The Pastor and Personal Holiness

“My people’s greatest need is my personal holiness.” So wrote Robert Murray M’Cheyne (1813-1843), an influential Scottish pastor of his time. If you were to survey pastors today and ask them this simple question: “what do you think the greatest need of your congregation is?” I suspect you would get a whole host of different answers, and few would have anything to do with personal holiness.

Admittedly, it is tough to write on a subject such as personal holiness. I know my own sins better than anyone else. I often find myself returning to the words of Paul to his young apprentice, Timothy.  The pastoral epistles (1 and 2 Timothy, Titus) are a goldmine of rich instruction, especially for young ministers. The last verse of 1 Timothy 4 is one such example. “Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching.  Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.” (1 Timothy 4:16) Another example is 2 Timothy 2:22, which says, “flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord with a pure heart.”

Being a Dad, my kids are quick to point out when they see me teaching something or correcting them for something I don’t actually do myself. In all reality, I am going to be a much better Dad if my life actually aligns with my teaching. Maybe you have heard the saying, “do as I say but not as I do” before. We can chuckle at that, but if that is what we are advocating in our parenting or in our pastoring, then we have a serious problem. When a pastor is humble and striving for holiness, there is a much better chance his people will actually listen to him. On the other hand, when his lifestyle does not match his teaching, there is a good chance his people will tune him out.

Kevin DeYoung is right when he says, “My congregation needs me to be humble before they need me to be smart.  They need me to be honest more than they need me to be a dynamic leader.  They need me to be teachable more than they need me to teach at conferences.” No doubt pastors face a lot of pressure.  There are a number of different expectations that keep pastors busy these days.  My recommendation is place one expectation on yourself that trumps all others – a commitment to personal holiness. Before you can effectively “make disciples,” you must be a disciple. If you fail to walk closely with the Lord and “keep in step with the Spirit,” (Galatians 5:25) you will soon lose your ability to minister to others.  No pastor wants that, and no church wants that for their pastor.

What a great reminder this is from Mr. M’Cheyne. As Pastors we ought to be committed to preaching the Word, loving the people, being men of prayer, and training and discipling new believers. But if we desire to have a fruitful and effective ministry, then it must start with our own personal holiness. Integrity, godliness, and holiness of life serve as the foundation for all spiritual leadership (1 Timothy 3:1-7). If we get sloppy and try to cut corners and neglect our own walk with the Lord, we are bound for trouble. We may even find ourselves disqualified from leadership. This has happened countless times and it often has a devasting effect on the pastor’s family and his church.

Pastoral ministry is a high calling – a very high calling! We must constantly pray for the grace of God while at the same time keep in mind that our aim is to please the one who enlisted us, the Lord Jesus Christ (2 Timothy 2:3). If He has truly called you, He will give you the moral integrity and the grace you need to be about the care of souls. “He who calls you is faithful; He will surely do it” (1 Thessalonians 5:24). Glory be to God!

Questions to Ask About Political Candidates

Part 1:  Does this candidate have:

1. Integrity?

Integrity is a consistency of actions, values, methods, measures and principles. Keep in mind that it should be biblical values that are the foundation for such consistency. As we read in Psalm 78:72, “And David shepherded them with integrity of heart; with skillful hands he led them.”

2. Humility?

Humility is the opposite of pride. It is not thinking better of ourselves than we should. James writes, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6) Ask: is this candidate a humble servant leader?

3. Good judgment and discernment?

Will this person make good decisions?  Will this leader seek godly counsel? Solomon is a great example of a leader who had discernment. 1 Kings 3:11-12 reads, “And God said to him, because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches or the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, behold, I now do according to your word. Behold, I give you a wise and discerning mind, so that none like you has been before you and none like you shall arise after you.”

4. A godly vision?

Proverbs 29:18 “Where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained. But happy is he who keeps the law.” Ask: what is this candidate’s vision? Is it a godly vision?

Part 2:  What is the candidate’s position on:

1. Abortion, homosexuality, and other moral/ethical issues?

Scripture is very clear on this – God values the sanctity of life and marriage is between one man and one woman. In Genesis 2:24 we read, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife and they shall become one flesh.” To not take a biblical stance on these important ethical issues is very revealing about the character of the candidate.

2. Stewardship of our resources?

Stewardship is the responsibility of taking care of another person’s property or financial affairs. Certainly, there is a stewardship involved in being a politician. We must ask; will this candidate be a good steward of what he has been entrusted with?

3. The Family?

From the very beginning, this earliest of social institutions was given by God and valued by God’s people. Today the family is under attack from every imaginable direction. Ask; is this candidate going to support the family? The saying holds true: As the family goes – so goes the nation.

4. Issues of Race relations?

Some think this is not an issue these days. The civil rights movement happened over 40 years ago and now we are a civilized society, right? Unfortunately, racism is alive and well today. Once again, the Bible is clear on this matter. “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28)

Let’s not be naïve enough to think that one of the candidates will be able to answer these questions exactly the way you want them to. In any election, there are two sinners (or three or four) running for office. Neither one is perfect. But let’s not go the other way and say that since no one is perfect, I won’t critique the candidates from a biblical perspective. Lastly, put your hope in Jesus and his Kingdom (Matthew 6:33). Every time you put your hope in man, you are setting yourself up for disappointment.