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David King: “10 Points on Pastoral Ministry”

10 Points on Pastoral Ministry

by David King



1.  Get as much help as you can as early as you can for as long as you can.

One of the things I lament most in ministry is having had so little practical instruction early on from older, wiser, experienced pastors.  The help I did receive proved invaluable to me, so I can only imagine the benefit of having received more.  Thankfully, churches tend to be merciful toward younger pastors, and God is merciful too.  Still, I can’t recommend strongly enough the need to find mentors early in your ministry; to look for internships and associate positions as you get started; and, when you find yourself in the role of senior pastor, to gather some godly men around you and listen to them.

2.  Don’t be naive.

Did you know the word naive isn’t in the dictionary?  Seriously.  Look it up.  If you’re reaching for a dictionary right now, please keep reading.  I have been naive in my ministry, and it has cost me.  There was a time when I believed that if I could teach the Bible clearly enough and be kind enough, that everything would go well in the church.  Don’t make that mistake.  Regardless of the gifts and fruit of the Spirit in your life, people will still disagree with you, sometimes immovably, sometimes sinfully.  The cure for naivete is found in your systematic theology under the chapter titled “The Doctrine of Man.”  Now that’s something you really ought to look up.

3.  Fear God more than man.

If you fear people, you will be a bad pastor.  What’s worse, you’ll be a bad pastor who probably thinks of himself as a really nice guy.  Here are some fear-of-man diagnostics that should cause your check engine light to come on:

-  wanting everyone to like you;

-  being anxious about how people will react to what you say or do;

-  desiring the whole church to be happy;

-  having a hard time saying no to anyone;

-  avoiding difficult conversations and difficult people;

-  being distraught when a person disagrees or expresses displeasure;

-  being elated when people praise you.

The fear of man is an idolatry of self.  The idol is toppled through confession of sin and petition for the Spirit’s help; through remembering your responsibility as an under-shepherd of the Lord Jesus Christ; and by doing the next hard thing, no matter how small it may seem. Don’t rest until your actions show that you care even more about God than people.

4.  Enjoy people.

Someone once said that ministry would be easy if it weren’t for the people.  True!  But flawed though they are (and we pastors too), one of the ways to love them is to enjoy them.  People liked the movie Cars not in spite of the quirky personalities in Radiator Springs but because of them.  The church is similar.  You’ve got slow talkers and fast talkers, nerds and hipsters, engineers and artists, criers and jokesters, and more.  Appreciate the differences.  Laugh at the oddities, including your own.  Don’t be so righteous that you can’t enjoy people.  As with the previous point, the fear of God is key (Eccl 7:16-18).

5.  Ditch the God-family-church pie chart.

Pastors are fond of saying that God is first priority, family second, and church third.  That’s accurate in spirit, yet completely impractical with regard to time management.  Is your quiet time supposed to be longer than the time you spend with family?  Are you being unfaithful to your family if you spend more waking hours at the church than with them?  The God-family-church pie chart doesn’t work, mainly because faithfulness to family and church isn’t distinct from faithfulness to God.  A better approach, a wise pastor once taught me, is to ask regularly, Am I being faithful to my family?  Am I being faithful to the church?  Your wife can help you answer the first question; godly church members the second.  And don’t believe the lie that faithfulness to both is impossible.

6.  Trust God to work through the simple preaching and teaching of his word over time.

The church won’t be formed into the image of Christ by virtue of your winsome personality, your exceptional gifts, or your well-reasoned plans (as helpful as all those things may be).  To think otherwise is to misunderstand how God uses pastors.  We are heralds, sowers, ambassadors, stewards, shepherds, workmen.  John Stott once observed that all of these Scriptural images emphasize the “givenness” of the message with which we are entrusted.  So give that message to the people!  Give it to them simple and steady, week-in and week-out, month-in and month-out, year-in and year-out, and watch God work.  The cumulative effect may astonish you.  Not that your people will remember many of your messages – they won’t.  But neither do they remember many of the meals they’ve been served over the years.  In time, though, it becomes clear whether they have been well-fed.  So feed them, and trust God.  Then do it again.  And again.  “Sanctify them in the truth,” Jesus said, “your word is truth” (John 17:17).

7.  Resist ministerial lust.

Comparing yourself to other pastors or your church to other churches has always been a problem (2 Cor 10:12).  The advent of the internet and social media has only made the temptation worse.  On virtually any day of the week your Twitter feed, your Facebook timeline, or your favorite blogs will reference something that could arouse envy.  Take a deep breath and remember that despite all the positive things people say about their church, they deal with negative realities too, just like you.  The only perfect church will be in heaven.  Learn this lesson, or be eaten alive by ministerial lust for something better than what you have.  Besides, you don’t know how your obscure but faithful work will be used by God to affect the course of history.  You may in fact be as pivotal as the 20th Maine at Gettysburg, charged with holding a wooded hill called Little Round Top.  These men weren’t fighting on the main field of battle for all to see, yet if they had failed in their task the Union army would have been flanked.  The entire battle depended on them holding their unseen but vital position.  Pastor, be assured that your work is just as important.  Fix your bayonet, and hold that ground for the kingdom.

8.  Brace yourself for rigorous but rewarding work.

Speaking of Twitter, Ray Ortland once tweeted:  “My spirit was not at rest” (2 Cor 2:13).  “Our bodies had no rest” (2 Cor 7:5).  Serving Jesus costs at every level.  Okay.  Okay, as in, go into the ministry with eyes wide open.  Some ministries are harder than others, no doubt, but no faithful ministry will be easy.  Faithful ministry necessitates getting close to people, and that can be a really messy business.  And yet, seeing lost people saved and saved people growing will be some of the most rewarding labor of your entire life.

9.  Consider unreached areas.

The whole earth is a plane ticket away.  Keep that in mind as you prepare for ministry.  Parts of the Northeastern, Northwestern, and Western United States are 2% or less evangelical.  These areas need vibrant gospel pastors and churches.  The 6000+ unreached people groups need them too.  Why not go?  Maybe not as your first assignment (see point #1), but the second one will do.  I know, I know, I know – God doesn’t call everybody to stray far from home.  Will you pray about going anyway?

10.  Keep your heart happy in the triune God and his glorious gospel.

Remain enthralled.  Stick your mouth down in the river of God’s grace and drink deeply.  Don’t allow your soul to shrivel.  If you fail on this point, one of two things will happen, maybe both: (a) your spiritual vitality will be replaced by lifeless methodology and empty professionalism, or (b) you’ll quit.  The glories of Father, Son, and Spirit are limitless, and you won’t find the bottom when exploring the depths of the gospel.  So go for it!  Read, meditate, pray, fast, enjoy God.  God wants to make you the kind of pastor who speaks of things he knows.

One Comment

  1. Scott says:

    Very good!
    “Fix your bayonet, and hold that ground for the kingdom.”
    “Stick your mouth down in the river of God’s grace and drink deeply. Don’t allow your soul to shrivel.”

    Thanks for posting this!

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