In my last post I spoke to church members about things they should and should not do or say to their pastors. Today, I would like to speak to the pastors about what people in the congregation need from the person behind the pulpit. After all, ninety percent of formerly unchurched individuals cited the pastor and his preaching as the key factor in their entering the ranks of the churched. So, what was it about the pastor that kept them coming back for more?
Truth and Application
What may surprise some is that folks are not looking for a "feel good" message. A superficial reading of Scripture is not enough. People are drawn to in-depth teaching. They are not afraid to learn. In fact, many long for a deeper understanding of the Bible and Christian doctrine.
On the other hand, they also want to know how the truths of the Bible apply to their daily lives. It is possible to have deep expository preaching coupled with life application. The ability to combine the two is the sign of a gifted preacher.
Authenticity and Conviction
I have mentioned it before but it is worth repeating. Genuineness is essential. Whether it is a long time church member or a first time guest, people desire authenticity. Though described in a variety of ways, the authenticity of the pastor was noted over and over again by the formerly unchurched.
In addition to being "real," it is vital that the pastor be a man of conviction. Those hearing a message must know with certainty that the preacher really believes the truth of his message. People are hungry for truth and are drawn to those unafraid to address the tough issues of Scripture.
Communication and Leadership
In an effort to be the next big thing in the church world the importance of communication skills is often overlooked. An effective pastor must be able to communicate well, not only from the pulpit, but on a one-on-one basis as well. It is also important that he be able to connect with people from different generations and backgrounds.
Coupled with a desire for good communication skills in a pastor is a need to see strong leadership skills. Those in the church need to know that their pastor has the ability to lead them with purpose and determination. People need to hear their pastor clearly communicate his vision for the church and then trust in his ability to lead them in that direction.
A lot of pressure is placed on pastors. They are expected to be "on" all the time. People often look to them to instinctively know and be able to meet every need. These characteristics are simply those mentioned by others as being instrumental in their desire to return to a specific church or learn more about the truths of the Bible. It is not meant to serve as a checklist for the perfect pastor. People do not need perfect pastors, which is good because there aren't any.
It is important, however, that preachers preach the hard issues of Scripture and that they do so with authority. It is vital that they be people of authenticity and conviction. They must also have communication and leadership skills. And they must use all of these skills to point others to the cross.