It is not too much to say a congregation places a lot of expectations on their pastor. To give you an idea of some of the expectations churches have, I recently Googled: "congregation's expectation of a pastor." I found that most congregations expect their pastor to be:
– A great preacher who accurately and dynamically proclaims God’s Word, while meeting their needs and inspiring them to live for Christ.
– A wise leader who studies God’s Word diligently, spends hours each week in prayer, is involved in the community and denomination, while at the same time they are a faithful family man, someone who is always available for counseling, and home and hospital visits.
– A man who knows how to best meet the needs of every age group; is biblically faithful, yet never offends anyone by calling them to repent; and can rescue and revive a dying church without changing anything.
That list is just the tip of the iceberg of what congregations all across America expect of their pastor. But are these expectations realistic? Can a pastor really be all these things? Should he be all these things? More importantly: What does God’s Word tell a congregation they should expect of their pastor?
Paul in 1 Corinthians 4 lays out six qualities a congregation should expect of their pastor.
(1) A Pastor should be a servant of Christ
Paul begins chapter 4 by saying, “This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ.” (1 Cor. 4:1a)
By using the word “servant” Paul tells us pastors are subordinates who are to cater to the needs of their boss; they are helpers, assistants, servants.
Who are pastors to primarily serve?
Paul tells us pastors are first and foremost to serve Christ. I think that is an important point because it means the pastor’s primary job is to carry out the will of Jesus and not the will of the church. That’s not to say a pastor shouldn’t serve his church. That is not it at all. Pastors should certainly serve their church. But as John MacArthur puts it, “When I serve Christ, I will best serve His people. When I serve His people, I may not serve Him.”
What MacArthur means is that when we focus first on serving the needs of the church, we may give them what they want instead of what Jesus wants for them. While it might be easier for the pastor to give the church what they want, that is not always the biblical thing to do, nor is it always what’s best for the church.
(2) A Pastor should be a steward of God’s Word
Look at verse 1 again. Paul starts by saying, “This is how one should regard us, [first] as servants of Christ [to that he adds] and stewards of the mysteries of God.” (1 Cor. 4:1)
The second image Paul paints for us is that of a household steward. A household steward is someone who manages and dispenses goods to the household at the request of the owner.
Pastors are household stewards because they have specifically been tasked to manage and dispense to the congregation “the mysteries of God” or God’s gospel.
Pastors are to steward God’s gospel by making sure it is faithful taught in their church. As well as they are to dispense God’s gospel, His Word to His people.
Pastors are not to stand in the pulpit and dispense public opinion or philosophy; they aren’t there to give a political speech, an inspirational feel-good message, or even their own opinions about how this world should operate. Pastors are not to do any of those things. Instead they are to dispense God’s Word to God’s people.
It is for this reason that I primarily preach through books of the Bible. I believe that a diet of consistent consecutive exposition is what is best for the church because it best exposes them to God’s Word, instead of my opinions or my soap boxes.
Preaching then isn’t me telling you what I know, or what you want to hear. It is instead me exposing you to what God wants you to hear – His Word.
(3) A Pastor should be a faithful worker for God
Looking again at 1 Corinthians 4, in verse 2 Paul says, “Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful.” (1 Cor. 4:2)
Someone who is faithful is someone who can be trusted to do what is asked of them. That’s what God wants and what a congregation should expect – pastors who are faithful to proclaim God’s Word to His people week in and week out.
In order for a pastor to be a faithful steward of God’s Word, his greater allegiance has to be to God, not to the church. That’s because there will be times when God’s message is needed but is not popular.
(4) A Pastor should be content with what God has given him.
Pastors, and all Christians for that matter, should not allow what they don’t have or what they are experiencing to get them down.
While it is easy to say we should be content, it is not always easy to practice, especially given that Paul tells us we will: “hunger and thirst..[be] poorly dressed and buffeted and homeless…[we will be] reviled…persecuted…slandered” (1 Cor. 4:11-13).
Even though we will experience those things, we can be content knowing God is sovereign and that He has a plan for each and everyone of our lives.
As well as contentment in the worst of situations comes by looking forward to Jesus’ return, knowing He will defeat our enemies one day. When that times comes, we will not only be vindicated for our beliefs, but we will also live in a perfect world with our Savior for all eternity.
(5) A Pastor should be one others can imitate
Paul tells the Corinthians they are to imitate him, to mimic him (1 Cor. 4:16). He doesn’t tell them that because he wants them to get on his nerves by playing an indefinite game of copy cat. He tells them to imitate him because he knows by them imitating his speech and actions, as well as his heart for God and others, they will better follow Christ. Just like Paul, pastors should be those others can imitate.
In order to be imitatable, we have to take following Jesus seriously. When Jesus called us to be His disciples, He didn’t just call us to believe in Him. He also called us to follow Him, to live as He lives, to allow Him to direct and guide our lives. So if we want others to imitate us, we must allow the One we are to imitate to guide and direct our lives.
(6) A Pastor should provide guidance and discipline, if necessary
Pastors are given as gifts of God to teach and lovingly guide their congregations in the truth of God’s Word with patience and long-suffering (Eph. 4:11-12). They are also given to rebuke and discipline those who are unwilling to repent (1 Cor. 4:18-21).
When I say pastors are to rebuke and discipline, I do not mean pastors have the right to be heavy handed or domineering. Pastors, even when they must rebuke or discipline, must do so with love, care, patient, and compassion, just as Christ does.
So these are the qualities the Bible tells congregations they should expect from their pastors. They should expect them to be men who are faithful servants and stewards of the Word of God, who are content, imitatable, and ready to guide and discipline with love and patience, if necessary.
Are these the qualities you expect of your pastor?