With everything going on in my denomination right now, it feels like almost everything is up for grabs. In this context, I find myself wrestling with what kind of pastors I want to see formed in whatever it is that unfolds. I keeping finding this musing to center around the kind of pastor I hope my kids will have when they are around my stage of life.
My deepest hope and prayer is that my children will choose to embrace the Christian faith for themselves when they no longer live with me. And I hope that they will be blessed with exceptional pastoral leadership when they do.
So, here are my initial and incomplete thoughts on the kind of pastor I hope my children will have when they are my age:
I hope they have a pastor who has a deep, abiding, and personal confidence in the gospel.
I hope they have had an experience of justification by faith and the new birth.
I hope they are comfortable speaking both to their faith in Christ and speaking to their desperate dependence on Christ.
I hope they can speak clearly and compelling to the difference following Jesus has made in their lives.
I hope they are convinced that Jesus is the only source of salvation.
I hope they are thoroughly convinced that there is nothing more worth living for than Jesus.
I hope they are committed to basic Christian orthodoxy.
I hope my kids’ pastor has a clear vision for what it looks like to follow Jesus and the steps that people need to take in order to follow Jesus. In other words, I hope they have not only a generic endorsement of the importance of discipleship. I hope they have a practical and concrete vision for what discipleship looks like and how people move from seeking Jesus to being filled with the perfect love of God and radically transformed by God’s love.
I hope their life has been molded and shaped by prayer and searching the Scriptures on a daily basis over decades.
I hope they have experienced the truth of Jesus’s words in Luke 11, that God responds to prayers of “shameless persistence.” (Luke 11:8, NLT) That they themselves keep on asking, keep on seeking, and keep on knocking until they receive what they ask for, find what they are seeking, and the door is opened to them.
I hope they regularly talk about their own faith in ways that show that they experience God as alive and active and a person they talk to and relate with.
I hope they have been encountered by the Holy Spirit and have a confidence in the gifts and fruit of the Holy Spirit.
I hope they evidence the fruit of the Spirit in their lives in a way that is visible to others.
I hope they have seen God work in life-changing ways that provide a testimony to the power and presence of God in their lives.
I hope they are humble and don’t take themselves too seriously.
I hope they have more than average self-awareness.
I hope they share stories of times when they were wrong and repented and experienced forgiveness and healing through faith in Jesus.
I hope they recognize that the pursuit of deeply committed Christian discipleship is at odds with the dominant culture and that this puts pressure on people seeking to follow Jesus.
I hope this sober assessment is combined with an unshakeable confidence that Jesus is of infinite worth and giving yourself fully to Christ is worth the cost of discipleship.
I hope they show moral courage and do not dodge difficult topics, particularly when they are most important for Christian formation and most offensive to the surrounding culture.
I hope they will share times when their faith has made their life harder. And that they will testify to the goodness of God in the midst of difficult circumstances.
I hope they will provide guidance on how to endure suffering for the sake of the gospel, rather than implicitly or explicitly assuming that suffering is always to be avoided or bad.
I hope they have a strong theological education that has led them to the simplicity on the far side of complexity. That is, I hope that they continue to read and think deeply but that this learning does not become an end in itself where questions and questioning become the point.
I hope their learning helps them to proclaim the gospel in their time and place with greater conviction, competence, and credibility.
In addition to a strong theological education, I hope they have been mentored or discipled by someone who has gone before them.
And I hope they are committed to passing on what they have received to others who are not yet where they are.
I hope they will expect conflict to be a part of ministry and be able to engage in healthy conflict about things that matter.
I hope they are able to speak winsomely and humbly, but also unapologetically, to their deep convictions that come from being firmly rooted in Christ.
I hope they care deeply about reaching all people with the good news of Jesus Christ and will go to great lengths to do so.
I also hope they refuse to water down the gospel in order to try to make Jesus seem more palatable or attractive.
I hope they will invite people to come to know the love of God in Christ that not only brings forgiveness of past sins but freedom from the power of sin in this life now.
I hope they proclaim the gospel with the most audacious and bold optimism of any church in their surrounding community.
May it be so!
Kevin M. Watson is Assistant Professor of Wesleyan & Methodist Studies at Candler School of Theology, Emory University.