Recently, I wrote a paper entitled, John Chrysostom: A Holistic Vision of the Pastoral Office. In it, I made the argument that the fourth century pastor, John Chrysostom, provides ancient, but timely pastoral wisdom for today’s churches and clergy. According to Chrysostom, the pastoral calling was not about one part of the candidate, but about the whole person. The whole person must be qualified to lead the people to Christ. This includes character, preaching skills, personal devotion, and managerial skills.
Often times in today’s Evangelical churches many pastoral candidates are vetted based on their skills set rather than their moral character. One large Evangelical church posted a job description that said the candidate should be a “natural catalyst with high sense of urgency, drive, and energy,” but it also said that the candidate should have a “personal and growing relationship with Jesus.” The problem, however, was they did not give any explanation for what it meant for a pastor to have a personal and growing relationship with Jesus, but they gave plenty of information about what it meant to be a catalyst for urgency, drive, and energy.
John Chrysostom or “Golden Mouth” as he would come to be known was born in 345 and died in 407. His father died when he was an infant, so he was raised by his devoutly Christian mother, Anthusa. Anthusa never remarried after the death of her husband even though she was only twenty years old at the time. Chrysostom’s family was wealthy and he was privileged to receive the best education possible. Throughout his life, he spent time as a monk, deacon, priest, and a bishop. As bishop, Chrysostom made an enemy with the empress and she exiled him. He died as he was being forcibly marched to Pontus.
Chrysostom took seriously the words of Hebrews 13:17, which reads, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account.” He understood the gravity of the pastoral office and what was at stake. Pastors and leaders of the church will have to give an account for how they ministered to the church. Therefore, he wrote a treatise entitled, On the Priesthood. In it he wrote,
“…it behoves one who undertakes this care to have much understanding, and, before understanding, great grace from God, and uprightness of conduct, and purity of life and superhuman virtue…”
Having a proper understanding of the Scriptures and theology, and having excellent communication skills are important, but they must all be put in their proper place. Being graced by God through Jesus Christ and walking in a manner worthy of the gospel, must be the foundation for pastoral ministry. This does not eliminate the necessity of knowledge and preaching skills, but it shows that they are dangerous if they are detached from gospel driven character.This was Chrysostom’s heartbeat for those who want to enter pastoral ministry. Is this your church’s heartbeat today?
For further reading:
Check out my full length paper – John Chrysostom: A Holistic Vision of the Pastoral Office
John Chrysostom, On the Priesthood. Especially book 3.