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.