Hard to believe, but I have been in pastoral ministry for 6 years now. This has been a deeply gratifying and rewarding experience and I am grateful to God for His call upon my life. While in some ways I am still just a beginner and pray for many decades of fruitful ministry, there have been many lessons learned during my short tenure. Let me share just 6 with you.
1. The centrality of prayer.
Ministry makes huge demands upon the pastor and his family. There is always something more to do, and because of all the busyness, often the ministry of prayer gets skipped over. This is unfortunate and can be quite damaging to the success of the ministry. Therefore, the pastor must ensure that prayer is built into the daily rhythms of his life. It is also important to have organized times of corporate prayer, such as a weekly prayer meeting. Along with this, I am thankful for a church that I know holds my family up in prayer and other friends and family member that do the same. I have learned (and continue to learn) that ministry is war and if you are not covered in prayer, the enemy will walk all over you.
2. People grow through the Word of God.
Let me give you a little formula – growth happens in the Body of Christ as the Word of God is applied to the people of God through the agency of the Spirit of God. Let me say it again – people grow through the Word of God! It took me a while to realize this, but it is so critical to understand this. I see pastors all the time relying on gimmicks and programs and more gimmicks – things that promise to “pump out” disciples that in the end only disappoint. Shepherds must ensure that their flock is well nourished so that they will be healthy, strong, and effective in their walk with the Lord.
3. The need for patience and perseverance.
I grew up on a farm and I know the importance of patience when it comes to sowing and reaping. The farmer plants his crop in the spring, but has to wait several months until the fall to harvest it. If people grow through the Word of God (and they do) then it will require patience over the long haul. Most pastors are aware of all the massive church growth stories but we have to remember that they are not the norm. Pastors must commit themselves to diligently and faithfully teaching the Word of God year after year after year. In time, there will be an abundant harvest, but it takes patience and perseverance. In between the sowing and reaping, there will be times of trial, disappointment, setbacks, and who knows what else, but be faithful, be diligent, and persevere in the strength that only Christ can provide. And remember the words of Paul: “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth” (1 Corinthians 3:6).
4.The importance of one-to-one discipling relationships.
I love the story of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8. If you are not familiar with this story, I would encourage you to study it on your own, but essentially, when Philip found the eunuch reading Isaiah 53, he asked, “Do you understand what you are reading? And he said, ‘How can I unless someone guides me?’ ….Then beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus” (Acts 8:30-31, 35). Although this was more of an evangelistic encounter, there is no question the church needs a lot more of this today. And it all starts with pastors. The pastor must set the tone when it comes to mentoring and discipling relationships in the church. This sets in motion what could be called the multiplication process where disciples make more disciples. Paul wrote to Timothy, “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:2). The pastor can’t disciple everyone, but he can train a few who will train a few, etc. etc.
5.The Church needs to be the Church.
What is a healthy church? I suppose there are a few ways of answering this question, but one indispensable quality of a healthy church is love among the brethren (Galatians 6:9-10 and John 13:34-35). Plain and simple, within a healthy church, people care for one another, serve one another, love one another, etc. etc. and this is all done because we love Jesus. When we begin to understand the love of God in Christ that has been showered upon us, we can’t help but love one another. This is one of the reasons I love the church. Seeing love in action is a beautiful thing and I can’t imagine ever not being part of a local body of believers.
6.What a valuable asset my wife is.
Steph is my most trusted friend and counselor and has been an immense help to me in ministry. Pastors (and husbands in general) thank God for your wife and treasurer her, for she is an incalculable blessing.
As you can tell, there is nothing revolutionary about this list. Some of these were not so much “lessons” as they were prior beliefs that have now become strong convictions based on my experience and study of the Word.