In his book One in a Thousand, Errol Hulse makes a thought provoking statement. He says, “A truly called, godly, caring pastor who loves souls and who unfailingly proclaims eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ is truly one in ten thousand. Take cities of a million souls. How many faithful, reliable, caring shepherds are there? The answer is too few. You have to search for them.”
Aiming to be numbered among the few noble teachers is a worthwhile pursuit.
Africa may have seen a proliferation of many false teachers in recent years. But aiming to be numbered among the few noble ones is a worthwhile pursuit. Indeed, Paul says that desiring the office of an elder is “noble” (1 Timothy 3:1). However, he goes on to develop the kind of character that elders ought to demonstrate (1 Timothy 3:2-7).
What’s A ‘One In A Thousand’ Pastor Like?
It is not enough to possess a leadership position. We ought to embody the kind of leaders that God desires: “faithful, reliable, caring shepherds.” I pray that God would raise up these sorts of leaders in the African Church. I pray that you will be this ‘one in a thousand’ pastor in your context.
Below are five statements which capture the spirit of this type of leadership and might serve as a useful mantra or set of prayer points as you shepherd your flock.
1. We Are Servants, Not Superintendents
The Bible unashamedly calls gospel preachers servants. Paul often identifies himself as a slave of Christ. Service is an irreducible minimum of pastoral work. Our Lord “did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28).
Our people don’t exist to serve us – we are their servants.
Even when forced on us, we are not to relish titles such as ‘Major’ or ‘Papa’. Being called by our names doesn’t take away from our calling. Our main calling is service, not supervision. This is reason enough for us to not demand special treatment or even titles. Our Lord Jesus Christ was a lowly man. Should we be autocratic lords? Our people don’t exist to serve us – we are their servants.
2. We Are Teachers, Not Tricksters
In the Pastoral Epistles, Paul lists ability to teach as a prerequisite for anyone eyeing the office of an overseer. But he raises the bar by clarifying that it is the teaching of sound doctrine that we are called to (1 Timothy 1:11; 6:2-3; 2 Timothy 2:15, 24). Unlike the avowed deceivers whose “god is their belly… who set their minds on earthly things” (Philippians 3:19), we ought to be those that preach the Scriptures not those who pitch sales.
We ought to be those that preach the Scriptures not those who pitch sales.
We are to teach the whole counsel of God and not tease our people with neat catch-phrases like: “This is your year of promotion“. To us has been given the solemn duty to prepare a bride for our master, not beauties to be ogled at by the world. This is a good reminder – and would truly mark us out as one in a thousand.
3. We Are Shepherds, Not Shearers
Shearers are all about getting fleece. But shepherds feed the flock. The former take and the latter give. In the fashion of the Chief Shepherd, true shepherds leave the flock warm (1 Peter 5:2). They do not leave the sheep cold and uncovered. Shearers are easy to spot. Whether by so-called signs or false promises, their aim is to plunder God’s people, amass spoils, and garner wealth.
To forsake the world of financial gain and worldly honour is the call of true shepherds.
Being shepherds doesn’t guarantee wealth. God has called pastors to be faithful, not flamboyant. To forsake the world of financial gain and worldly honour is the call of true shepherds.
4. We Are Brothers, Not Bosses
Paul thought of himself as the scum of the world, not the star of the world (1 Corinthians 4:13). He was reviled, not revered. As ministers of Christ, that should be true of us. We are to be low-ranking, approachable, relatable, and available men. We all have an equal standing before God and we are to relate to all Christians as family, worthy co-heirs.
To be self-affirming and proud is not befitting of our office.
Worldly bosses may be notorious for aloofness and detachment but that’s not who we are. It is only God who lives “in unapproachable light” (1 Timothy 6:16). To be self-affirming and proud is not befitting of our office. Instead of being bosses that berate, we should be brothers that build up. That’s what a one in a thousand leader looks like.
5. We Are Evangelists, Not Entrepreneurs
Paul charges Timothy to “endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist to make full proof of his ministry” (2 Timothy 4:5). This should be the aim of any minister. Aggressive street-smartness may look good on an entrepreneur, but soul-winning is the crown of an evangelist. Christ has called us to win souls to him, not customers to our churches.
Christ has called us to win souls to him, not customers to our churches.
It may be that we won’t grow our churches into quadruple digits because we’ve abandoned conniving salesmanship. But the Holy Spirit does convert sinners. Instead of seeking to build brands, and personal empires, it’s best to build Christ’s church.
The Impact of One In A Thousand
When men with the character I’ve just described suffuse their ministries with prayer and sound doctrine, we can only imagine the impact they might have. I earnestly desire that the Lord would help us to value character more than charisma. When we do so, we are well on our way to becoming one in a thousand. All the while, we should believe that God is able to take humble men and empower them to preach the life-changing word with extraordinary results. Amen.