6 Characteristics of a Successful Pastorate

by Allen Nelson October 10, 2018

James Petigru Boyce (1827-1888) is a name all Southern Baptists should be familiar with. Not only was he elected president of the SBC 9 (yes, nine) times, he also almost single-handedly (in some regards) founded and helped keep the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary afloat during its early years.

Dr. Tom Nettles, in his biography of Boyce (James Petigru Boyce: A Southern Baptist Statesman, p 360-361), lays out Boyce's 6 characteristics of a successful pastorate. This is the subject of today's blog. 

The two chief duties of every pastor are the "preparation and delivery of sermons" and "the development and execution of a strategy by which the people might grow in holiness and in serious work for the cause of Christ." These two chief duties should manifest themselves in 6 characteristics:

1. Soul winning – the offer of the gospel must be made clear by the pastor. Obviously, Boyce would be the first to say that "Salvation belongs to the LORD!" (Jonah 2:9). But he would also be emphatic upon the means of calling sinners to repentance. The pastor should be a leader and model in this regard. 

2. Instructing the flock in the "doctrine and duties of God's word." Boyce saw the importance of theological education. But learning theology isn't just for pastors. Pastors need to be able to communicate sound theology to the church. Pastors must be able to teach sound doctrine and all that accords with it (Titus 2:1-10). 

3. "Under God, [pastors are] responsible for the increase of holiness, Christlikeness, in the congregation." Boyce said this aspect of ministry is "one of the most important tests" of a successful ministry. So what if our people knew "sound doctrine" but don't live holy lives?

4. Equipping saints for the work of ministry. "A successful pastor will aid each member in finding what work of the kingdom he is fit to do and exhort him to do it 'faithfully and efficiently.'" Not all people are called to be pastors. But all Christians are part of the body of Christ. Their work for the kingdom may or may not be seemingly as glorious as other work. But the point remains: we are all called to work for the glory of God. A pastor must help the people of Christ find their work and then help them do it with joy. 

5. Help church members give according to their means. Admittedly, this one probably arises from Boyce's many years of endless fundraising for the Seminary. However, it is still a good point. Boyce wanted believers to understand "the great blessedness to be experienced in giving." Boyce himself was a wealthy man who understood money. He was also very generous. "Boyce knew well that for work to be supported, pastors needed to encourage the giving and should instruct in biblical truth concerning issues of stewardship and the reality of storing up treasures in heaven."

6. "Develop the power of prayer among his members." "[Pastors] will instruct them in the duty and joy of private as well as family prayer while encouraging them to unite in the prayer meetings of the church." Boyce, a staunch believer in God's meticulous providence, was also a firm believer in the truth of God working through His people's prayers. A pastor should exhort his people in this wonderful means of grace. 

Is the above list perfect? I don't necessarily think so. But I do think it's helpful to consider Boyce's perspective as a proven man of faith and legend in our own denomination. You may not fully agree with everything above, and perhaps there are elements you'd like to add. But let us take a moment and reflect on what this voice from the past has to say to us and let it motivate us to discharge our duties as pastors with more joy, faithfulness, and urgency. 

To God be the glory.

Editor's Note: This originally published at Allen Nelson's blog.

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