6 Characteristics of Missional-Pastoral Leaders


Transformation | Derwin L. Gray

Derwin GrayIn 2019, 4,500 churches closed. When I heard this news, my heart hurt because the body of Christ is the living temple through whom the Spirit of God cascades the grace of King Jesus into the hearts of broken people for the glory of God. Ed Stetzer says later in the article, “Church planting is slowing, and the number of closures is growing.” To remedy this problem, the church needs a rebirth of what I call missional-pastoral leadership

Missional-pastoral leadership believes that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, who was made visible in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, is a missionary. These pastors equip their congregations to believe that the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit burns with an eternal passion to redeem and restore all of creation. God’s eternal purpose is realized through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. The apostle Paul, a missional-pastoral leader, says it this way: “He made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he purposed in Christ as a plan for the right time—to bring everything together in Christ, both things in heaven and things on earth in him” (Eph. 1:9–10). 

1. Missional-pastoral leaders are intoxicated with Jesus

Doxology is the fragrance of their souls (Eph. 1:3–14). The mercy of God is always in their sights, drawing them to greater intimacy with Jesus and compelling them to mission with Jesus (Rom 12:1–2; 2 Cor 5:14). When pastors are intoxicated with Jesus, often their congregations will be inebriated on Christ and his mission. A love-intoxicated congregation is a magnet to loss people. 

2. Missional-pastoral leaders are gospel-shaped.

The gospel is a royal announcement that Jesus of Nazareth is the true Lord of the cosmos. Jesus was vindicated by his resurrection from the dead. The gospel of God creates a forgiven, redeemed, righteous, reconciled, multiethnic family of oneness, fulfilling God’s covenant with Abraham (Gal. 3:8; 28–29). When the good news animates a pastor’s life, they have the potential to form churches that are filled with good-news people. Lesslie Newbigin writes in The Gospel in a Pluralist Society, “The only hermeneutic of the gospel is a congregation of men and women who believe it and live by it.”

3. Missional-pastoral leaders are spiritually formed

They have a beautiful burden, a hunger to be formed into the image of Christ (Gal. 4:19). By faith, they clothe themselves in Christ and walk in the Spirit’s power, embodying the holiness of Christ, which is a life of loving God, self and neighbor (Matt. 22:37–39). Spiritually formed pastors are loving, healthy, humble servants that reproduce themselves in their congregation. Loving, healthy and humble congregations are a missional presence and healing balm to their community. 

4. Missional-pastoral leaders are evangelistic

If I am not being an evangelistic presence in my community, how I can expect the people God has entrusted to me to be evangelistic. I go weekly to a local coffee shop, and before I go in I pray, Holy Spirit, bring people to me that do not know Jesus. Over the years, scores of people have come to know Jesus over a cup of coffee. And hundreds have had gospel seeds sown into their souls. 

Every follower of Jesus is an everyday missionary. Missionaries are people who are in love with Jesus and who want others to love him.

5. Missional-pastoral leaders are justice-seekers.

Along with Jesus, they “hunger and thirst for righteousness” (Matt. 5:6). The Greek word dikaiosúnē is translated, ‘righteous or justice.’ In the incarnation, Jesus embodied the healing justice of God. In an ugly, decaying world, he arrived personifying God’s holy love. Jesus’ life was God’s way of righting the world. Now the redeemed, who are indwelt by Jesus, participate in his redemptive justice as world-healing agents of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:18–21).

6. Missional-pastoral leaders are hopeful.

They are hopefully because Jesus’ cross is still bloody, and his tomb is still empty. They know that no matter how bad it gets, God is going to fulfill his redemptive purposes. Hopeful pastors create churches full of hope dealers. A nihilistic, hopeless culture is attracted to hopeful people: “For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering.” (Rom. 8:22–23)

In the power of the Holy Spirit, through his tenacious work of grace, you and I can become missional-pastoral leaders. Lead well my friend. The church needs you.