If you go to a pastoral job search website you’ll see that a requirement for most openings is that a candidate have a master’s degree in theology – or at least a bachelor’s degree. I do understand this. A pastor should know the Bible. He/she should guard the truths of Scripture and be able to communicate them clearly and effectively.
The Apostle Paul provided his protege, Timothy, with a list of qualities necessary for those that wished to serve in spiritual leadership.
Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full respect. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?) He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap. – 1 Timothy 3:2-7
This is quite a list! Notice that only one of the attributes in this list has to do with a minister’s competence. It says that he must be “able to teach.” Beyond that, all the rest of the attributes have to do with a person’s character. Lists like this are often referred to when it comes to pastoral qualifications. One church search committee I spoke with actually asked a prospective pastor if he qualified for each one of these (working their way down the list).
Notice the very last attribute listed here: “He must also have a good reputation with outsiders.” According to the Apostle Paul – arguably the most prolific church planter in the First Century – a person is only qualified to serve as a spiritual leader if he/she has a good reputation with outsiders. Unfortunately this characteristic has been almost totally forgotten in today’s seminaries and ministry training schools. It rarely shows up in the core curriculum.
Back to the pastoral search listings… although, as I mentioned before, the requirement in most pastoral job listings is a master’s degree in theology (or some related field), to date I’ve found the “good reputation with outsiders” prerequisite (or something like it) in only two out of the dozens of openings I’ve researched. It’s as if churches have focused so much on a pastor’s preaching ability that they have ignored his/her ability to connect with outsiders. Sadly, this ensures that the church will only reach insiders, leading to its eventual decline and possible death.
If our churches are going to thrive in the looming Post-Christian cultural shift, we will have to intentionally focus on outsiders. I’m not saying we should ignore insiders. Instead, we need to invite our insiders to serve as God’s representatives in connecting with outsiders – especially those that visit our churches. And our seminaries and ministry training schools need to train the next generation of pastors and spiritual leaders to connect with outsiders as well as insiders.