Lessons from Pastoring
Important Lessons from 25 Years of Pastoring
Recently I was asked to speak to a church staff of about 30 on the most important lessons I have learned in 25 years of pastoring. Here are some of my notes from that talk:
1. The best thing you can give your church is a spiritually-alive pastor; therefore, do whatever it takes to stay spiritually healthy.
It is our job to keep our walk with God strong and vibrant. The best example we have is our love relationship with Jesus. We have the privilege of getting paid to seek the Lord. We must take advantage of this opportunity, and do everything we can to grow in the Lord. If you find yourself spiritually dry, and need some time away to seek the Lord, do it! There is nothing more important you can do for yourself and your church than keeping your walk with God strong. This also insures that your ministry be an overflow of your relationship with God.
2. Be aware of your fatal flaw, and make sure it doesn’t get the best of you.
We all have at least one area of vulnerability or “besetting sin” (Hebr. 12:1) in our life. Like with Paul’s thorn in the flesh (2 Cor. 12), the Lord may not completely remove it, but use it to keep us dependent on Him. However, if we blow it, this area could cost us our ministry. Don’t let this happen. Too many lives are at stake.
3. Don’t sacrifice your family on the altar of ministry.
Too many pastors have served the church at the expense of their family. We have a lot of flexibility with our schedules, and can actually use this flexibility in a way that benefits our family. Be at your child’s soccer game in the middle of the day; schedule a getaway during the week; and do breakfast or lunch dates with your kids when other dads are at work. My biggest fear (and I hope it stays my biggest fear) is that I would be successful in ministry but a failure at home.
4. Get your identity from who you are in Christ and not from your ministry performance or title.
If you are joyful only when the church is going well, and down when the church is doing poorly, it might indicate your identity is too wrapped up in your job. We must know who we are in Christ. This security and significance in Christ cannot be taken away and is not dependent on our ministry performance.
5. Minister as a team; it’s biblical, easier and more fun.
A pastor is to equip the saints for works of service (Eph. 4). This means he is not to do all the ministry himself. He is to train others to do ministry. He is to delegate and give away the ministry. In addition, he is to minister alongside others. We need others around us. It is dangerous to do ministry alone. God designed the body where every member is equally important. When you minister with a team you enjoy, it is so much fun.
Tips for Teams:
a. Value every member.
b. Affirm each other.
c. Know your role and don’t try to do others’ role.
d. Submit to authority and trust God to change them.
e. Speak the truth in love.
f. Defend one another.
g. Be clear on the vision and support it.
h. Don’t talk about others behind their back.
i. Believe the best in others and give them the benefit of the doubt.
6. The Word and the Spirit is the double barrel shotgun of ministry.
We need the Word for truth and the Spirit for power. The Word without the Spirit equals “dry up”; the Spirit without the Word equals “blow up”; but the Word with the Spirit equals “grow up”! “I came not with persuasive words of wisdom, but with the demonstrate of the Spirit and power, that man’s faith might not rest in the wisdom of man, but in the power of God” (1 Cor. 2:4-5).
7. Don’t forget who the real enemy is.
Our battle is not against flesh and blood (Eph. 6:10). Our enemy is not the deacon board, our spouse, nor our chief credit. Our real enemy is Satan, and he can be defeated as we submit to God, resist the Devil, and stand firm in the faith (Jas. 4:7; 1 Pe. 5:8).
8. The church is still the hope of the world, and Jesus is still her Head.
The church is the hands and feet of Jesus. His body is His method of accomplishing His will. Because Jesus is so committed to His kingdom and His Bride (i.e. church), we can be confident that He will continue to change lives and build His church. Never forget that Jesus is more concerned about the welfare of His church than we are. Remembering that Jesus is the Head of the church (and not me) helps me to sleep well at night.
9. Discipleship is one of the most eternal investments we can make.
Jesus gave his primary ministry effort to just 12 men! If His top priority was discipling a small group of men, should ours be any different? I made a commitment two years ago to disciple a small group of men every year for the rest of my life. For men to be in my discipleship group, I require them to make this same commitment. “The things you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful me, who will be able to teach others also” (2 Tim. 2:2).
10.God’s power can change anyone.
One of the greatest joys in ministry is seeing lives changed. We all know this is accomplished only by the power of the Holy Spirit! Recently I witnessed the former faculty advisor for the atheist club at the University of Georgia get saved! If ever I doubt God’s ability to change someone (or something in my life), I will think of how this man has been changed by the power of God!