I love pastors. Each week, through this blog and my personal ministry, God allows me to partner with dozens of pastors, helping them think through life and ministry issues. I’ve learned that many pastors struggle to find people who will invest in them and help them grow as individuals, leaders and pastors.
Recently I had a pastor ask me for my “best advice” for other pastors. Wow! That’s hard to say. I’ve learned so much through the pastors who have invested in me and by experience. It’s hard to summarize all that I’ve learned. It could probably fill a book or two…but at least more than one blog post!
I put some thought into the question and decided to come up with a list of encouragement, one that I would give to all pastors, to answer his question. I’m sure there’s more (and you can help by adding yours), but this post is at least a start. Of course, wisdom is transferable to other fields, so change a few words around and I’d give this advice to any leader…some of them perhaps to any person.
1. Build Trustworthy Friendships
One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. - Proverbs 18:24
Choose your friends wisely… but choose friends. Don’t attempt to lead alone. Too many pastors avoid close friendships because they’ve been hurt. They trusted someone with information who used it against them. Finding friends you can trust and be real with means you’ll sometimes get injured, but the reward is worth it.
2. Remember Your Family
"Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you." - Exodus 20:12
The church can never love your family as much as you do. Your family needs you more than the church does. They can get another pastor. Your family doesn’t want another you. You’ll have to learn to say “no,” learn how to balance and prioritize your time, and be willing to delegate to others in the church....
3. Remember to Rest
“Let God’s promises shine on your problems.” –Corrie ten Boom
If you protect your Sabbath day, your Sabbath day can better protect you. You’ll wear out quickly without a day a week to rejuvenate. God designed us this way. Take advantage of His provision. Take time to rest. You may not rest like everyone else… for me rest doesn’t mean doing nothing… but you need time away from the demands of ministry regularly. Lead your church to understand you can’t be everywhere every time. You owe it to yourself, your family, your church and your God.
4. Act Justly
“There is no one who is insignificant in the purpose of God.” – Alistair Begg
You have influence… use it well. The pastorate comes with tremendous power and responsibility. It’s easy to abuse or take for granted. Don’t act unjustly towards anyone. Be clean, clear and forthright in every situation. Humility welcomes the hand of God on your ministry. Don't get involved with anything that will grieve the Holy Spirit of God.
5. Fight Temptations Daily
“God never said that the journey would be easy, but He did say that the arrival would be worthwhile” – Max Lucado
No amount of accountability or structure will keep you from temptation if your heart is impure. Be pure towards the girls, gold and glories. Above all else, guard your heart. (Proverbs 4:23) Avoid any hint of temptation. Look for the warning signs your heart is drifting. Keep your heart saturated with God’s Word and in prayer.
6. Put God First
"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight." - Proverbs 3:5-6
Have a place to pray, commune and fellowship with Him regularly. Let God lead you in everything. You can do some things well. God can do the impossible. Whom do you think should ultimately be leading the church? You’ll be surprised how much more effective your leadership will be when it’s according to His will and not yours.
7. Dream Big
"If God is your partner, make your plans BIG!" –D.L. Moody
If you can dream it, God can dream it bigger. Don’t dismiss the seemingly ridiculous things God calls you to do. They won’t always make sense to others or meet their immediate approval, but God’s ways will prove best every time.
8. Practice Self-Care
"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." - Matthew 11:28
Develop yourself and invest in your personal development in ministry. Your personal spiritual health affects the health of the church. Take care of yourself relationally, ministerially, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. This, too, requires discipline, balance, and prioritizing, but if, to the best of your ability, you strive to be healthy in every area of your life, as a good shepherd, your people will be more likely to follow your example.
9. Always Be Honest
“Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies.” –Mother Teresa
Truthfulness and honesty in every area of your life will impact your ministry tremendously. The people in your church deserve authenticity. Not only will being honest about who you are help keep you from trying to meet unreal expectations, but it will help the people in your church be transparent with you and others. Don’t be someone you’re not. Be someone worthy to follow, but make sure you’re living it… not just teaching it.
10. Look Unto Jesus
“Life is wasted if we do not grasp the glory of the cross, cherish it for the treasure that it is, and cleave to it as the highest price of every pleasure and the deepest comfort in every pain. What was once foolishness to us—a crucified God—must become our wisdom and our power and our only boast in this world.” –John Piper
Your calling is to a person… Jesus. That means you are working for Jesus. You ultimately report to Jesus. It is the pleasure of Jesus you are seeking. There will be days your calling is challenged by others. You’ll be tempted to cave in to the pressure of those with the loudest voices. Don’t forget who holds the title to your life.
11. Sincerely Shepherd Gods Sheep
".....Feed the sheep which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers"... Acts 20:28
The sheep of the Lord needs committed, skillful and competent nurture and pasture today and always. So, if the good Lord had given you a church to lead, no matter how small or big, make sure you stay around to feed, tend, nurture and show empathy to the sheep of the Lord. Be a good under-shepherd of the Great Shepherd.
12. Don't do Ministry in Competition.
"Those who compare themselves with themselves are not wise"
Doing ministry in competition with others is simply forsaking Gods timetable for your life and work, and working according to the dictates of others. Callings, graces and areas of ministries are different from person to person. The measuring yardstick of God for ministry success is quite different, so why competing with others?