unreasonable soul. The pastor ought to be settling disputes, not starting them.

A man who must always be right is a quarrelsome man, as is the man who must have his own way. The pastor must be humble enough to admit his own fallibility, to let go of the idea of winning every battle. He needs to know when a battle is worth fighting, and when it is not. Sometimes the pastor has to walk away even if he is right. See 2 Timothy 2:23 and 1 Timothy 1:3-4:

  • 2 Timothy 2:23: “But foolish and unlearned questions avoid, knowing that they do gender strifes.”
  • 1 Timothy 1:3-4: “As I besought thee to abide still at Ephesus, when I went into Macedonia, that thou mightest charge some that they teach no other doctrine, Neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions, rather than godly edifying which is in faith: so do.”

As we have said before, the pastor ought to actively guard his congregation against pointless controversies, speculations, and other matters that profit nothing and encourage endless debates. A quarrelsome nature must get bogged down in such areas rather than swiftly moving on from them.

Churches really shouldn’t have quarrelsome people involved in any sort of leadership. Their influence will always be used to sow discord which is unbecoming the body of Christ. However, to hand the pastorate over to such a man is as near a death sentence as a church can come. It is like contaminating the spigot from which everyone draws water. Perhaps the pure source will be enough to dilute the poison for some, but sooner or later disease is going to spread.

Money is No Objective

  • 1 Timothy 3:3D: “Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous;”

See also Titus 1:7:

  • Titus 1:7: “For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre;”

Ministers of the Gospel of Jesus Christ are entitled to a living wage according to 1 Timothy 5:17-18 and 1 Corinthians 9:1-14; but this right is granted to them so that they can dedicate themselves wholly to the ministry.

  • 1 Timothy 5:17-18: “Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine. For the scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. And, The labourer is worthy of his reward.”
  • 1 Corinthians 9:1-14: “Am I not an apostle? am I not free? have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord? are not ye my work in the Lord? If I be not an apostle unto others, yet doubtless I am to you: for the seal of mine apostleship are ye in the Lord. Mine answer to them that do examine me is this, Have we not power to eat and to drink? Have we not power to lead about a sister, a wife, as well as other apostles, and as the brethren of the Lord, and Cephas? Or I only and Barnabas, have not we power to forbear working? Who goeth a warfare any time at his own charges? who planteth a vineyard, and eateth not of the fruit thereof? or who feedeth a flock, and eateth not of the milk of the flock? Say I these things as a man? or saith not the law the same also? For it is written in the law of Moses, Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn. Doth God take care for oxen? Or saith he it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written: that he that ploweth should plow in hope; and that he that thresheth in hope should be partaker of his hope. If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things? If others be partakers of this power over you, are not we rather? Nevertheless we have not used this power; but suffer all things, lest we should hinder the gospel of Christ. Do ye not know that they which minister about holy things live of the things of the temple? and they which wait at the altar are partakers with the altar? Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel.”

They may, as Paul did in Corinth, wave their right for the sake of the ministry. The focus is on the ministry, and not on the money. So, while a pastor needs money as much as anyone else, he should not care too much for it.

Why? Because the love of money distorts a man’s perspective and makes many awful things seem reasonable and just to him. As it is written in 1 Timothy 6:10: “For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.”

When the love of money infiltrates a church, it corrupts doctrine and practice till the Gospel itself is lost. You can see this in the money-loving ministries of false teachers like Creflo Dollar, Oral Roberts, and many others. A faithful Gospel ministry is not a way to get rich. Those interested in acquiring great wealth had better look elsewhere for the verdict concerning them is already given in 2 Peter 2.

He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? See 1 Timothy 3:4-5: “One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)”

Here is the second ability a pastor must demonstrate:

Management of a household does involve finances and time, but the focus is on the spiritual shepherding of the souls in the family. If a man cannot shepherd his family, he cannot shepherd God’s congregation.

The pastor is not a business manager who is trying to keep everything running smoothly so that goals are accomplished; no. He is a shepherd of souls working to see those souls improve in sanctification as they move onward to glory. What administration he does should directly support his shepherding work. He should be able to discipline as needed, encourage as needed, advise, and direct as needed.

He needs to be interested in the well-being of the faith family, but we remember that if he has a family of his own, they take priority. Part of the job is to be an example of a Christian husband and father. He also has to take care of himself in order to take care of everyone else. Managing the flock means managing his other responsibilities well.

There is also an idea of delegation here. The man of the house does not run the house by himself, he has help from his wife, and even the children have their chores. So it is with the pastor, he is not there to do everything by himself. Rather he should be developing others who can assume responsibility within the overall ministry of the church. Just as a father assigns chores to his children so that they learn and grow through them, so does a pastor with a congregation.

The man of the house cannot solve every problem, and neither can a pastor. Even with the best administration churches will find themselves in hard times. The mark of a good pastor is being able to bring the congregation through those times safely.

Spiritual Maturity

  • 1 Timothy 3:6: “Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil.”

The virtues previously discussed demonstrate a good deal of spiritual maturity, and spiritual maturity doesn’t happen overnight. So, we might think Paul is redundant here, but new converts are often the most eager to serve, and that enthusiasm can be difficult to turn down. Rapid advance however typically leads us to think more highly of ourselves than we ought.

Pride is antithetical to everything previously mentioned – most especially gentleness. Paul is speaking of spiritual maturity which has little to do with physical maturity. Many churches will place a minimum age requirement on their pastor, but that is no guarantee of spiritual maturity. The 56-year-old who came to Christ a few years ago might be far less developed in the faith than the 24-year-old who has walked with Christ for over a decade. There are no shortcuts to establishing the spiritual maturity of a candidate.

Here again, an established and consistent devotional life is a critical indicator. One does not grow up in the faith without communicating regularly and deeply with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. See 1 Timothy 3:7: “Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.”

We can view this requirement as an outflowing, or expression, of the last. There is no law against the Christian character and one who thoroughly possesses that character should be well thought of in the community. Of course, the Gospel message itself is offensive to the world, and so many outsiders might not like our pastors who openly proclaim that wonderful Gospel of Grace in Christ Jesus.

Paul is not talking about that, but solely about the character of the man himself. In other words, outsiders should not be able to find any glaring faults in the man’s conduct.

Some Implications to Consider

There is a great emphasis on pastors being above reproach. However, when we fail to consider the possible outcomes of the things, we ask our ministers to open the door for accusations real or imagined. We should not think a pastor is some kind of Superman who is impervious to temptation, nor should we think that his well-being is none of our concern. We should not set up any of our brethren for failure, but oftentimes this is precisely what we do to our pastors. Let’s look at two examples:

The pastor is to be above reproach and of a good reputation outside the church. Now suppose brother so and so goes to visit the young widow Wilson one day by himself: pastors are often expected to visit in homes by themselves. Now say that widow Wilson gets it in her head to tell everyone that the pastor made a pass at her. There are only two witnesses, and even if the church sides with a pastor who has never given any indication that he was capable of such inappropriate action, the story is still out there and somewhere soiling his reputation.

If he had sent one or two others with him to visit we can establish the truth and refute false claims; indeed, we will very likely keep people from trying to spread them.

On to the next example. A pastor is not to love money, but if he has free access to the church money and has the responsibility to deal directly with the church budget, we have opened him to the accusation and the temptation. A pastor should be as far removed from the church’s finances as possible.

Let him advise on the budget, but never handle the funds. Let him give input on his personal financial situation, but never allow him to vote on his salary, or even to be in the room when the vote is conducted. Let him have the same accountability as everyone else when using church funds, and always have others looking over what he spends from the church’s account.

You see the Biblical qualification pertains not only to who the pastor is, but also what he does. A pastor should not bear the responsibility of visitation alone, and should not need to be a master accountant for example. The tasks of teaching ought to be emphasized because that is the task God’s word emphasizes. All this to say there is no area of the pastoral job advert which is exempt from the guidance of Scripture.

The Things We Should Not Require

There are some qualifications that are never mentioned in Scripture that are found on a lot of job listings. When it comes to demographics, all the Bible has to say is that pastors are to be biological (assigned at birth) males. See 1 Timothy 2:12-14: “But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.”

There is no age requirement, but spiritual maturity is required.

We spoke about the requirement of marriage, but it bears repeating. The Bible does not prohibit single men from pastoring so long as they are keeping themselves for marriage, or for the gift of singleness. While we are speaking of marriage, the Bible does not give the pastor’s wife any assignment beyond being a faithful wife to the pastor. Churches should not assume a married pastor is a two-for-one deal. If a church wants to bring the pastor’s wife into one ministry or another it should be handled separately.

The Bible does require a pastor to be well grounded in the Scriptures, and able to teach them, but it does not require a formal course of study or a particular degree from an accredited institution. Personally, this writer supports such degrees and believes they are a valuable means towards fulfilling 2 Timothy 2:15, which says: “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”

However, it is entirely possible for self-taught man to gain the same knowledge and ability as a seminary graduate if he is diligent.

The Bible does not mention anything about previous experience. It is nice to know a pastor has done the job before and knows a few things, but our trust should never be in his resume. We should trust God, and if God leads us to an untried minister we should still trust him. After all, has God not chosen what is weak and foolish in the world?

And following that line of reasoning we should be open to pastors who have disabilities. Yes, they may require a bit more help from us, but could God not use that to some great purpose? The writer must confess this is a very personal note, but he prays the reader will consider it anyway.

God has done some truly incredible things through some very unlikely candidates. Christ founded the church with a handful of fishermen, a tax collector, and a political extremist, and even used a persecutor of the Church as its greatest missionary. So, when God tells us what kind of man he is looking for, maybe we should stick with that.

Final Thoughts

All of the characteristics of a qualified elder given in the pastoral epistle point towards a man who is abiding in Christ and in whom Christ is abiding. See John 15:5: “I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.”

It is a man who is called by Christ, and who is being shaped by Christ for the work of Christ. Jesus Christ is in all of it, and that is why we have faith in the ministry.

A good minister is one who disappears behind His Lord. Who is more a follower than a leader, and more servant than a manager. A good pastor is focused on Christ, His Kingdom, and His people. He doesn’t worry about numbers but takes the troubles of the church to the God who built it and finds rest for the whole congregation. He is unhurried and in some sense unprofessional, he cares deeply; he loves God.

It may seem that the good pastor is a dying breed, but he will always be around till the end of the age laboring somewhere usually unseen. If you seek him out we have faith that you will find him for the very simple reason that he is the man God wishes His churches to have. It may take more time than we would like to locate a good pastor, but it is time well spent. If you have a good pastor we pray you to do all you can to keep him, and to keep him well. He is a very special man, a gift from God for your good and His glory.

What Makes a Good Pastor? Further Reading

The reader might want to know more about the qualities and activities of a good pastor. Fortunately, many worthy writers have provided good books on the topic. Unfortunately, many of the best books are targeted at ministers themselves and so go undiscovered by the rest of us. However, there is much to be gained in reading books for ministers even if we are never to be called into the pastorate.

Here are a few volumes which this writer believes will be helpful to those seeking further insight:

First, there is the book on Eldership by Alexander Strauch, Biblical Eldership: An Urgent Call to Restore Biblical Church Leadership. This is an overview of the office which is quite accessible to anyone. It is also as the title says a plea for the restoration of Biblical church leadership very much in line with that contained within this article.

Dangerous Calling: Confronting the Unique Challenges of Pastoral Ministry, by Paul Tripp has become a staple in ministry training programs across the country, and with good reason. It is through, and as usual with Tripp’s writing pastoral. It will provide the lay reader with a much better picture of the struggles of ministry, and the heart of a faithful minister.

Addressing the seepage of worldly ideology into the pastorate is John Piper’s, Brothers, We Are Not Professionals: A Plea to Pastors for Radical Ministry, Piper does an excellent job separate the worldly chaff from the wheat of true ministry.

The Reformed Pastor, by Puritan Richard Baxter is quite a challenge for most pastors to get through. It advocates a visitation ministry where every member of the church is given a thorough spiritual examination. Baxter also advocates for churches to have no more than one hundred members. Along the way, we are treated to many expositions on the qualities that make and motivate a good pastor.

Taking aim at another area of ministry work, Martyn Lloyd Jones’ classic, Preaching and Preachers, offers the definitive treatment on what it takes to stand in the pulpit. The insights here are valuable whether you intend to preaching, or to listening to preaching.

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Timothy Andrew
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Timothy Andrew

Timothy Andrew

Tim is the Founder of Lord's Library. He believes the Bible commands us to minister "as of the ability which God giveth" (1 Peter 4:11). Tim aspires to be as The Lord's mouth by "taking forth the precious from the vile" (Jeremiah 15:19) and witnessing The Gospel of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15: 1-4) to the whole world.

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