You Need a Qualified Pastor—Not Just a Charismatic One

Attributes of a Good Pastor

One of my congregants wanted me to be more alluring, more charismatic, more humorous. He wanted me to hold his attention such that I would keep him coming back every week.

This is certainly understandable. Most of us enjoy listening to faithful brothers like Matt Chandler, John Piper, David Platt, or Kevin DeYoung. And for good reason. These brothers are charismatic. They’re funny, radiantly passionate, wicked smart, handsome, and/or comfortable in their own skin. I am none of these things. But the instinct to be those things in order to grow a church is strong, isn’t it?

But even as we feel this understandable pull, we need to more properly assess and orient ourselves. We need to understand what’s ultimately more stable and more alluring. As it’s been said, “What you win them with is what you win them to.”

Charisma is helpful, important even. But I want to focus on other attributes that are even more important for the pastor: character, capability, conviction, and compassion.

Planting by Pastoring

Nathan Knight

Planting by Pastoring rejects the entrepreneurial mindset of church planting and invites leaders to adopt a far more biblical view of the church to cultivate a community that can “treasure Christ together.”


When Paul was writing to the church plant in Crete, he told Titus to “appoint elders in every town” so that he might “put what remained into order” (Titus 1:5). In case Titus might be unsure what elders should be like, Paul continued:

. . . if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination. For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. (Titus 1:6–8)

He then explains to Titus why character is so important:

For there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party. They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach. One of the Cretans, a prophet of their own, said “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.” This testimony is true. (Titus 1:10–13)

Paul knows that if the church of Jesus Christ is going to testify to the holiness of God, it needs to be led by godly pastors. In other words, as Titus put what remained into order, he needed the character of the pastors to shine brightly against the dark night of the Crete skies. So it is with us.


For pastors, character is necessary but insufficient. They must also be “able to teach” (1 Tim. 3:2). Elsewhere, Paul says pastors need to “be able to give instruction in sound doctrine” (Titus 1:9).

The emphasis here is on clarity and biblical soundness. Is the pastor faithfully distinguishing between what is true and not true? A pastor’s teaching doesn’t need to be flashy, but it does need to be faithful and clear.


Jesus was and is the truth (John 14:6). The church is the pillar and buttress of truth (1 Tim. 3:15). Therefore, every pastor-planter must have clear convictions about the truth. Paul says that “he must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught” (Titus 1:9). What’s true for deacons is surely true for pastor-planters: they must “hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience” (1 Tim. 3:9).

In our contemporary times, people often say things like, “What’s true for you is true for you, and what’s true for me is true for me.” But that’s not the Bible’s attitude. What was true for Titus in Crete is true for pastors today. Pastors need to be men of conviction such that they “rebuke [the unbelieving] sharply, that they may be sound in the faith, not devoting themselves to Jewish myths and the commands of people who turn away from the truth” (Titus 1:13–14).

A brother must have orthodox convictions on Christianity’s most vital doctrines: God, sin, Christ’s work of salvation, and Scripture. Yet he also needs to have a strong understanding and convictions around those matters that protect the gospel and these first-tier doctrines, such as the church. People’s consciences are being dulled, so the church needs leaders who will unashamedly teach and defend sound doctrine with joy and love.

People’s consciences are being dulled, so the church needs leaders who will unashamedly teach and defend sound doctrine with joy and love.


I can’t help but wonder if we are so drawn to charismatic preachers because of their obvious confidence. Perhaps what we call “charisma” is actually just confidence.

I remember the first dozen or so times I watched John Piper preach. He certainly helped me see things in Scripture that I hadn’t seen before. But in hindsight, I think I was more drawn to the serious confidence he took in the pulpit. This stuff was real and it was important and he exuded a kind of confidence I was drawn to. He wasn’t posing questions without answering them. He wasn’t doing hermeneutical gymnastics to avoid offending people. He was confident about the person, work, and worth of Christ.

According to Iain Murray, a Christian invited a lost man to an evangelistic meeting where Martyn Lloyd-Jones was preaching.1 Lloyd-Jones thundered away with his usual authority, and the lost man didn’t like it. The preacher was “arrogant,” he said.

The man who had brought him disagreed. “Oh no,” he said. “His confidence is not in himself, but in the word he preaches!”

That’s it! Pastor-planters must radiate confidence in the historic truths of God’s word.


Finally, a pastor-planter must have a heart of compassion. Consider the tenderness of Jesus as he spoke to Martha (Luke 10:38–42). Orconsider how easily Jesus spoke to children (Mark 10:13–16). Or how mercifully he approached the sinful woman in Luke 7:36–50. Peter says that pastor-planters must lead in a way that is “not domineering”; instead, they are “examples to the flock” (1 Pet. 5:3).

To be compassionate means to suffer together. It’s not enough to have conviction; pastor-planters also need to model the love of Christ by having conviction and compassion. If you only have conviction, you’ll be tempted to steamroll people. But if you only have compassion, you’ll suffer with others, but not toward the truth. Pastor-planters will feel the pain in their people’s and their community’s lives. They will weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice (Rom. 12:15). And they will do so in the truth and with the truth. In doing so, they will build trust and bring the balm of the gospel to bear. Compassionate pastorplanters like this will reflect the heart of Christ in the pulpit and in living rooms.

We once had a member of our church who had a troubled upbringing. His marriage was in trouble, and he was responding in many wrong ways. After listening to both spouses, I would insist that he should be more attentive to his wife’s pains than he was to his own rights. I appealed to the truth, quoting Philippians 2:3–4 and Ephesians 5:25.

But I lacked compassion. I rarely expressed any sorrow over the ways his wife hurt him and made him feel unloved. I didn’t suffer with him, and so my truthful counsel was difficult to hear. Later, however, I was able to grieve with him and even weep with him over the wrongs he had endured. He then was able to hear my counsel to love his wife as Christ loved the church.

We might have all the right answers. We might have character, capability, confidence, and conviction. But if we lack compassion we are little more than clanging cymbals. Compassion wedded to the truth will lead to love, and love never fails (1 Cor. 13:8).


  1. “D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones: Pastor-Evangelist,” panel discussion, Together for the Gospel, November 6, 2019,

This article is adapted from Planting by Pastoring: A Vision for Starting a Healthy Church by Nathan Knight.

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