Recently a Pastoral Ministry Intern asked me to share five things that I had learned, in my experience, about pastoral ministry. Here are five of what I think are the most important things that God has shown me about pastoral ministry.
- The Importance of Authenticity (Godly Character) — I have learned that I am only good for pastoral ministry to the degree that I am willing to be authentic with myself, with God, and with others. This is huge. I need to be willing to be honest with myself about my own spiritual, emotional, and physical health in relation to God and others. I need to be self-aware in relation to the truth of the Word of God in how it is impacting my own life. My emotional well-being is critical. Emotional health is dependent upon an honest relationship with God through the Word and prayer. It inevitably also involves my relationship with those who are close to me — my wife and family, my friends, others in the body of Christ, and people with whom I work. I need to be conscious of how I am growing in my relationship with God. Being a follower of Jesus must be real in my daily life. I need to know that I am walking close to Jesus, that He is pleased with all that is going on in my life, that I am bearing fruit for His glory. I must know how to balance time in service with the care of my own soul.
- The Importance of Vision (Prophet) — I have learned that “where there is no vision, the people perish (KJV) or cast off restraint “ (ASB) — Proverbs 29:18. Vision is foundational to pastoral ministry. I have learned that this is what preaching, and divine guidance for the congregation is all about. It is the responsibility of the pastor to be a kind of “seer” or “prophet” for the congregation. I have learned that it is important for the pastor to have a good all-encompassing understanding of what he is seeking to accomplish in the life of the congregation. This need not be some mysterious thing. It usually comes through spending a good deal of time in prayer and in meditating on the Word. It is something borne of the Spirit of God. It may also involve learning from other Christians, deeper study of theological truth, and also practical aspects of leadership within the context of church ministry. Vision is usually a biblical summation, in a few words, of what one believes God has in mind for His church over the long haul. Vision is what drives the mission of the church, where it puts its energies and resources, and how a pastor communicates with the congregation through preaching, teaching, and in other ways.
- The Importance of Pastoral Care (Priest) — I have learned that since a pastor is really a shepherd in relation to people, his first responsibility is to be able to effectively care for the one’s that God has entrusted to his care. Jesus gave himself in ministry to people. He was deeply moved with a heart of compassion because they appeared to him as “sheep without a shepherd.” Pastoral ministry is really all about loving people the way God loves the world, and the way Jesus demonstrated His love for people. I have learned that it is really important for the pastor to like people; he must enjoy spending time with them. He must see them like God sees them, their beauty, potential, and the contribution each can make to life, especially as they have a living relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ. One of the priorities in this regard, I think, is for the pastor to learn to be a good listener. A pastor needs to tune his heart to truly hear the heart-cry of the people he serves. He needs to be a counsellor and priest — one willing to offer help through prayer, wisdom, and referral. He has to be willing to be there for people when they go through crisis, or various rites of passage.
- The Importance of Administrative Leadership (Leader) — In Ephesians 4:11, 12, we read that God has given special gifts to the church (including pastors/teacher) for the equipping of the saints to do the work of the ministry that the body of Christ might be built up, strengthened, enlarged, empowered, etc. I have concluded that one of my primary roles as a pastor, is to make disciples through recruitment, training, equipping, and seeing them placed in effective ministry based on the spiritual gifts they have been given. Administrative leadership, I believe, is all about ensuring that the right people are serving in the right roles and developing ministry teams of their own in that context. A large part of pastoral ministry has to do with meeting individuals and teams to help them with ministry development. It means seeking to encourage through vision clarity, through providing resources, and through positive accountability. It is the only effective way in which the ministry of the church can be multiplied. This vital ministry begins with the selection of elders to assist in leading the church and giving oversight to its development. I think the individual and team relationship that the pastor has with the elders and/or his staff is the most important. Developing ministry teams is one of the most complex and challenging aspects of pastoral ministry. But if it’s done well, it is exceedingly rewarding.
- The Importance of Kingdom Expansion (Evangelist) — Just as Jesus’ mandate was to bring salvation to the world and to establish the Kingdom of God, so it is, I have learned, that it is the huge calling of the pastor to ensure that the church is ever reaching out with the message and mission of the Gospel. The pastor must constantly be thinking about the fact that there are vast numbers of people in the community, the city, and the world, who are desperately in need of Jesus’ eternal salvation. The pastor needs not only to have the heart of an evangelist, but needs to constantly be pursuing those means by which it is possible to be fruitful in seeking kingdom expansion and the building of the church. For one thing, the pastor needs to know the power and ministry of the Holy Spirit in and through his life. But I also believe he needs to to know how best to communicate the Gospel, with relevance, in the cultural context of his time and place. Through prayer and various sanctified educational resources, I think the pastor has to be a strategist on how best to effectively see the Gospel penetrate the hearts and minds of the people in the community. In obedience to Christ, and like Him, he constantly has to be thinking in terms of mission locally and around the world.