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29 things that shape a pastor’s ministry
Because of what I do, I have heard church leaders, in moments of pastoral crisis, say to me many times, “We didn’t know the man we hired.”
But what does knowing the man mean? It means knowing the true condition of his heart (as far as that is possible).
- What does he really love?
- What does he despise?
- What are his hopes, dreams, and fears?
- What are the deep desires that fuel and shape the way he does ministry?
- What are the anxieties that have the potential to derail or paralyze him?
- How accurate is his view of himself?
- Is he open to the confrontation, critique, and encouragement of others?
- Is he committed to his own sanctification?
- Is he open about his own temptations, weaknesses, and failures?
- Is he ready to listen to and defer to the wisdom of others?
- Does he see pastoral ministry as a community project?
- Does he have a tender, nurturing heart?
- Is he warm and hospitable, a shepherd and champion to those who are suffering?
- What character qualities would his wife and children use to describe him?
- Does he sit under his own preaching?
- Is his heart broken and his conscience regularly grieved as he looks at himself in the mirror of the Word?
- How robust, consistent, joyful, and vibrant is his devotional life?
- Does his ministry to others flow out of the vibrancy of his devotional communion with the Lord?
- Does he hold himself to high standards, or is he willing to give way to mediocrity?
- Is he sensitive to the experiences and needs of those who ministry alongside of him?
- Is he one who incarnates the love and grace of the Redeemer?
- Does he overlook minor offenses?
- Is he ready and willing to forgive?
- Is he critical and judgmental?
- Is the public pastor a different person from the private husband and dad?
- Does he take care of his physical self?
- Does he numb himself with too much social media or television?
- If he said, “If only I had [ ],” what would fill in the blank?
- How successful has he been in pastoring the congregation that is his family?
You see, it is absolutely vital to remember this: A pastor’s ministry is never just shaped by his knowledge, experience, and skill. It is always also shaped by the true condition of his heart. In fact, if his heart is not in the right place, all of the knowledge and skill can actually function to make him dangerous.
Communion with Christ is key
A problem pastors face is the lack of a living, humble, needy, celebratory, worshipful, meditative communion with Christ. There can be all kinds of ministry knowledge and skill, but that might be divorced from a living communion with a living and ever-present Christ. All this knowledge, skill, and activity can be fueled by something other than love for Christ and a deep, abiding gratitude for the love of Christ. In fact, it can be shockingly impersonal. It can be about theological content, exegetical rightness, ecclesiastical commitments, and institutional advancement. It can be about preparing for the next sermon, getting the next meeting agenda straight, and filling the requisite leadership openings. It can be about budgets, strategic plans, and ministry partnerships.
None of these things is wrong in themselves. Many of them are essential. But they must never be ends in themselves. They must never be the engine that propels the vehicle. They must all be an expression of something deeper, and that something deeper must reside in the heart of the senior pastor. It must ignite and fuel his ministry at every level, and what ignites his ministry must ignite every aspect of his personal life as well.
Propelled by love
The pastor must be enthralled by, in awe of—can I say it, in love with—his Redeemer so that everything he thinks, desires, chooses, decides, says, and does is propelled by love for Christ and the security of rest in the love of Christ. He must be regularly exposed, humbled, assured, and given rest by the grace of his Redeemer. His heart needs to be tenderized day after day by his communion with Christ so that he becomes a tender, loving, patient, forgiving, encouraging, and giving servant leader. His meditation on Christ—his presence, his promises, and his provisions—must not be overwhelmed by his meditation on how to make his ministry work.
This post is adapted from Dangerous Calling: Confronting the Unique Challenges to Pastoral Ministry by Paul Tripp copyright © 2012. Used by permission of Crossway Books , a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187.