Pastors (known as priests in the Catholic Church) are called and qualified to their ministry not first through their raw talent, their finely-honed skill or their great accomplishments, but through their Godly character.
By Fr. Lazar Arasu SDB
Ministering God’s people is a life of witness, service and sacrifice. At the Diaconate Ordination ceremony in the Catholic Church, the ordaining bishop handing the Bible to the aspiring Minister of God says, “Receive the Word of God, read, preach what you read, live what you preach.” These few words contain the whole life of a Pastor; be it in any church—both traditional Churches such as Catholic, Anglican, Orthodox and other mushrooming Pentecostal Churches.
Pastors (known as priests in the Catholic Church) are called and qualified to their ministry not first through their raw talent, their finely-honed skill or their great accomplishments, but through their Godly character. The noun ‘Pastor’ means shepherd; their work is called Pastoral Ministry; it is leading the flock through and in holiness—meaning godliness and sacredness.
Some even dare to call themselves Apostle and Prophet, raising eyebrows. True pastoring is done through sanctifying (making people holy) prophesying (reprimanding, challenging rather than foretelling) and ministering (also offering charity and leadership). Missing any of these components is making oneself an unworthy Shepherd of the flock.
Often media is filled with stories (also gossips) regarding the life and ministries of the “Pastors”. It is really unfortunate to see some men and women of God entangled in marriage woes, suspicious financial dealings and other mistrustful behaviors. Stories of Pastors’ marriages, unfaithfulness, divorces and other love related stories are much sought after literature.
These individuals are far from being holy, sacred, prophesying or ministering. We are immediately reminded of Jesus’ own words, “Sheep in wolf’s skins”. Justifying that they are also human, often does not hold water.
The Bible enumerates a list of qualities needed for someone coming forward to serve God as His minister and servant. But unfortunately, our human considerations overtake the divine demands. We are naturally attracted to a skilled orator and an able mobilizer and accomplisher to be our pastors and spiritual guides, rather than their spiritual qualities.
Our Pastors are often crowd-pullers rather than God-pullers. They are crowd-mesmerizers who operate on human talents that often times employ emotional or even deceptive tools to get their way through.
As Jesus would say, “they have had their rewards,” meaning they will not deserve any spiritual gains. Let us not forget, earthly rewards are time-bound rather than heaven-bound.
Perhaps it is easy to evaluate the tangible and apparent human qualities that are flashing, but it is difficult to evaluate or even choose the divine qualities that are manifested in the strength of an individual’s characters.
There is a high chance of we going wrong. We are naturally drawn to people of remarkable charisma and special talents. We bask in earthly glory and victory rather than hidden blessings of God. We may even convince ourselves that the success of a pastor and his or her church is a blessing from God.
But it is important to evaluate the actions of our spiritual leaders in the spirit of the Word of God, long-tested traditions of the Church as well as the much-needed characters such as personal integrity, compassion and reasonable intelligence.
Members of the church who are also inclined to integrity, compassion and intelligence will also choose and accept Pastors who reflect their values. It is always a double way traffic—the flock shape their shepherds and shepherds shape their sheep. Holiness of the church is defined both by the pastors and the people who are being served. Because our faith in communitarian.
Ministering is not only preaching the word of God, but living the word of God. Preaching the word of God is much easier than living the word of God. Jesus rightly said, “Be imitators of me.” St. Paul, the pastor par excellence said, “I copy in my body, Christ’s own body that is crucified,” manifesting his readiness to suffer, make sacrifices and even to die for God and His people.
We witness competitions and even bitter rivalry among churches for gathering crowds and steeling each others’ flock, counting “miracles”, economically leading, holding flashy events, having catchy tunes and music and other worldly standards. A little intelligent analysis will prove that they are cheap, deceptive and ungodly. For the health of the nation and its people it is important to put order in our religious activities. Because an unreasonable faith can lead to deterioration of personal life and progress of the nation.
The pastor who lacks character will surely lead selfishly rather than selflessly; he would more care for his own glory and his profits than sanctifying and interceding for one’s flock.
A pastor who basks only on his oratory skills, music and personal charm will be only interested in accumulating more wealth and greater popularity. But the man and woman of God with the strength of character will not hesitate to take risk for his flock and will endure any trail for their benefits and spiritual welfare. Often the preachers of the prosperity gospel lean on personal strength, stage-managed miracles who work on the emotions and earthly ambitions of people; because prosperity is earthly as well.
It is an agreeable task of the government to demand for basic education, such as a degree in theology and having their churches registered and be accountable.
But often the implementation and supervision lack seriousness. It will be also good to have pastors cleared of police criminal verification and those proved in courts of law as having involved in crimes and dubious acts be deprived of shepherding people. But above all it is the personal duty of the individual Christians to have right mind to choose the right and worthy places and groups of people to pray with.
The writer is a priest and school administrator.