I will never forget a conversation I had with one of my seminary professors shortly before I graduated. I had already accepted a call to serve as pastor of a small rural church in Ohio and was eager to hear what he (a former pastor) had to say. I asked him, “what advice he would give to me, a young pastor, just starting off in ministry?” The simplicity of his answer blew me away – “Preach the Word and love the people.” Of course, he went on to say more, but that was a good summary of his advice.
Now, I need to tell you a little about my professor. He had earned two PhD’s, pastored a very large church, and was clearly a brilliant man. I guess when I asked him that question I was expecting more, something a little deeper and more profound. But now having spent 10 years in ministry, I see the wisdom of his answer. All too often, we pastors are tempted to jump on the latest bandwagon…..to follow the latest fad…..to employ the latest “grow your church quick” scheme. We forget that these fads are a lot like shooting stars. They come, they go, and before too long people forget about them.
My professor knew that pastoral ministry is really simpler that we think. It is not about always trying to be on the “cutting edge” and using all the latest church growth gimmicks. Rather, pastoring is all about being faithful to God’s call. And what has God called us to do? Well, you could summarize it in this way. “Preach the Word and love the people.” In the future, if a young pastor ever asks me for advice heading into ministry, I would answer in much the same way as my professor did. And while I have not always been successful in following this, his advice has been a great reminder to me to “keep the main thing the main thing” and to not let distractions get in the way.
Brothers, may we be faithful to our Master and Lord! Pray continually that God would give you a special love for your people and that He would equip you to preach the gospel and “rightly handle the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).
2 Timothy 4:1-2: I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: 2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.
1 Peter 5:1-4: So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed:2 shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; 3 not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. 4 And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.