A Pastor’s Skills for Ministry

When I filled out my Pastor Self-Evaluation Form some years ago, I was struck by some questions, including one which asks: What do you see as your special abilities and strengths for ministry?

I pondered for some time what special abilities and strengths exist that anyone could provide in answer to the question. Perhaps knowing sign language would be a special ability, but that is conceivably covered elsewhere in what languages you can speak. Being apt to teach is a strength, but it is also a requirement of the office, so thus not a special strength for ministry, even if one might be more apt than another. Similarly with the other requirements for the office in I Timothy 3 and Titus 1.

What then might be a special ability or strength? Leadership skills? Strategic planning? Organizational dynamics? Task management? If we’re looking to human skills for success in ministry, we’re barking up the wrong tree.

If you make a Scriptural assessment about what you can do with your own powers when it comes to the ministry, you will find nothing to contribute but sin – real, besetting, daily sin. Your leadership skills cannot lead someone to heaven. You cannot strategically plan a sinner’s salvation or when and where the Holy Spirit will work. Lean and mean flat organizational structures will save not one more soul than a hierarchical structure.

I’m not suggesting that it makes no difference to the congregation whether a pastor is disorganized, chaotic, and sheepish or if he is organized, methodical, and audacious. What I am saying is that natural human skills will never save a single person. Focusing on your own natural abilities for ministry is nothing but self-idolatry. It is self-pride and envy, being puffed up, conceited, and arrogant, which are all the opposite of the humility in which God calls all believers to walk (Eph. 4:2). A pastor’s wisdom and understanding, special abilities and strengths are corrupted, defective, deficient, weakened, inept, and incompetent when it comes to spiritual matters.

The only strength for ministry any pastor has is the Word of God. It is not the pastor’s wit, but the Word of God that is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword… discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart (Heb. 4:12). It is not a pastor’s leadership ability, but the Gospel that is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes (Rom. 1:16). It is not a pastor’s strategic planning abilities but the Word of Jesus that is spirit and life (John 6:63).

Let’s not focus on the special abilities and strengths of pastors for ministry. There cannot but be disappointment if you focus on these things. What is important is whether or not he fits the requirements for the office as outlined in Scripture referenced above. What is important is that the Word of God is being taught in its truth and purity and the sacraments are being administered according to Christ’s institution.

If your pastor is a bit disorganized, perhaps there is someone in the congregation who can help with organization. If he’s soft-spoken, be quiet more so you can listen better. If he’s not vision casting and presenting myriad strategic plans for how to save the entire community, be thankful to God that he is trusting and relying on the only strength he has to accomplish anything in ministry – the Word of God; that he is relying on the Holy Spirit to work through the Word to save when and where He will.

Trust is God to grow, maintain, or shrink His Church on earth as He sees fit. Trust His Word to do what He has promised it will do – bring sinners to eternal life.

About Pastor Johannes Nieminen

Pastor Johannes (John) Nieminen serves St Andrew's Lutheran Church in the Atlantic provinces of Canada, with Divine Service held in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Middleton, Nova Scotia, Charlottetown, PE, and other locations on occasion. He attended Concordia Lutheran Theological Seminary in St Catharines, Ontario, graduating with a Master of Divinity degree in 2014. He is married to Lydia and they have been blessed with three children: Ethan, Summerlee, and Jacob.


A Pastor’s Skills for Ministry — 11 Comments

  1. Another good article.

    Who knows when this Self-Evaluation Form was developed, but I have a hunch it was developed for congregations who were looking for “totally righteous” bass players who “work well with young people” and look the part, or by local Lutheran High Schools consumed with freshman football, JV football, varsity football, freshman basketball, JV basketball, varsity basketball, etc., etc., etc. The “mission” is to just once, take state AA from City Baptist, the “ministry” being coaching.

    You do seem to have the ability to get me worked up:).

  2. What comfort!

    I have to laugh when I’ve worked three 12 hour days in a row and still get criticized for how “disappointing” it is when one guy in particular can’t find me on his own schedule. Thank God that bi-location isn’t part of 1 Tim 3.

    Preach the gospel. Administer the sacraments faithfully. …I’ll just post the text:

    1 Tim 3:2 Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. 4 He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, 5 for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? 6 He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. 7 Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.

  3. “I’m not suggesting that it makes no difference to the congregation whether a pastor is disorganized, chaotic, and sheepish or if he is organized, methodical, and audacious. What I am saying is that natural human skills will never save a single person. Focusing on your own natural abilities for ministry is nothing but self-idolatry.“

    No one has said that identifying your strengths and weaknesses as a pastor will save souls. No one even hinted at that. There are however soft skills and maybe even technical abilities that can help support your ministry. It’s a bit immature to think that you can’t improve your skill set for the sake of your parishioners. That’s not idolatry anymore than it is idolatry to expend effort along with the work or the Holy Spirit in the process of sanctification.

  4. @Jason #4

    Is not resistance to Him the only effort we can expend along with the work of the Holy Spirit in the process of sanctification? This would not be related to acquiring technical abilities.

  5. IMHO, that form was developed to sort the “entertainment church” specialists from the confessional “Word and Sacrament” pastors…so some DP’s could avoid the latter, or if assigned them, park them in the odd corners of the district and hope not to hear from them.

    But that’s just a theory of mine, developed about the same time as the “form” from comments made about it. And observable results from honest answers at that time.

    Times and the form may have changed.

  6. On a more positive note, learn to listen to what people tell you (and as you get better at that, what’s behind their words).
    When people need to talk something out but don’t want it repeated, they will come to the Pastor. (So, don’t repeat it!) But listen!
    After Word and Sacrament, it’s your most important job. It won’t always be convenient; most of the time it won’t be!

  7. @St. Stephen #9

    Oh, no. It’s just that I’ve been in “entertainment churches” which have no school/athletics. Some haven’t even acquired a bass player yet, though they may be working on it!

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