They call us preachers because we preach. Some would say that preaching is the main thing we do, though I think that’s debatable. Lots of excellent orators have destroyed their congregations because they didn’t do anything else well. And lots of mediocre preachers have led thriving congregations because their gifts extended far beyond the pulpit. If you are looking for a church, are searching for a preacher to hire, or are just wondering why your church lacks vision and leadership, I offer you this food for thought: 10 qualities a preacher needs besides the ability to preach (in no particular order):
1. Thick skin. Any leader will be a target for criticism. Thin-skinned preachers are the ones who grow bitter, use the pulpit as a club, and end up leaving their churches on sour terms.
2. A love for books. Books are the grad school that never ends. They are what keep a preacher’s mind active and growing and his* preaching fresh and challenging. (Church leaders, if your preacher comes to you and asks for the money to build more shelves in his office, consider it a good thing!”
3. Patience. In church work, lots of plans fail or take much longer to accomplish than we anticipate. Impatient preachers get frustrated easily and start looking for greener pastures.
4. A sense of humor. Blessed is the church with a preacher who doesn’t take himself too seriously. The alternative bears an uncanny resemblance to a Pharisee.
5. Wisdom. There are lots of tough calls in church work: Make the change, or not? Spend the money, or not? Let the staff member go, or not? Relocate, or not? A preacher with a good head on his shoulders is a blessing during crunch time.
6. A strong devotional life. You can’t share what you don’t possess. You can’t lead people to a place you’ve never been. Great ministry begins in a quiet room with the door closed.
7. A tender heart. Weeping with those who weep. It’s still the number one bonding experience.
8. Social grace. A preacher’s ministry has real possibilities if people break out in smiles when he walks into a room.
9. Self-discipline. Any person who tells other people how to live must be able to control his own desires and weaknesses.
10. Great faith. We may all be in the same boat, but someone needs to have the faith to step out of the boat from time to time. Preachers who have great faith often also have a great vision for the future and the passion to rally the troops.
I believe that the most important thing a preacher does each week is impart the Word of God to his people. However, his preaching will be empowered or undermined by the other things he does. I fear that a lot of churches place too much importance on a preacher’s oratory skills and not enough on his other qualities.
* Yes, I realize that in many denominations women are preachers too. I have chosen to use the masculine pronoun in this post for readability. Having to say “his or her” every time would be clunky and awkward.