The International Church (IC) is a collection of God’s people with a multi-everything kaleidoscope of backgrounds from across the globe. Together they serve God, serve one another, and serve in mission. An extended definition and description of an IC can be found at http://micn.org/defined/. For IC’s strategic positioning read “International Church for a Global World” at https://emqonline.com/node/3680.
God is always moving and there is an increasing awareness that God is fast-forwarding the IC! It is hard to keep up with God’s pace! The IC is more recognized today than ever before. ICs are self-starting around the globe and include small, medium, large and mega-sized ICs: increasingly ICs are included in global mission strategies.
We have only just begun!! The potential of the IC church is huge, yet we are still in the early stages of figuring out how best to take hold of this potential for Jesus, the Gospel, and the Kingdom. So many possibilities, so many realities to work with so that the potential is realized across the nations.
This Profile is one contribution to the great exploration of preparing ourselves for this potential. What does an effective IC Pastor look like? What is essential in the DNA of such a Pastor? A spectrum of many experienced IC leaders have collaborated together to write up this Profile.
Intentionally, this Profile is idealistic! It aims high, it strives for excellence. True, nobody will measure up fully to this ideal, but it would be negligent to compromise with this ideal. So, some points to remember:
- It is a question of journey and growth in the right direction. IC pastors are people committed to each of these ideals no matter how much still needs to be developed.
- Note the Lifelong Learner (2) and Baggage (3) sections.
- In recruiting IC pastors, evidence should be looked for to indicate that the candidate is committed to these ideals and has been consistently growing in these areas already.
- In serving as an IC pastor, these ideals will help clarify one’s agenda for personal and professional development.
What would you add to the rationale for creating an IC pastor profile?
This version of the profile is something like the master-document. It provides the basis for shorter versions or versions designed for particular needs, readers, and situations.
What in particular is needed for pastoral and missional leadership of an IC, in addition to all the usual criteria in identifying pastors? This Profile primarily addresses the particulars of IC leadership. Consequently, some of the standard essentials for pastors may not seem to be as developed so well (character, growing faith in Christ, gifting, usual essential range of competencies, maturity, comprehensive leadership qualities, deepening wisdom, pastoral heart, interpersonal skills, etc). These are vital, obviously, and must be driven and shaped by the wealth of Biblical material on leadership. We trust that in the training and recruitment of IC pastors these will be appropriately addressed.
Scripture must drive and shape all considerations in such a Profile as this. Here we find an encyclopedia of input on serving God, beginning with the work mandate in the Garden and continuing through the narrative of Scripture to the service of God in the new heaven/earth. The example of Jesus, with His Kingdom driven job description laid out in Psalms and the prophets, is fundamental. Jesus’ self-emptying servant-hood is the required practice for all ministry (Mark 10:45, Philippians 2:5-11).
Representative of the many ways Paul inputs on pastoral leadership are the standards laid out in 1 Timothy 3 and the gifts of Jesus to the church of specific ministries to equip and build up the church in Ephesians 4:11-13. 1 Corinthians 12 features the team work nature of all ministry while the whole of 2 Corinthians expresses much of Paul’s sacrificial determination in serving the churches. There is so much more in the NT that shapes how pastors serve God’s church. The complex realities in the IC and in the world, together with this plethora of Biblical material, are the driving forces that have resulted in this collection of qualities essential for effective missional pastoral leadership in an IC.
THE QUALITIES OF AN EFFECTIVE IC PASTOR:
A MOST NECESSARY FUTURE FOCUS AND DIRECTION FOR SHAPING THE QUALITIES BELOW:
Back in the 50’s there was a social contract within most cultures, and in the evangelical community: today these are fragmented and scattered. The “Effective IC Pastor” for the future will not be the same as what has been the ideal to date. Theology, politics, culture and technology will have far greater significance in the decades to come than has been the case until now. Missional thinking and practice is entering a new global scenario in which the upheaval of all things will be the norm. Holistic worldviews will be decisive for negotiating through the maze of the future, both in the internal life of the IC and in the IC’s missional engagement with the world.
The challenge in drafting out this Profile is the need to anticipate the future – about 2 decades worth. One major shift will be the decline of the hegemony of the West and the rise of a real internationalism. This internationalism will compete with the growing reactionary nationalism already evident across the globe, together with the polarization in culture, religion, economics and politics which is shaping the culture and conversations of local churches. Traditional least-reached people group thinking will increasingly not fit with the global realities. A rapidly increasing percentage of people now live and work in multi-cultural contexts. The world is border-less. One in seven people no longer live where they came from, the highest ratio ever known in history. The IC must park at the diaspora intersection to collect diaspora people. One thing is certain, we will not be going back to the way things were.
What will be the biggest changes in the IC context in the next 20 years?
Expressed here as ideals, IC pastors at least need to demonstrate they are maturing towards these qualities and already have made sufficient progress so as to lead an IC. The application of these criteria will be unique to each IC.
What are the most important qualities particularly for pastors of ICs?
How might this collection of qualities help set your agenda for personal and professional development; for your formation and equipping as an effective IC leader?
- A leader who leads with God’s Kingdom vision for the IC, for all His people, and for all creation:
- This Kingdom vision, as it was for Jesus, begins this list of qualities because it shapes and directs all the other qualities listed in the Profile. It is not just one quality amongst many but at the heart of them all.
- Fundamental to Kingdom shaped leadership is vision that stimulates the imagination and the passions, stimulates hope and longing for the future, that inspires and motivates, that gives direction and purpose for God’s people. The Kingdom establishes a missional orientation for all facets of the IC. Kingdom oriented leadership is essential for each IC to engage with its context, and the future of that context, such that the vision of God for His creation and Kingdom, excites the IC and drives the agenda for discipleship, church life and mission.
How important is inspiring and hope-filled vision for the effective leadership of an IC?
What is the hope-filled vision that drives your IC leadership?
- A teachable, lifelong learner, with the humility needed to accept correction and change:
- No IC pastor arrives in the IC world already equipped for the job. In all facets of IC leadership of church life and mission, the IC pastor must have a serious commitment to life-long learning; including an openness to make profound changes in perspectives and practices as a result: listener rather than a talker (actively creates spaces for listening), team player rather than pastor-centered, a humble recognition that s/he still has much to learn.
- Each item below will require much learning, a teachable character willing to learn from others, and a humble willingness to change when necessary.
- If genuine, these qualities will be evidenced in a pastor’s life long before s/he arrives in the IC scene.
- A sincere commitment to life-long learning will produce a willingness to be connected to an IC network beyond the local context.
- Models follower-ship when not actually required to provide leadership.
In terms of a teachable character we have emphasized humility; should more be included?
What do you find most challenging in being teachable?
- Understands and owns his/her personal baggage of brokenness, vulnerabilities, flaws and limitations, and takes responsibility for his/her soul:
- IC pastors survive and thrive by being very aware of the emotional and psychological baggage they bring with them. They know their vulnerabilities and sensitivities and have learned to manage them well. They have already established habits of self-reflection and have addressed the inner issues well enough to engage in ministry. They have a growing insight as to how their own baggage impacts their ministries for good and for ill. They are aware of the resources available to enable them to continue to heal in these areas of brokenness.
- They have the capacity to address the ways changing contexts may stimulate different expressions of this baggage.
- All pastors have their thorns in the flesh. Effective leadership only develops as pastors face their personal baggage, the inner struggles and “demons” that never seem to go away.
- IC leaders must give due importance proactively to the practices and disciplines of personal growth, character development, maturation, relationship with God, and increasing in wisdom. Honesty about one’s inadequacies is fundamental. Cultural insight and theological breadth are essential here as so many presume too much in these areas.
- Appreciates the value of someone to travel with them through learning about and the management of self; such as a guide, counselor, mentor, coach, spiritual director, close friend, or accountability partner.
- Has a growing resilience and inner strength through attention to personal brokenness, vulnerabilities, flaws and limitations.
- For a brief discussion on the healthy tension between the ideals of this Profile and the realities of human brokenness and flaws, see “OCD and Other Realities.” at http://micn.org/ocd-and-other-realities/
How important or necessary is knowing oneself for the IC pastor?
What does rigorous soul-care responsibility look like for you?
- A centred-set thinker rather than a bounded-set thinker to ensure both focus and flexibility:
- Understands the difference and why it matters so much. See http://micn.org/tribalism-unity-2/
- Has a sufficiently strong and deep passion for Jesus and the Kingdom to drive from this centre.
- Holds secondary things loosely enough to be free to be appropriately flexible on boundaries and thereby free to keep the focus on the centre. While accepting that some boundaries may be helpful (non-negotiable essentials of Christian faith), the IC pastor ensures that a centred-set focus on Jesus and the Kingdom directs the life and mission of the IC. An over-emphasis on bounded-set thinking and practice inevitably favours the Pastor’s culture, and denominational or national background, thereby weakening how much the IC really is international.
- Understands the difference between Theocentric/Christocentric and anthropocentric theology and practice (God centred or human centred) sufficient to ensure Jesus and His Kingdom shapes preaching and teaching, and the life and mission of the church. This is important as evangelicalism can tend towards being anthropocentric and it is very difficult to be centred in Jesus when most attention is given to other matters.
To what extent, and in what ways, do you think this is important in IC leadership?
In what ways does centred-set thinking facilitate an environment of grace?
In what areas of your leadership do you exercise bounded-set and centred-set thinking and action?
- At home with cross-cultural, and multi-cultural, thinking and practice; appreciates the depth, nuances and complexity of culture:
- Strong growing awareness and insight into the character, idiosyncrasies, strengths, limitations and failings of one’s own culture.
- Realization that cross-cultural studies in one’s home country are only a superficial introduction.
- Appreciation of the way culture shapes how humanity and faith are expressed by persons, how people process emotionally and intellectually, how people communicate, how people react, how we understand and value time, how people relate to others. Culture shapes – both in good and in unhelpful ways – all aspects of pastoral ministry and leadership, including pastoral care and counseling, leadership, church services, preaching, mission, finances, communication, motivation, etc.
- Not inclined to be ethno-centric, or nationalistic, or any other perspective that is dominated by one’s own background. An international and global perspective is needed on all issues.
- Strong appreciation of the spectrum of individual verses collective cultures, hierarchical verses flat cultures, diverse decision-making values and processes.
- Appreciation of the character and impact of such cultural foundations as shame/honour, guilt, nihilism, patron/client and power-based cultures, cyclical (resistant to change) rather than linear (progressive mind-set) assumptions about history, clean/unclean distinctions for lifestyle practices and social ordering, individualism/collectivism.
- Appreciation of how in most contexts political and socio-economic realities shape culture; and without serious critique shape faith as well.
- High level of ability to effectively relate, lead and engage cross-culturally in a multi-cultural context.
- Capacity and willingness to create culture; a church culture that reflects the movement of the Kingdom away from the fall. An alternative culture so that the people of the church have no need to import the culture of the world to fill the empty cultural space.
- Comprehends the shifting and evolving global mindsets of student and returnee populations of nationals.
- Understands the current global urbanizing of nations and the implication for ICs and for mission.
- Able to facilitate multi-cultural life in the IC. See # 12 below.
What cultural realities do you think IC pastors find most difficult to understand?
How do you learn what you do not yet know you need to learn?
- Demonstrated freedom to be flexible and adaptable, and able to function well with unpredictability:
- Able to be comfortable with the unpredictable, the high level of fluidity, the recurring disruption to plans, the recurring disappointments of good people moving on, the sense and the reality that everything could change very quickly.
- Able to work with those who plan well ahead and those who plan at the last minute.
- Able to incorporate diverse ecclesiastical practices in the IC.
- Diversity in thinking and practice for church life and mission. Not constrained by one’s own denominational idiosyncrasies, etc. See Centred-set Thinking.
- Capacity to be creative in developing systems, procedures and structures for the IC. In the previous experience of many IC pastors much of this is a given but, in the IC, often even the most basic organizational details are in need of design. Open to unique structures; suspicious of merely duplicating working models from elsewhere.
- The creativity and theological grounded-ness to turn these challenges into opportunities.
- Able to turn “distractions” into pastoral and missional opportunities.
What are the primary capacities that enable IC Pastors to function well when everything changes at the last minute?
If there was a gift called “capability” how would you develop yours?
- Understands the intrusion of politics into all of life and mission, and has a theology of politics (aka political theology) to facilitate non-partisan responses to the issues:
- Politics is an increasing issue for church life and mission in many countries. In nations all around the world, the increasing pressure from global issues, the increasing awareness of the impact of political issues into everyday life, the political issues of totalitarian societies, the shaping of societies by secularism, and the courting of churches by political parties for political loyalty, are just some of the growing intrusions of politics into Christian thinking and theology.
- Isolation in any form is no longer a realistic option for the church as political perspectives and agendas of various kinds intrude into the core values of Christian practice. Various governments across the world are increasingly making demands on churches in such areas as social justice advocacy, gender issues, employment policies, and in many cases a requirement that the church serve the interests of the power brokers in government.
- IC pastors need to appreciate the range of political perspectives across the evangelical community; and not presume that Christians will take up any particular stance on sensitive issues. Every IC has a mix of political preferences and the Pastor may alienate some if his/her own political views are favoured above all others. Silence on matters political is, in itself, a political stance that risks disaffecting some in the church.
- In many countries, the failed marriage of the Christian right with conservative ideological politics, together with the failings of the “social gospel”, increasingly is requiring the development of a serious theology of politics. Recently, in many countries, this identification of evangelicalism with right-wing socio-political ideology has already caused many to leave the church and many to dismiss the faith.
- Appreciate the difference between the politics of Jesus and the Kingdom, and the political perspectives found within church and society from context to context.
- Aware of how political realities and political ideologies impact on how people engage in church life and mission activities. Political loyalties and ideologies are a serious threat to the unity of the body of Christ.
- Political theology is the exploration of the mind of God on the political and governmental life of societies. It addresses the nature of government, its priorities and constraints, its ethics and values, together with an emphasis on the model of Jesus’ rule as King of the Kingdom. It also explores the socio-economic impact of politics and government on persons and societies, both the good and the bad, and evaluates this in the light of such a theology.
What do you think are the most important political realities for IC pastors to understand?
How do you feel about increasing political influence in the church globally?
- Committed to the missio Dei and the sending of the church into the world with a missio Dei agenda:
- Theologically well grounded in a Biblical Theology of God’s Kingdom promises to the nations (a theology of nationhood) so that the pastor can discern what God is working towards in the IC’s context, and what particular part the IC might have in God’s work. Able to appreciate the holistic integration of Gospel, practical care, social action, etc, in engaging in God’s mission.
- Similarly, within a theology of the nations, a vision for the place of the city and how the IC might be a servant of the city towards God’s vision.
- Appreciate the core value of being sent and sending. Appreciate the sending of the whole IC and its people into the mission of God in the city and nation. Understand the high turnover/mobility of IC people as an opportunity for sending/commissioning people to the mission in a different context.
- Theologically able to see the big picture of God’s Kingdom work so as to help people see how their work, their job description, can be an expression of God’s mission work towards the future.
- Values partnerships with missions, churches, NGOs, and others for mission.
- Understands that an outward missional focus is essential for addressing the inner realities of persons and the church community. Outward vision brings perspective and unity to the fellowship of the church.
- Has a broad understanding of historical patterns and approaches in mission, integrating this with the demands of the contextual realities of the IC’s city and nation.
What do IC pastors, distracted by pastoral demands, need most to stay missionally minded, focussed and committed?
How do you define, describe and do the missio Dei?
- Leadership strengths based in theological depth and Kingdom vision, together with a capacity to engage and lead well across the mix of cultures in the IC and in the larger context:
- Commitment to theological depth and vision as the driving force that facilitates the best of effective IC leadership.
- Appreciation of just how much leadership is expressed so differently from culture to culture. Therefore, able to be flexible and with a willingness to learn news ways of leading. See # 5 above.
- Functioning with a reconciling spirit/heart driven by a passion for the unity of the body of Christ, and a passion for the witness of reconciliation across the spectrum of fractured relationships to the holistic reconciling work of God in Christ. Leadership driven by a well-developed theology of peace.
- A strong capacity for, and commitment to, team leadership in which the ministry of the whole body of Christ is valued. Understands the necessity of a variety of ministries (Ephesians 4:11-16 and 1 Corinthians 12) for effective church community, ministry and mission. Understands his/her own giftings and seeks out ministry and mission partners with the giftings needed.
- Able to hold together leadership in the missional engagement of the church and the pastoral care of persons within the church: without sacrificing one for the other.
What is at the heart of good IC leadership?
What do you do to grow your leadership strengths as an IC pastor?
- Sufficient theological depth and maturity to guide the IC through the complexities and challenges of tomorrow’s world; sufficient to build up theological maturity in the IC’s life and mission:
- Mature and substantial capacity to process theological issues across a wide range of concerns. Theological depth and maturity is becoming more important than ever before; especially given the diverse range of theological issues to be faced from content to context. In a world of constant change, and the constant need to address new theological, missional, ethical, and other practical issues, comprehensive theological depth is becoming more important than it ever was in the contexts of the past.
- Know where and how to access theological resources together with an established habit of doing so.
- Able to blend the strengths of both Biblical and Systematic Theological methods. Theological depth will only develop through an integrated blend of these methodologies, together with a comprehensive understanding of how it all fits together in God’s holistic engagement in human history towards the future He has committed to.
In Evangelical circles, there is a shift towards a greater focus on Biblical Theology and this is bringing new approaches to how we understand a range of theological, missional and practical issues. IC leaders need to be familiar with the strengths and limitations of both Biblical and Systematic theological disciplines. The strength of one is the weakness of the other. Both are essential for addressing the complex realities of the future which will require mature theological reflection. Both are essential for engaging with the mix of church backgrounds represented in the mix of people in an IC. For a summary of the difference between these two methodologies, see http://micn.org/preaching-towards-mission-theology/
- An understanding of the Kingdom of God and how it increases in the world, together with a Kingdom hermeneutic for thinking through the theological issues of life and mission.
- Appreciates the character and development of contextualized theology within a commitment to the Bible as the final authority on all matters of faith and conduct.
- Understands why the intellectual approaches to knowledge and practice of Modernism and Postmodernism are bringing new theological challenges to the IC leader. Modernism habits of thinking and approaches to theology tend to be compartmentalized, convergent, tend more towards being adversarial (either/or) and therefore dualistic, and much less likely to weigh up cultural and other biases. Postmodernism focuses on challenging the presuppositions and presumptions we bring to how we think, to the study of Scripture, and the development of theology.
Postmodern approaches are more divergent, holistic, conciliatory, integrated with a more both/and mind-set. Within Evangelicalism, both have their place, and each needs the corrective role of the other. IC leaders need to be able to work with those of both these approaches to thinking and learning if they are to effectively present theology that enables the church to effectively engage with the world with good works and communication of the Gospel. IC pastors need to appreciate that older generations tend more towards traditional Modernism ways of thinking whereas younger generations are strongly Postmodern. Traditional Modernism approaches to theology and mission makes little sense to the skeptical minds of the generations brought up in a Postmodern culture.
What do you think will be the role of theology in equipping IC pastors for leadership in the changing future world?
What do you do to grow in theological depth and expand your vision of the Kingdom of God?
- Recognition of the spiritual realities underlying all of life, church and mission. Established reliance on the Holy Spirit in all facets of ministry:
- Able to appreciate that the sacred–secular divide in some Christian thinking does not reflect the comprehensive engagement of the Spirit of God is all of life and creation. With such a divide, understanding the context of the IC is considerably more difficult. Able to see the supernatural dimension in all of life and mission.
- A substantial understanding of the power of Word and Spirit as foundational in all God’s Kingdom work; and a strong appreciation of all human weakness. Likewise, a mature insight into the many ways Christian leaders can trust wrongly in their capacities, or their strategies and methods, or their church or denomination, or mission, or efforts, or politics, etc.
- A healthy and positive reliance on the Holy Spirit, walking in the Spirit in all aspects of life and ministry, while also maintaining a healthy self-suspicion as to how easily self-deception can enable leaders to falsely justify aspects of their ministry by claiming the Spirit’s work.
- A healthy understanding of the spiritual forces of darkness, without being obsessive about it, or consumed by it, together with a strong appreciation of the ways God would have us stand against these powers. Understand something of the principalities and powers as Paul describes their intrusion into every facet of life. This also is an important aspect of understanding the context of each IC. Able to discern the spiritual dimension of culture.
What is most essential for recognizing all the spiritual realities within the IC?
In the complexities of an IC, how does an IC pastor grow increasingly dependent on the Holy Spirit?
- A people-person with a pastoral and missional heart, strong devotion to marriage and family, and skilled relationally with strengths in facilitating a unified church community:
- Growing emotional intelligence for individuals as well as large and small groups.
- Strength in supporting, equipping and releasing envisioned people.
- Able to facilitate a community of mutuality, giving and receiving, compassion (especially for the least), and listening to one another as foundational to loving one another.
- As appropriate, knows how to work with a both/and mind-set.
- Evidence of grace, emotional intelligence, sacrifice, kindness, wisdom, etc, in how the pastor loves his/her marriage and family. What level of correlation is there between the pastor’s family community and church community?
- Functions consistently as a peace-maker with a strong spirit of reconciliation; a bridge builder of people, organizations, churches, and other groupings. Able to work with unresolved differences of opinion. Able to initiate and facilitate dialogue/conversations between those of differing view-points.
- Able to facilitate the integration of multiple ethnicities into the community life of serving one another and working together in the missio Dei. For those working cross-culturally with just one ethnic group, such as many missionaries, this difference needs to be well understood. There is a difference between cross-cultural and multi-cultural engagement.
- Considerable multi-cultural capacity in all the above of # 12. See # 5 for further comment on culture.
How would you describe this complex mix of qualities needed for effective facilitation of a unified church community?
What strengths do you need to increase to be an effective peace-maker and a reconciling presence?
- Reasonably conversant with the ways technology has become a useful tool in ministry and able to make effective use of IT options:
- Enough tech-savvy to adapt to and work with the constantly changing world of IT.
- Appreciates the limits of technology such that wise decisions can be made as to when and how technology should be utilized. Understands how technology can be good and can be not essential.
- Knows how to keep the priorities on people and not technological possibilities. Knows how to prevent technology from distracting people from the priorities of loving one another, the ministries with the church, and the mission beyond the church into God’s world.
- Able to address the security issues of IT.
- Aware of the rise of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the potential of AI to question what it means to be human.
What do you have to say about developing technology and the IC pastor?
In what ways do you over or under utilize technology?
Writing a profile for an effective missional IC Pastor is a bit like trying to describe a process to stack marbles. Maybe there is no complete way? Hopefully however this Profile will be effective in the exciting task of finding and developing IC Pastors for ICs around the globe. Whether you agree or not with some details, we hope that this stimulates your thinking. Probably, this Profile will need review quite often as our IC contexts keep on changing. If at any time you have further thoughts, please do not hesitate to send them to MICN.
Keep engaging; and check out the following questions.
- When you read this IC pastor Profile …
- What challenges you the most?
- What surprizes you most?
- What troubles you the most?
- What encourages you the most?
- In what ways does this Profile urge IC pastors to strive towards learning, expansion of vision, and theological depth?
- Has the Profile adequately stated the importance of IC pastors taking responsibility for their own maturation and growth?
- This Profile gives priority to theology and vision for leadership, rather than techniques and strategies, so what is at the heart of good IC leadership?
- What will you do, where will you go, who will you find to develop yourself further as an IC pastor?