During our time together there were 15 in Professor Elizabeth Gerhardt’s classroom plus another 10 in a room in Buffalo participating in discussions via a 2-way audio-video feed.
So, why our visit? It’s generally expected that trained pastors have a deep personal faith, a working knowledge of the Bible and social skills that are at least above average. But there is much more involved in effective pastoring.
My assignment was to deal with some of these additional, nuanced aspects of the pastoral life from the perspective of a longtime practitioner. In these visits I use materials I have written over a period of time and have recently put into the book, THE PASTOR’S FIRST LOVE.
For example, on this visit, along with other subjects I dealt with “The Seven Characteristics of the Effective Pastor.” My use of the word “effective” rather than “successful” was intentional. Success can often be reduced to numbers. That is not bad, and no pastor worth his or her salt is without the growth urge that can reflect itself in numbers.
But the word “effective” has a greater depth to it. For example, a pastor who is effective in ministering to a grieving family may not add numbers to the membership rolls in doing so but will nurture health in the grieving process and bring consolation to the whole congregation. That is “effective” pastoring.
Another of the seven characteristics of the effective pastor is personal integrity. Integrity doesn’t come easily and it is not always full blown upon one’s conversion. But during seminary days and beyond under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, through an honest and consistent prayer life, and perhaps with additional input from a caring, perceptive professor or parishioner, a pastor’s integrity can be broadened and deepened.
The greater the congregation’s belief in the deep honesty of a pastor in the give and take of daily life, the more responsive they are to receive his preaching and teaching as from the Lord.
Additional characteristics we talked together about are wise management of the family, good care of one’s dwelling, the skilful and restrained management of money and even good judgment about dress, especially when on duty.
It was the subject of the pastor’s attire that raised the greatest response. There were two who spoke for casual attire in the pulpit (“I don’t like ties”). It’s a controverted subject not yet settled. I believe that divine worship may be somewhat informal in style but it can never be casual.
It is the triune God we worship – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – the God before whom Abraham bowed with his face to the ground. The awe and humility that such a vision inspires cannot be casual.
Kathleen and I love our times with seminarians. That’s because for many years, we have carried a growing passion for the increase in numbers of effective pastors.
Our visits prompt us to join congregations everywhere in prayers that God will raise up a new generation of candidates for ministry who will study hard to become godly and competent pastors!