Pastor, Be a One Trick Pony

I’m sure you have probably have heard the phrase “one trick pony”. It pretty much describes someone who only has one joke, one skill, or one talent. They are not good at much else, but they have one thing in which they excel. In our world of the super powered CEO, many pastors feel the weight of being a counselor like Dr. Phil, a innovator like Steve Jobs, a shrewd financial business man like Warren Buffet, an intellectual apologist like Ravi Zacarhias, or a mega church pastor like….well take your pick. The pastoral ministry is an incredibly diverse profession in which at any moment you can be managing the church's budget, reading commentaries, leading a staff meeting, brainstorming new ministries, or praying with a mourning family. The pressure to be diverse in our skill sets can often feel overwhelming, because most of us are not prodigies in any one of these areas, let alone all of them.

The Only Hope for the World

If you are a pastor, I’ve got some encouraging news for you. You just need to be a one trick pony. You don’t need to be skilled in every possible area imaginable, you just need be skilled in one thing and one thing only – the Gospel of Jesus Christ. What your people need most from you is to be an expert at applying the Gospel of Jesus Christ into how you serve your people. Study the Gospel, treasure the Gospel, and understand its many facets as a diamond in the light. Then bring the truth of the Gospel into your peoples lives. As you preach, as you teach, as you counsel, as you manage, as you pray, as you write, do it all with Gospel intentionality, bringing the truth of what Jesus has done into each of these areas of your ministry.

We have one message and one message only–the risen, crucified Christ. That’s it. We have nothing else to offer our people but Jesus, yet he is more than enough. Pastors do have the most important jobs in the world, because the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the only hope for the world. You don’t need to be a modern day renaissance man, you just need to know the Gospel and bring its truth into everything you do in your ministry.

Practice Applying the Gospel to Your Own Heart

It is not easy being an expert in any one area. In a sense, to say you are an expert in the Gospel is really foolish, because we will spend eternity still growing in our knowledge of God’s mysterious plan called the Gospel. However it takes practice to learn how to apply the Gospel to your peoples lives, and it is best to start with your own. Probe your heart, study the Scriptures, and learn who to take the Gospel message and apply it to your marriage, your family, your finances, your physical health, your friendships, your diet. If you want to be multifaceted in applying the Gospel, apply it to every little hidden area of your life.

One Remedy, Administered in Many Ways

As pastors we have one remedy and it is Jesus. As we look at the hurting and sick world around us, there is only one treatment and that is the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.

When we encounter someone who is spiritually dead, we share the remedy of the Gospel praying God would give them faith and thus life.

When we encounter a broken marriage, we share the remedy of the Gospel in which God reconciles us to himself through Christ and thus gives that broken marriage hope for reconciliation.

When we are dealing with mourning families, we share the remedy of the Gospel and point them to the coming return of Jesus and the coming restoration in which Christ’s resurrection was the first fruits.

When we are counseling addicts, we point them to the remedy of the Gospel about Jesus the liberator who through his death breaks the shackles of addiction through his victory on the cross.

When we are managing our churches finances, we share the remedy of the Gospel, knowing that God owns it all and that he has purchased it all through Christ, therefore we are but stewards of this money.

When we a preparing for sermons, we do so knowing that it is through the remedy of the Gospel that our eyes are open through Christ to perceive and understand the Word of God.

When we are preaching the word of God, it is only the remedy of the Gospel through the application of the Holy Spirit that can bring try transformation and revival in our people.

Do Not Be Ashamed of Being a One Trick Pony

Pastor, do not be ashamed if all you have to offer the world is the Gospel. That is more than enough. You may apply it and prescribe it in different ways, but you only have one medicine in the bag. Preach and proclaim Christ. Do not be ashamed that this is all you have, because as the apostle Paul said the Gospel is “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Rom 1:16). In your pastoral ministry make it your life’s ambition to preach the Gospel and do not get distracted with feelings of inadequacy, ministry comparison, or a manufactured pragmatism. Decide like Paul “to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Cor 2:2). You may be a one trick pony, but within your medicine bag remains the one hope of the world, the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Top Quotes from "Dangerous Calling"

10 12 dangerous calling

This past week I read Paul Tripp's new book, Dangerous Calling: Confronting the Unique Challenges of Pastoral Ministry. In this book Tripp diagnoses the problems with modern pastoral cultures and with his usual gospel-centered eloquence, gets to the heart of pastors.  If you are a pastor you need to pick this book up and read it.  If you are a Christian, you need to pick this book up to know how to pray and encourage your pastor.  

As I was reading here were some of my favorite quotes from the book:

No one celebrates the presence and grace of the Lord Jesus Christ more than the person who has embraced his desperate and daily need of it. (23)

One of the rings that makes a sermon compelling is that the preacher is worshiping his way through his own sermon. (35)

Autonomous Christianity never works, because our spiritual life was designed by God to be a community project. (38)

The ultimate purpose of the Word of God is not theological information but heart and life transformation. (51)

The real struggle they (pastors) are having, one that is very hard for a pastor to admit, is with God.  What has caused ministry to become hard and burdensome is disappointment with and anger at God.  It's hard to represent someone you have come to doubt.  It's hard to encourage others to functionally trust someone you're not sure you trust.  It's hard to represent someone you have come to doubt.  It's hard to encourage others to functionally trust someone you're not sure you trust.  It is nearly impossible in ministry to give away what you yourself do not have. (74)

Monasteries were a failure because they neglected one very significant biblical truth: the biggest danger to every human being, even those in ministry, is located inside of him, not outside of him.  (108)

If your heart is in functional awe of the glory of God, then there will be no place in your heart for poorly prepared, badly delivered, functional pastoral mediocrity…. Mediocrity is not a time, personnel, resource, or location problem.  Mediocrity is a heart problem.  We have lost our commitment to the highest levels of excellence because we have lost our awe. (141)

Perhaps in ministry there is no more potent intoxicant than the praise of men, and there is no more dangerous form of drunkenness than to be drunk with your own glory. (167)

You simply cannot be a good ambassador of the grace of the King without recognizing your need for the King in your own life.  Public ministry is meant to be field and propelled by private devotion. (197)

Here is the bottom line: wherever you are in ministry, whatever your position is, not matter how many people look up to you, whatever influence your ministry has collected, and no matter how long and successful you ministry has been your ministry will never be about you because it is about him.  God will not abandon his kingdom for yours.  He will not offer up his throne to you. (215)


3 Ways to Be a Selfish Pastor

Pastor money

1 Peter 5:1-4 is a passage every pastor ought to know well.  It is Peter's exhortation to the elders to shepherd their flocks well.  In this passage, he commands these pastors to shepherd, "not for shameful gain, but eagerly".  Tragically, many pastors so often lead out of selfish motives.  It is a tragedy that needs to be repented of, but here are some ways, Pastor, that you might be leading selfishly without even knowing it.  

1. Be in it for the Praise 

As a Pastor it is easy to get caught up with what other people think about you.  You preach that sermon because you know you will get a few extra "amens".  You long to have people come up to you after the service and tell you, "That was a great sermon!"  We want to be liked and loved, so we shy away from the truth because it might make us look bad.  Pastoring for the praise is a constant struggle for pastors, but ultimately it is leading out of selfishness.  You are leading the church in fear of your own ego, rather than sacrificing your reputation to be obedient to what God has asked you to do.  We must not fear man, but fear God.  As a result, sometimes God will ask us to preach a truth that might be hard for our congregation to hear, but regardless we must be obedient to the Lord.  Do not Pastor for the Praise.  

2. Be in it for the Power

"My way or the highway".  If Pastor's are not careful they can get caught up in the thirst for power.  As a pastor, you are not the CEO.  You are a shepherd.  You are called to lay down your lives for the sheep, not to dominate over the sheep.  You must lovingly serve them not beat them with the rod.  A pastor must lead sacrificially and as a servant.  Don't beat up the sheep to quickly in order to get your agenda accomplished.  Lead your church slowly and patiently.  Gently lead them, "not under compulsion, but willingly" (1 Peter 5:2).  Do not Pastor for the Power.  

3. Be in it for the Paycheck

This can be by far the most dangerous in the life of the Pastor.  A Pastor must never demote his calling to just a job.  The Scriptures has stern words for those Pastors who attempt to live off the sheep without actually caring for them (Ezk 34, Micah 3).  Pastor, you have been placed by God as the shepherd of the congregation, as long as you are there.  Don't turn your ministry into just a way to pay the bills.  If you think this way, repent immediately or get out of the ministry lest you heap judgement on yourself.  For those who are Pastors will be judged much more strictly (James 3:1).  Remember, it is God who called you to your church.  As long as he would have you there, shepherd well, regardless of how much or even if you get paid.  Here Bi-Vocational Pastors have an advantage over the Full-Time Pastors.  Nobody takes a Bi-Vocational Pastorate for the money.  A man takes that position because God has genuinely called him.  The paycheck has nothing to do with it.  Do not Pastor for the Paycheck.  

More than ever we need Pastors who will lead like 1 Peter 5 describes.  We need Godly men who can shepherd the flock unselfishly.  We need men who will lay down their lives for the sake of the sheep.  We need men who will be good under shepherds under the chief shepherd, Jesus Christ . We need men who will lead as a servant, counting others as better than himself.  We need men who imitate the unselfish, life-laying down love of our great savior Jesus Christ.  

Those Who Must Give Account

Ezekiel 34 is a passage that absolutely terrifies me.  As a man, who has been called by God to shepherd His people in a local church, the rebuke of Israel's bad shepherds serves as a stern warning for any man who is a pastor of God's people.  You can read the chapter for yourself here and see what I'm talking about. You see Jesus, the chief shepherd, entrusts his people to the oversight and care of what we call a Pastor.  A pastor then has the responsibility given by God to care for his congregation and he must one day give account to his care and protection of the flock.  In Ezekiel 34 we see that Israel's shepherds were absolutely terrible.  Instead of feeding the sheep, they were feeding themselves.  They took advantage of the sheep and they clothed themselves with the wool from the sheep and slaughtered the fat ones to eat.  Israel's shepherds, who were there for the protection of the sheep, instead became the predators of the sheep.

How many selfish pastors milk a great salary from their congregations all the while remaining lazy and selfish taking money from God's people all the while never protecting God's people from the enemy?  If you don't believe me, just look at our church membership rolls.  How many people are on your church rolls? Now lets take a second and ask the very tough question, where are all those members?  What happened to them?  Does anyone even know? The sad reality is that many of those people have escaped out the back door of the church and have been devoured by the wolves of culture.  Where are the pastors who are like Jesus who go out and get the lost sheep?  What situations like this tell us is that we have a huge shepherding crisis in our local churches.  Pastors have become excellent administrators, leaders, and preachers but have failed in putting systems in place to protect the sheep.

As a pastor, I want to be faithful in leading, serving, and protecting the flock God has entrusted to me.  Whether that means clarifying who is a church member and who isn't, whether that means developing a comprehensive shepherding ministry in the church, whether it means training pastors/elders to be intentional about shepherding the congregation.  Pastors, you and I must one day give account of those God has entrusted to us.  Will we be found faithful like the good shepherd Jesus, or will be like the shepherds of Israel lining our pockets while the sheep are scattered?

Recommended Books on Shepherding:

The Shepherd Leader

Those Who Must Give Account