In order to minister usefully, generate fervor for exuberant discipleship, and penetrate the community the minister must recognize that strong, competent pastoral leadership is a key axis in the practical competencies for ministry. Whether the situation of a church is great or small it takes leadership to bridge the gap between where it is and where it should be. Strong pastoral leadership enables the congregation to make progress in its goals to know God, to grow spiritually, and to show maturity. Accomplishing this kind of progress requires leaders to take subordinates and make them followers. According to Daniel Akin, to be a pastor-shepherd means that ministers “live with their sheep, they spend time with their sheep, they know their sheep, they care for their sheep.” In animal husbandry, sheep willingly and joyfully follow the shepherd because they trust him to lead them to fulfilling pastures while avoiding dangers. The biblical model of pastoral leadership indicates a similar spiritual response. The Apostle Paul was no stranger to “spending time with the sheep” as his ministry to the Thessalonians indicates per I Thessalonians 1:5-6a:
For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and pin the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance; as ye know what manner of men we were among you for your sake. And ye became followers of us, and of the Lord;
“The flock” willingly follows the shepherd because they know he will lead them into the will of God and away from the dangers of sinful behaviors and lifestyles without abusing his power. This type of confidence in pastoral leadership only comes when ministers determine to provide the much-needed assurance that they will be with their people where it matters, when it matters, and with what matters the most – the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.
However, more than just a ministry of presence is necessary for strong pastoral leadership. The minister’s personhood and integrity must be sound and sure in sight of the people. Pastoral influence does not come from position; it comes from personhood, and personhood is what enables authentic ministry to and productive leadership of others. As stated by M Zigarelli and C.S. Goss, “There’s an inextricable link between who we are and how much influence we command.” Ministry is more than fulfilling a job description; it is being and becoming a person of godly character who serves God in the fullness of the spirit, regardless of occupation or situation. Long after people have forgotten the message of the minister they will long remember the character of the minister. Competent ministers possessing the wisdom that drives them to be people of character, rather than simply the conveyor of a message, will become radiantly attractive and vastly influential.
In addition to achieving a ministry of presence based on one’s convincing Christian character, the other axis of practical ministry is pedagogical competence. The opportunities to influence people will only remain as long as your knowledge remains beneficial to learners. While it is not the job of the minister to add beauty to God’s wisdom (for no one is capable of adding glory to God’s eternally glorious word), it is his job to explain the intended theological message of the biblical text with the intention to bring the audience into subjection to the word of God. Pedagogical competency is the only plausible course of action to address the ongoing needs of the salvation for the lost and the sanctification of the redeemed.
While there are several criteria by which a master teacher can be identified, two of those criteria are a “superior knowledge of the subject and the ability to nurture students in the subject.” By these standards, Jesus is clearly qualified to be considered the Master Teacher. The greatest benefit for ministers aspiring to pedagogical competence is the sufficiency of Christ’s example during his own teaching ministry. Jesus spent much of His public ministry teaching and leading this diverse group using creative methodologies in order to develop a unified, cooperative, and dedicated body known as the local church. The same concepts apply to modern disciples and churches. Competent ministers will develop strategies that include various ways to maximize the spiritual formation of disciples across a broad spectrum of experiences, actions, and activities. A full-bodied strategy of discipleship models that of Jesus, whose methods included the use of dynamic teaching techniques and capitalized on formal and informal teachable moments. Today’s ministers must do likewise. Sustaining the teaching-learning milieu is only possible by achieving excellence in pedagogy. Incumbent upon ministers is the necessity to not only know their subjects well, but to acquire skills in formal and informal teaching strategies and methods that nurtures disciples in Spirit-led change into a state of Christ-like living. The failure to obtain pedagogical excellence has often left disciples to resort to mimetic emplotment, the imposition of a minister upon the audience to acquire a motivation to reproduce the action of the characters, rather than the achievement of a state of being that is Christ-like and Spirit-led. Mimicry is not Christianity. The goal of teaching is life change – change to be like Jesus Christ (I John 2:6; II Peter 3:18). Pedagogical activities such as preaching, teaching, and counseling, must address both the authoritative commands of Scripture as well as equip the disciples with principles to govern a wide-range of situations. Avoiding mimicry is accomplished by presenting propositional principles and applications, a pedagogical skill necessary to the vitality of any discipleship effort. The minister’s job is incomplete if discipleship fails. Teachers are investors in the future as they seek to produce the leaders of the next generation. In addressing fellow pastors, Mike Bullmore charged that a necessity in one’s ministry “is an investment in the gospel ministry that will come after ours.” Competent ministers will develop proficiency in pedagogy in order to construct a teaching-learning milieu that provides various courses of action to achieve life-changing discipleship and promotes ascendance into a state of Christ-like living.