12 Marks of a Good Pastor
A Shepherd's Heart
What are the marks of someone who has been called into the Ministry as a Pastor? Are there any real defining characteristics that make them stand out? I believe that the Bible gives a clear-cut description of what makes up a heart of a Pastor. John 10:1-18, in context, is Jesus describing himself as the "One true Shepherd" whose "sheep" (followers) know him and the sound of His voice. But from within these 18 verses, I see 12 marks that define a true and good shepherd for the Church.
The first mark of a good shepherd is that they have come through "the door" which is Jesus Christ through personal salvation. They did not do this on their own, but through conviction of sin by the Holy Spirit, they humbly confessed their sins acknowledging their need of forgiveness and salvation through Christ's death Calvary's cross and resurrection from the dead. The second mark of a good shepherd is that they "know the voice of the shepherd." By this I mean that they have personal time with the King of kings through Bible study, prayer, and worship. It has been well said "You can't know someone without spending time with them." Think of parents for an example. They can be in a crowded room where there are other children and as soon as they hear a child cry, they immediately know if that was there child or not who needs attention. A good shepherd will want to spend time with the Creator of all in order to know His voice and what makes Him happy.
The third mark of a good shepherd is that they "Lead their sheep," they do not push them. In Psalm 23 from the Complete Jewish Version of the Bible it says, "He has me lie down in grassy pastures, he leads me by quiet waters." A good shepherd will lead by having a servant's heart and not use their authority in wrong ways in order for their sheep to do what they want done. A fourth mark of a good shepherd is that they "know their sheep" personally and "calls them by name." This implies that they have a good memory and when they see their sheep, they give complete attention to them and not look at their surroundings as if they're being bothered. The a good shepherd will greet a person warmly and smile which implies interest in the person as a whole.
A fifth mark of a good shepherd is that they are "willing to give their life" both figuratively and literally for their sheep if necessary. This means that when that call comes in at 2am from one of their sheep that their child has been kidnapped or that their mom is in ICU dying from Pancreatic Cancer, they immediately get out from under their covers from their warm bed, put on their shoes, grab their coat and keys and drive to the house or hospital in order to bring comfort and a word of hope. They have a family of their own, but they are willing to give up personal time in order to minister to those of their flock.
A Sixth mark of a good shepherd is that they have Christ's "abundant life" flowing in them. They have joy unspeakable even in the midst of their own troubles. The peace of God keeps them and when others see this, it draws them to ask "What is so different? Why can you be in such peace when all is crumbling around you?" The answer does not lie within themselves, but through God. A Seventh mark of a good shepherd is "when danger comes, they face it along side of their sheep". They do not run away. They don't give lip service by stating one thing and then doing the opposite.
An Eight mark of a good shepherd is that they "have genuine care for their sheep which includes meeting the spiritual, emotional, and physical(i.e. a proper hug, a shoulder to cry on, help with moving) needs of their sheep." They do this out of love for their sheep. They love as Christ has loved them. A Ninth mark of a good shepherd is that" they call others to follow the True Shepherd." They have a heart for evangelism. They don't try to steal another churches "sheep" in order to build up their own flock. They go out into the streets, highways and byways bringing the Good News of God to a lost and dying generation that there is hope for those have either feel they do not have any hope or have lost hope.
A Tenth mark of a good shepherd is that they "love unconditionally." A good and true shepherd will not judge one of their sheep when they fall into sin. They where they have come from. They have been forgiven much, so then they themselves are able to forgive. They do however call sin, sin and admonish the one caught in a specific sin to repent and no longer go down that path. But they will not stand above a person with their index finger extended shaming the person. They remember Jesus' words "He who is without sin, cast the first stone." The Eleventh mark of a good shepherd is that they "model the life of the True Shepherd" before their sheep, inspiring them to be like the Shepherd of their souls to be obedient and follow His ways in everything. People are inspired by those they call heroes. Jesus said, "Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for a friend"(John 15:13). The final mark of a good shepherd is that they don't let anyone push them out of their calling. They know when it is time to pass the mantel onto someone else. Jesus stated that "No one takes my life from me, I lay it down willingly"(John 10:18). So too a good shepherd will not back down from those that would oppose him in the work he is doing to further the Kingdom of God.
To be a good shepherd requires that a person lives for the Shepherd, Jesus Christ, their sheep, and dies to their own wants. It is by serving that will soften the hardhearted and give hope to those who need it.