David Prince has written an encouraging post for those of us in ministry. “Pastor, Keep Preaching the Gospel!” reminds us to stay faithful to our task.
Category Archives: Ministry
Some years ago, I came across a writer who insisted that all successful pastors matched a certain profile. Much of it related to personality and leadership style. It left me with the feeling that I didn’t measure up. I wondered why God called me to a task but did not equip me with the gifts, personality, and leadership style needed to be successful.
I greatly appreciated the statement made by Pastor Scott Patty in his essay, “My Church Has Outgrown My Gifts” in the book, Faithful Endurance: The Joy of Shepherding People for a Lifetime, edited by Collin Hansen & Jeff Robinson Sr.
We often assume that to be effective in ministry, we must have a certain personality type or work with a specific leadership style. But is that really true? Does God make all pastors alike in personality and leadership style? Jesus didn’t choose apostles who were all alike. Church history doesn’t show one ideal pastoral type that was most effective. We need wisdom to see that God calls and equips different kinds of pastors with various leadership styles because there are many types of people in the world and in the church. People respond differently to different pastors. Particular situations call for unique pastors. Knowing this reality will help us get our expectations under control and may lead us to see that we really don’t have a problem after all. We can lead our congregation as we are because we may be exactly what our congregation needs.
I find great encouragement in his words.
The book, Faithful Endurance: The Joy of Shepherding People for a Lifetime, is written to encourage pastors about different aspects of ministry. Each chapter begins with a fictional letter written by a pastor asking a question about an issue or problem in his ministry. One chapter, penned by Pastor John Starke, deals with the issue of burnout. It is entitled, “I’m Feeling Tired, Word Out, and in Need of a Break.” I appreciated what he had to say about God’s acts of creation in Genesis 1 and his institution of the sabbath.
Have you ever watched people (maybe yourself) try to do too much? They never stop, they never rest, and you say something like, “You’re trying to be like God!” It’s true that they aren’t living within their human limitations. But it isn’t God they’re trying to be like. In fact, God himself tells us to model our work and our rest after him. Eugene Peterson explains that if we are made in his image, we will want to watch his creation week closely.
Notice in Genesis 1 that God didn’t pile all his work into one day. He could have, but instead he took it one day at a time. First, he made the sun and moon, night and day. That was a good first day. He stood back, like an artist from this work and said, “It’s good.” The second day he separated the water from the land. He again made note of the goodness. The third day was plant life. It was good. The fourth day he made the stars and shaped the light to create seasons. The fifth day was flying birds and swimming creatures. The sixth was animals and his final crowing achievement, man. It was all good, he said. Very good.
God wasn’t in a hurry, but he never procrastinated. Have you ever noticed that Jesus acted this way during his earthly ministry? He healed lines of people, but then at some point in the day, he stopped, rested, prayed, and ate. He left many needs unaddressed. Jesus was never in a hurry, and Jesus never procrastinated. When we are in a hurry and never rest, it isn’t God we are acting like.
“Watch me,” God says. He worked six days and rested. You think he was tired when he rested? No. If God rested even though he wasn’t tired, and if he asks his image bearers to rest like he rested, do you think maybe there’s a deeper reason for rest than mere exhaustion?
Look at the pattern in Genesis 1. God created man on the sixth day, rested on the seventh, and some time after that, commissioned us to work. The first act of man was not work but a participation in rest.
Pastor, you are made in the image of God. When you work, watch God. Be holy as your Father in heaven is holy. He worked six days and rested. Yes, we are free from the law, but we are not free from the command to be like him.
Good words to live by and practice. Maybe it’s time to plan a nap. 😉
Like any aspiring seminarian, I graduated 35 years ago with visions of greatness. I would be a pastor, a professor, write best selling books, be invited to speak in chapel and conferences, and train thousands. While God has certainly used me over the years, most of those dreams have gone unfulfilled.
I’ve had to learn that success is measured by faithfulness rather than numbers. Rather than comparing myself to the pastor/church down the street, I’ve needed to focus on using all my gifts for God’s glory. Instead of listening for the applause of the crowd, I’ve needed to turn my ear to listen to the audience of One.
In the book, Faithful Endurance: The Joy of Shepherding People for a Lifetime, Pastor Mark McCullough penned a chapter entitled, “Does Staying in a Small Rural Church Make Me a Failure?” He made a number of statements that I could identify with.
Your question, as I understand it, is, How can we be filled with joyful contentment in pastoral ministry even when our setting is one of anonymity and obscurity?
…few of us called to ministry will ever be famous. And many—if not most—of us will labor our whole lives in settings where no one outside our churches will ever know our names.
It has been my experience that we can overflow with joy and contentment in all circumstances if we simply abandon the futile effort to seek contentment through “being known by others” and focus instead on three superior joys.
The first—and most important—key to contentment is to focus on the irrepressible joy found in knowing God and being known by him… Wanting to be noticed by others and wanting others to make much of us and meet our needs are a prescription for pastoral frustration.
Another key for contentment in quiet, out-of-the-way ministry settings is the joy of making God known in the place where he has planted us.
The final key God has used to sustain contentment in my obscure ministry setting is the joy found in knowing others… really knowing, loving, and caring for others, especially the people we’re privilege to shepherd.
Lord, help me to be faithful and to seek to please you.
Book Review: Leading Small Groups: How to Gather, Launch, Lead, and Multiply your Small Group, by Chris Surratt
Chris Surratt, Discipleship and Small Groups Specialist for LifeWay Christian Resources, believes that small groups play a vital role in helping lay the foundation for taking the gospel to the ends of the earth. He was written a basic primer to help small group leaders create environments where spiritual growth can take place and communities changed.
In explaining the purpose of his book, the author says,
This book is written and designed to take you through the journey of building your own small group. That group could be in your home, a neighborhood clubhouse, a break room at work, or a classroom at the church. The location does not matter; what matters is what takes place inside it.
There will be practical tips you can use immediately as you start your new small group or look to make your current group experience better. Every chapter will end with a set of questions to answer as you work through that step of the journey. I would suggest returning to this book as you walk through the different stages of your small group. There are a few things you will need to know from the beginning, and the rest will become more necessary while “on the job.”
The book is divided into four parts. Section I focuses on Gathering your Small Group. The author defines what a small group leader is and does, how to create biblical community, and how to prepare. Section II deals with Launching your Small Group. It includes recruiting and advertising and kicking the group off right. Section III gets into Leading your Small Group. It explains how to facilitate a group meeting, showing biblical hospitality, practicing genuine authenticity, developing service, being on mission, and developing a Bible study. Section IV discusses Multiplying your Small Group. It discusses how to keep the group healthy and growing and how to stay healthy as a leader. The author includes a number of resources and ideas in the Appendix.
Disclosure: I received this book free from B&H Publishing through the B&H/Lifeway Bloggers program http://www.bhbloggers.com/. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.
Pastor Jeremy Writebol has written an insightful post encouraging pastors and church members to say faithful to their churches and ministries. In his post, “In Praise of Faithful Endurance,” he begins by saying,
“I can do this all day.”
I love how Captain America says that with a bloodied lip and bruised cheek. And as he gets back up, dusts himself off, and pulls the straps of his shield tighter around his arm he jumps back into battle, never willing to give up.
The ethos behind this kind of endurance is rare among us today, especially in the church. Too often, many churches are like revolving doors: people come in, stay a while, find something that bothers them, and then move along to the next church.
I don’t say that to pass blame. There are many good reasons to leave one church and find another. Nor do I intend to say that this problem only exists among non-staff members. However, ministry does require resolve, and those who are in it for the long haul encourage others to faithfully endure.
Click on the link to read the rest of his thoughts.
His post reminded of two men that I served with. Dr. R. Kent Hughes, one of my mentors, was in pastoral ministry for over 40 years, 27 of those years at College Church in Wheaton, IL. I was on staff at College Church from 1986-89. Kent now teaches at Westminster Theological Seminary in Glenside, PA. During my time in Russia, I joined John & Naomi Musgrave in watching a live stream of Jerry Mitchell’s final sermon at Crossroads Bible Church in Bellevue, WA. Jerry retired after 38+ years at the church. I was on staff at Crossroads from 1990-2004.
I have now been a pastor for 33 years. Articles like the one I quoted and men like Kent and Jerry encourage me to keep going. As Writebol says in closing his post, “May we all be long-haul, faithful believers for the sake of the name of Jesus!”
Some time back, one individual questioned why I was going to Russia. They said that short-term ministry trips were “a boondoggle.” “They are a waste of time and money. Why don’t you make a video and send that instead of going yourself?”
Yes, it is expensive for me to go to Russia once a year to teach. Yes, it takes up two weeks of my time. Yes, it pulls me away from home. Yes, I have to raise the funds in order to go. Yes, I am not 20 or 30 years old anymore and it takes longer for me to bounce back from jet lag. Yes, I could send a DVD or teach via Skype or Face Time.
But there is no substitute for being present. There is no substitute from sitting across the table and sharing a meal and listening to a Russian pastor or church elder share about the challenges of ministry. There is no substitute for laying your hands on their shoulders and praying for them specifically. There is no substitute for putting your hand on a church leaders’ shoulder and saying you understand what they are going through and looking them in the eye and sharing what God taught you through similar circumstances. There is no substitute for living with them for a week or two and identifying with their challenges.
As Westerners, we pride ourselves on being “efficient” and “effective.” We want to do things as quick and cheap as possible. But you cannot put a price tag on the ministry of presence, of showing up, and being “with you.” The ministry of presence is priceless.
Yes, it is expensive for me to go to Russia once a year to teach. It costs time, money, and wear and tear on my body. But it is well worth the cost. And I will gladly pay it again.
Philippians 2:17 – “Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all.”