3 Things That Make a Truly GREAT Pastor

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The church we attend and the pastor we follow can make or break our faith.

I love pastors. 

My best friends are pastors. Some of the most inspiring people I’ve ever met are pastors. However, there is no one that has had a more damaging impact on my faith than my first pastor.

He was critical and judgmental of those who did not believe like we did. The Christian faith I inherited seemed to be more about what we were against more than what we were for. I learned that being “more accurate than others” in our interpretation of scripture was the most important thing. We arrogantly looked down on those “other Christians” who were just … well, wrong.

When I think about my first pastor, words like rigid, controlling, angry, legalistic and prejudiced come to my mind. 

He was accused of an affair. At the accusation, the people reacted to him the way he had trained them to be over the years — harsh and judgmental. Some people stood by him anyway, but most left, so the church split.

My first pastor was my dad.

He was my pastor for the first 12 years of my life … until my mother divorced him, after 24 years of marriage. 

He was a wounded soul and was unmentored in building genuine and loving relationships. When he passed away in his 80s, he had preached for over 50 years, but at the end of his life had very few friends, and broken relationships with most of his family. 

I am grateful that I was raised in church and that I learned about Jesus Christ as a child. I honor my dad for serving God the best way he knew how. In spite of the challenges, I had many “God moments” on those pews in a small church in South Carolina. I remember singing hymns that touched me somewhere deep inside. I remember scriptures that spoke to my soul and preachers who told stories about Jesus in a way that impacted my life forever. I knew as a teenager that I would one day be a preacher myself, but it took me several years to get over the negative impact of my “first pastor.”   

Finding a Safe Church.

If you asked me what is a vital element to ensure spiritual growth and maturity — I would say without hesitation, find a church with a wise, compassionate and “safe” pastor. I would also say to get fully involved and be dedicated to growing there.

That’s not as easy as you might think.

A person’s personal relationship with Jesus Christ, through prayer and reading His word, is extremely important. However, the church we attend and the pastor we follow can make or break our faith.

We’ve all heard of priests or ministers who have molested young children, pastors or evangelists who have affairs, and the powerful personalities who are so controlling and insecure that they manipulate people until the Christian’s faith drains out of their life. 

Philip Wagner Philip Wagner is Lead Pastor of Oasis Church in Los Angeles and founder of Generositywater.org. Oasis is an innovative and racially diverse church, largely comprised of people in their 20’s & 30’s. Oasis is known for its local and global outreach to the impoverished; especially orphans and widows, and funding clean water projects. Philip and his wife, Holly, started Oasis in 1984, in Beverly Hills with10 people. Today they’ve grown to 3000+ members.

More from Philip Wagner or visit Philip at http://www.philipwagner.com/blog/

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  • Pastor William (Bill) Perkins

    I would like to express the following, sometimes it is the church itself that has been hurt and not loved. Associations, denominations and traditions sometimes get in the way of correctly judging a church, I found this out recently. Currently I am supplying for a church who had a previous pastor that lead them incorrectly in the Word of God in so doing they were led a stray and have become confused as a whole. This church is loving, compassionate but split within they have 2 services on Sunday morning and feel like 2 different church’s yet they want to heal so I see where God is using my wife and I at this time. So be careful sometimes a church does not give out other church references and pastors who would give them a thumbs up because those other church’s have judged incorrectly. Search your heart God will lead you to the place where you can call home so as the old saying goes do not judge a book by its cover. Pastor Bill

  • Martin Wandera

    Thank you so very much for that message pastor. It has blessed and encouraged me as a pastor.

  • Disciple_Steve

    Left my church a little over a year ago now. Was there for 12 years. Served as deacon, elder, children’s teacher, oversaw the young adults ministry for 6 years.
    Had what I thought was a great relationship with my senior pastor. Helped him on every Sunday morning for years.
    Then a pastor returned from being in the mission field for 8 years and everything changed.
    I was no longer the guy that helped or had the close relationship with my pastor. I had been slowly replaced by the returning pastor.
    It was pretty devistating to say the least. I took it pretty hard.
    To this day I have not connected in any church. I go for my family mostly.
    We’re soon moving to Texas. I’m hoping for a fresh start.

    So, yes pastors do carry an immense responsibility in the way they do things and carry themselves.
    The funny thing is; I’ve longed to be a pastor most of my Christian life until then. Now not so much.
    And yes, I have forgiven and released him. We’ve talked things through.
    Oh we’ll, I guess I’ve vented enough.
    If you’re a pastor and you have people who serve Christ by aiding you in your ministry please value them enough if/when somebody else with greater skills comes along, to NOT toss t to the side.

    • John

      I understand you are hurt Disciple_Steve, but one quick question I pray you will truly consider. Reading your story I notice there was an emphasis on “I” — what I felt, How I was hurt, What was taking from Me — I hope you know that the church is more than just one, more that you, more than the pastor. And the only “I” that really matters is the One who can truly say, “I Am.” Understand your pastor is responsible to Him, thus the pastor is to do what will honor Jesus, and sometimes that means moving people out of roles. I don’t know all that happened in your past, but think, “was it my pride that got hurt and that is why I am blaming the pastor”?

      • Disciple_Steve

        Oh, absolutely! I had a part to play in my leaving. I had expectations that I shouldn’t have had, absolutely.
        The only thing that was “on” my pastor was no communication as to his plan to change what God had shown him. I was simply, for lack of a better term, pushed aside, so that this returning pastor could step into what I was doing for the last 5+ years.
        See where I’m coming from? A bit of a blindside don’t you think? :0)

        • John

          You are right about being blindsided. I get that. And your right the pastor should have communicated with you. Again, I don’t know what all has happened, and though I sound judgmental, I am not judging you. But I have been there on both sides. From the pastor and from the person. I have been hurt and I have hurt others. And it was not until I recognized my pride, confessed it, and sought forgiveness did I really move on. I moved to different churches, different states, different jobs, etc (even quit church for a while) but once the pride was dealt then was I am to move on and be a vessel for His service and back into the pastorate. I pray that if you have not done so (and again I am not judging you, just asking) I hope that you will make sure the matter of personal pride is dealt with.

          • Disciple_Steve

            I can honestly say pride wasn’t the issue here. I had a, I assumed, close relationship with the senior pastor. To me he was a friend, mentor, even father type figure. And like I mentioned earlier, I expected that the friendship was such that we had a freedom to communicate. He gave me freedom to speak into his life and issues of the church and vise versa. So, it was a friend saying without the words, “I have no need for you anymore because this other guy is anointed or God said so” or whatever the reason, I wasn’t given one. I think every human being should be offered that much, especially in the church where a culture of honor should be ever present. Blessings and thanks! :0)

          • Felipe Rodriguez

            Steve. Act 1:8 is fulfill in Act 8:1. The great persecution. Maybe The Lord is moving you out of your comfort zone to a better place.

          • Disciple_Steve

            Brother Felipe thank you for your post. Yes, that is a confirmation! We, my family and I, have prayerfully decided to move to Texas! :0) there are a number of factors for this move but one of the main reasons is a chance to attend a great church in Denton, TX, Glory of Zion. Along with that a career change has come on the horizon for both my wife and I AND my eldest child (16) is planning to attend Honors Academy. SO, thank you for your word – it is a confirmation.
            Great grace!

  • Pastor N S Victor

    I know it’s important to ask questions and make appraisals to find where to be as your Church home, but it’s much more important if you know Jesus as your Saviour and Friend to pray for guidance to where He wants you to be. I had a challenge of where to be when I moved into a new place shortly after knowing Jesus. I stayed at home for a Sunday praying for divine guidance. He led me. That was 1986. I have never regretted becoming a member and now a pastor for over twenty years. So I would emphasize the aspect of prayer more than just comparing what the eyes can see or what the ears can hear.

  • Olusola

    Dear Philip, Thank you for this right up. My conclusion of this your right up is that you wrote out of personal experience rather than from biblical perspective. The fact that you had a challengewchallengewIth your father who was strict does not meant all strict pastors are wrong. Philip, your father is not the standard but Jesus Christ ()Rom 8.29). I presume that the root of your challenge was your making your parents standard rather than Jesus Christ or the Bible. For me, a great pastor is the one who help you to discover Gods purpose gory your life, encourage you to pursue it and accomplish same irrespective of the method he used. The chief end of man is to become all that God created you to become and get to heaven when you finish your task here. It does not matter how seemingly loving and compassionate a pastor is, if he fails in this end, he is not worthy of being followed.

    I completely disagree with you on your method of finding an ideal church or fellowship, if you will be where God want you to be, you must depend absolutely on the leading of the Holy Spirit. We must learn from Jesus Christ who never did anything without consulting God (read john 5v19 v30, 8v28, 42, 14v10 and John 15v10). It is the height of pride and walking by sight for a person to choose a place of worship without asking God. Let God be God, ask Him concerning every detail of your life. God may send you to a place of worship to learn, serve, or disciplined. Let God lead all the time.


  • Preacher Hank

    When I was a young man age 31 God actually led me back to my “home” church. I had attended there after believing in Jesus for salvation at another church when I was about 13. I was baptised there and so were my children years later after they too experienced salvation. It was and still is a good place to raise a family. However, when I accepted the call to ministry I felt God instructing me to watch my pastor whom was very popular and I imagine by what we had come to accept as “The right way to have church” it seemed logical. Now he was a very good man, but in watching as instructed, I came to learn about him that, though well educated, his intent was to carry the whole responsibity of the ministry that God had committed to him. He wore himself out! I know he meant well, but God brought us to a place where we seemed to stagnate in our growth as Christians. Sadly, our pastor for whatever reason, refused to lead us to another level in ministry and evangelism. But, on the night he resigned because of bad health, he shared what his vision was for our church. I have never understood why he waited until then to tell us his vision.
    If I learned anything while watching in obedience it was: Ministry that is God breathed will inevitably grow. If we aren’t willing to distribute the burden to our companions, we are outside the will of God. We (I am still a member there) went from about 30 to about 300 on a “good” Sunday to now about 120 on a “good Sunday” and a pastor that struggles to lead a headstrong people that refuse to see that God had a plan and a ministry team in place 15 years go that have now moved on.

  • http://www.crazyrev.blogspot.com/ C.Brian Ross

    “The fruit of the spirit is just as important as gifts of the spirit — if not more.”

    No question as to which is the more important! As someone once said – the devil can counterfeit the gifts; he can never counterfeit the fruit! I remember discovering a wonderful truth when the Lord led me to preach before a fellowship to which my wife and I had previously belonged (and where we were both baptised) as the “Guest Preacher”! Due to a mix-up, I had to quickly prepare a different message to the one that I had brought. The Lord led me, very clearly, to I Cor. 12-14 (I didn’t do a verse by verse exposition!). Through that I came to realise that while the gifts are important (two chapters – 12 and 14), the fruit is central (ch.13), and the gifts are balanced only by, and on, the fruit!

    Since then, when I hear others speak about the gifts that they “possess”, I look for the fruit. If that is not being displayed, then I question the origin of their ‘gifts’!

    Blessings, and shalom


    www [dot] crazyrev [dot] blogspot [dot] com

  • For The Love of GOD

    OMG!! I have been struggling with this for some weeks now. My heart has been heavy at church. It’s good that a Pastor himself has placed this article. I am experiencing frustrating myself & so many other members are discourage because of what is going on in our church. Our church has become a place of manipulating people for money, integrity has been in question, there is a lack of transparency. It’s a one man show & leaders are silent. The gospel has been less & less the focus. I’m asking God for guidance. My concern are for the families that are leaving my heart breaks when i don’t see them. Please Pray for us.

  • Bruce777

    I empathize with what you say, I’m a Pastors who tries to be what you said, at the same time realising that the modern family run church is a family business that has very little to do with God or call or anointing but which member of the family will do what part, so Dad is Pastor, mother is con Pastor, son is associate Pastor, other son is youth Pastor, daughter heads up TV and so on, so what does my son who is a better preacher, better leader, more anointed raised in the same church, he has to find another place to serve, and 50% of the church income goes to keep the “first family” going until sin enter, the cover up begins because none of these people can make it in the real world, the church gets smaller and smaller until it’s another disaster in the Kingdom, Why! Because we allow this UN Godly, un Biblical system to exist in the first place, and 90% of independent mega or not so mega churches are exactly like this, how do I know, I’m part of the system, I’m sick and ashamed


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