A quote on J. C. Ryle on the importants of rest in ministry.Read More
When you use the word ‘history’, most people think back to the snooze fest that was high school history class as their eyes roll back into their skull. People just don’t dislike history, they disdain it. For them, history is irrelevant, impractical, and a waste of time. In an age where we idolize the new and ignore the old, we kick history to the bucket. Unfortunately, many Christians and ministry leaders are ignorant of the great cloud of witnesses who have come before them. Dr. Dayton Hartman, pastor at Redeemer Church in Rocky Mount, NC, wishes to correct that trend in his new book Church History for Modern Ministry: Why Our Past Matters for Everything We Do. Hartman chronicles his own journey of discovery of the importance of history and shares practical ways a historically informed ministry contributes to vitality in the local church.The first chapter, Back to the Future, examines the danger of ignoring church history and then proposes benefits of how an understanding of the past can inform present ministry methods and concerns. In chapter two, Creed and Creeds, Hartman makes a compelling case for the importance of creeds and encourages ministry leaders to incorporate them into the life of the church. Chapter 3, Imitating Christ, describes how church history can contribute to discipleship, as Hartman casts a vision for personal disciple making among believers and within the home. Chapter 4, Preaching and the Cultural Drift, illustrates how history helps inform apologetics, as church leaders can learn from patristic thinkers like Justin Martyr to more contemporary apologists like Francis Schaeffer. In chapter 5, Christians and Culture, Hartman encourages ministry leaders to engage culture and make culture, as he reflects on men like Abraham Kuyper. In the final chapter, Yesterday, Today was the Future, Hartman makes one final plea to invite ministry leaders to the study history, to learn from the giants, and to be humbled by their legacy.
Hartman writes with clarity and humor as he makes his case, sprinkling his chapters with historical examples. The book serves as an easy introduction to those unfamiliar with church history, as separate boxes help summarize the historical figures or define confusing terms. In addition, Hartman provides excellent recommended reading throughout the book for those who do not know where to begin in the study of history, including a helpful appendix. Church History for Modern Ministry is a very practical book, a great tool for church staffs to read together and discuss.
As I read Hartman’s book, in many ways it was like reading my own journey. Ignorance of our spiritual family history pervades our churches, and ministry leaders must help their people shed their chronological snobbery by informing them of the importance and relevance of our past. If you are a ministry leader who could care less about history, I beg you to pick this book up; may Hartman’s argument change your mind. For those of you who already see the importance of history for the local church, this book is for you too, as it is filled with practical ways to teach and inform your congregation of the giants who came before us. May Church History for Modern Ministry wake ministry leaders from the slumber of their high school history class and awaken them to the practical relevance church history can bring to modern ministry.
At the conclusion of our centennial celebration, I couldn't help but be filled with joy. Seeing so many faithful saints return produced great thanksgiving in my heart. In many ways, I'm still humbled that God has called me to shepherd a church like Forest Hills. I've developed a profound appreciation for the legacy and heritage of Forest Hills over the years. As I thought about this weekend, I knew it would be special. In some ways this weekend symbolized a passing of the torch, the handing off of the baton to me and my generation of believers.
As I stood on stage and introduced James Herron, our oldest living senior pastor, I couldn't help but be thankful for men like him whom God used mightily for his Kingdom. Yet, in his sermon this Sunday, he cautioned about making too much of the past, but charged us as a congregation to move forward into a new century. Nostalgia is a wonderful, powerful sensation, but too much of it will drug you as you become gloomy about the present and pessimistic about the future. Ironically, we never realize we were living in the good ol' days, until those days are gone. By the grace of God, we tend to forget about the dark days, as our memory preserves the bright spots.
Yet, nostalgia cannot hinder God's work in the present and his vision for the future. The work is not yet over. The Great Commission lies before us, and lost souls need to hear the Gospel of Jesus. In our nostalgia, we cannot run our race backwards. This is the tension of churches with such great history like Forest Hills. We must simultaneously give thanks and honor those who have come before, and at the same time run with our eyes on the finish line, not on the starting line. Indeed, that's what those who came before us desire. Who runs a relay race, takes the baton from his teammate, then turns around and backtracks towards the starting point? Our teammates want us to move forward, not backward. We must sprint towards Christ, not to an idolized vision of the past.
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Over the weekend, I've felt that tension within my own soul. My gratitude for my forebears, the faithful shepherds of this church who've come before me, cannot adequately be expressed in words. They have preserved the apostolic Gospel, preaching Christ now in our church for a century. In an overwhelming and monumental way, that mantle has now fallen on my shoulders. By the calling of God, I now stand with the baton of the Gospel in my hand, charged to lead these wonderful people into the next century.
As I think about my own shortcomings as a leader and inadequacies as a pastor, the responsibility can be overwhelming. Yet, press on in the race we must. We must preserve the integrity of the Gospel and innovate new methods of reaching a new generation in a drastically new American culture. As a result, change is afoot in Forest Hills Baptist Church. Ministry strategy and programs have been and will continue to shift over the next several years around our vision to treasure Christ, equip believers, and send disciples for the glory of God.
As we run our race, may we not falter in our steps, but press on towards Christ, prepared and ready to pass off the baton to the next generation. May we not break the chain of faithful saints who came before, and may the great relay race of the saints, that has continued at Forest Hills now for 100 years, continue in our church till Christ returns for us.
God created us with unique personalities including the often subjective scale of introversion and extroversion. We can understand ourselves and each other better by learning where people place themselves on that scale. Our personality brings certain strengths and weaknesses no matter if your the outgoing extrovert or the reserved introvert. As the Spirit convicts me and helps me to know thyself, I've learned how my personality impacts my work as a pastor. In my experience, the pastoral ministry tends to attract more of the introverted than the extroverted. This is due to the rigorous personal study that comes with that weighty mantle of the ministry of the word which requires solitude. As a self-confessed introvert, I've found that my personality helps and hinders my ministry. Every personality contains facets that are prone to sin and to faithfulness. As I've learned (and am still learning) myself and my own quirkiness, I've identified three advantages and three disadvantages of my introversion when it comes to my pastoral ministry. I pray these personal musings will help fellow introverted pastors assess how their own personality can help or hinder their ministry.
Advantage 1: Diligent Study Comes Easy
Introverts recharge in the quiet of solitude. Thankfully, the pastoral ministry requires great time alone. Each week the pastor must feed the congregation with the Scripture, therefore the work in the study is paramount. Introverts thrive in this environment. The quiet tasks of reading, writing, prayer fill the introvert's heart and the soul. While our more extroverted friends would go stir crazy digging through the Bible, parsing verbs, studying commentaries, and writing sermon manuscripts, this environment energizes the introverted pastor.
Advantage 2: Listening Comes Easy
Introverts are inclined to listen before speaking. Many times we often speak before we think, and talk before we listen. Though even introverted pastors can hastily take over the conversion (trust me, I've done it several times), in general, the introverted pastor listens before speaking. When it comes to counseling, handling critiques, or observing the spiritual life of the congregation, introverted pastors excel at taking the pulse of those around them. Listening helps you to discern the issues beneath the conversation and draw them out to the forefront.
Advantage 3: Discipleship Comes Easy
People draw the typical caricature of introverts as those who cannot stand to be around people. This just simply isn't true. Introverts love being around people, it is just that people drain rather than recharge. Introverts hate small talk or chewing the cud with the latest weather reports or sports team, but we love conversations that probe deeper issues of significance. This makes introverted pastors able to invest easily in personal disciple making. Introverted pastors though they tend to the many, thrive best when they invest heavily in a few. As a result, sitting over a weekly discipleship breakfast talking about the joys of the Christian life, the implication of the doctrine of justification by faith, or the struggle of temptation, come easily to the introverted pastor. Introverts love conversation, just meaningful conversation. In a world filled with small talk, superficial commentary, and meaningless pleasantries, introverted pastors can drill down the conversation into the recesses of people's hearts.
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Struggle 1: Pastoral Care Can Drain You
Yet, there are not only advantages that come with introversion in the pastoral ministry, there are also struggles. One of them is the fact that people drain you, and as a pastor you are with people a lot: hospital visits, meetings, phone calls, counseling, and more. As a result the sometimes laborious and unrealistic expectations churches have on pastoral care, fatigues the introverted pastor. Out of all the aspects of pastoral ministry, this one is my greatest weakness. It is not that I do not enjoy seeing my people, visiting with them, or checking-in with their needs, it is just that it drains me physically, emotionally, and above all spiritually. I tend to pack most of my pastoral care visits on Monday, and I intentionally plan my sermon prep day on Tuesday. By the end of the day Monday I'm so spent (especially coming off Sunday), it takes a day in the study to recharge for the remainder of the week. While extroverted pastors thrive in pastoral care, introverted pastors often struggle and can sometimes sinfully neglect this vital responsibility.
Struggle 2: Large Groups Fatigue You
Each Sunday I walk into our sanctuary. I "work the room," moving from pew to pew, shaking hands and giving hugs with a smile. After worship, I hang around saying goodbye as people leave and engaging in conversations with questions about the sermon. This wonderful work leaves me dead tired by the end of day. Those large group meetings fatigues introverted pastors due to the taxation they take on the soul. Introverts tend to avoid large group settings and would prefer standing quietly in the corner, avoiding the lime light. Yet, out of love we must step outside of our comfort or preferences, mingling with the people of God—providing encouragement, prayer, and love.
Though I would sometimes prefer not to talk to anyone, I intentionally die to myself and step outside of my comfort zone. I've seen many introverted pastors neglect their people by remaining a reclusive figure, clinging like a fly to the wall, avoiding their people like they have a disease. This is a sinful neglect, and introverts must combat their tendencies to withdrawal by forcing themselves to meet new people, start up conversations, and show love to others.
Struggle 3: Solitude Disruption Annoys You
If you've been a pastor for any length of time, disruptions come. Each day is never the same and at any moment the Lord throws a wrench into your plans for the day. A member drops by unannounced and barges into your office, interrupting a time of prayer or a phone call comes informing you of a members heart attack, so you drop what your doing and head to the hospital to meet them. Introverted pastors can find themselves usually annoyed by such interruptions, yet our ministry to people is not always convenient or time-sensitive. When duty calls, we must drop what we are doing and serve.
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I have my suspicions that Jesus might have leaned introvert. Though he loved the crowds and had compassion on him, we see the demands of his ministry often led him to get away to solitude. He got up early in the morning to spend time with his Father. Again, every personality comes with advantages and disadvantages. As I've assessed my own introversion, I've spotted some strengths and weaknesses. As we pastors shepherd our people, may we exercise our strengths and seek to balance out the aspects of our personalities that are prone to weakness or sin.
If you are a church member, be gracious to your pastor, patient in his short-comings and lift him up in prayer, showing him continual grace. He ministers for your soul and for your good. Whether extroverted or introverted, he loves he and works diligently of your spiritual vitality.
There is a lot of pressure on Pastors to be leaders. A whole industry of self-help resources and leadership books have risen the past few decades. Pastors are expected (as they should) to be leaders. Despite the wonderful practical wisdom that many of the most popular leadership books teach, a Pastor must always lead the church uniquely from the corporate business types. A Pastor is a shepherd who must lead his people with the rod of God's word. Paul makes it quite clear what should be the focal point of our leadership in his great charge to Timothy as he writes,
“I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.” (2 Timothy 4:1–2, ESV)
The Scriptures are essential in all aspect of a pastor's ministry, especially in his leadership. How do we preach the word in every aspect of our ministry and not just the pulpit? Shepherding with the Scriptures in hand takes discipline and practice. As a young pastor this is something in which I try to be intentional. I still have great room to grow, but here are some practical ways pastors can lead their people with word of God.
1. Practice Expositional Preaching
True preaching is grounded in the Scriptures. The temptation for many pastors is to shift to a topical model of preaching that focuses more on the congregants felt needs than the Word of God. The best way a Pastor can begin to center his flock on the Scriptures is to lead by example through the weekly sermon. Preach through books of the Bible and refer to the Scripture often in the sermon. Don't just take a verse and launch off on your personal soap box. Do as God has commanded and "preach the word".
A steady diet of scripturally rich expositional preaching will begin to transform church culture over many years. Don't underestimate the cumulative effect of a faithful expositional preaching ministry.
2. Carry a Physical Bible
This may seem a little silly, but it is something I think is important. In a day and age where digital bibles are so readily available it is easy to rely only on a smartphone for the Bible. I love technology. I even use my iPad for all my sermon notes while preaching. Yet I always carry around my physical Bible.
Although the accessibility of digital bibles is wonderful, lugging around a physical Bible communicates something about its value and significance. Carrying a physical Bible around with you communicates to your people the source of your authority in ministry. Our authority as pastors is not in our charisma, knowledge, experience, or skill, but in the infallible word of God. Carrying a physical Bible communicates that to my people in a way a digital version does not.
3. Use the Bible in Pastoral Care
Monday afternoons is the time I go out and visit shut-ins and those who need pastoral care and I always be sure to take my Bible with me. To go minister to members without a Bible is like a plumber who forgets his wrench or a football player who forgets his helmet. So too should pastors always bring their staff when they go to the flock. Bring the Bible with you.
Towards the end of my visit with the person I always try to finish my time with a church member by opening up the Bible and reading a passage of Scripture. Then we will close our time in prayer. I do this because the Scriptures are relevant in every situation and I want to teach my people to look to the Scriptures in moments of crisis and need. God's word provides reassurance, reminding us of the wonderful promises of God. Whether in counseling, visitation, outreach, or funerals be quick to take your people to the Bible. Lead them with the Scriptures.
4. Open Every Meeting with Bible
Every meeting I lead at our church I open with a short devotion from Scripture. I want to model for our people Scripture's relevance and importance in all situations from finance meetings to deacons meetings. Starting with Scripture also puts things into perspective and reminds everyone that it is on the word of God we must build God's church and we make decisions.
5. Go to the Scripture in Conflict
This one must be handled carefully, but it is vitally important. As in most churches there will be fights and disagreements. When those times come, the pastor must lead with the Scriptures. In those high and intense meetings, know your Bible well enough to counsel from the Scriptures.
You must handle this carefully because you don't want to necessarily beat your people with the Bible to justify your opinions. Yet, going to the Bible when there is a disagreement reminds everyone (including the pastor) that our opinions are secondary to the truth of God's word.
6. Ground Change in the Scripture
As a pastor and leader you must lead your people through change. Whenever a ministry needs to be cut, revised, or started always ground your methodology in your theology. Do your best to explain the "why" and the biblical reason for the change. Show your people important texts that show the urgency or reason for why this change is necessary. Although there may still be resistance, if your people are lovers of the word of God they will be encouraged and obedient.
Shepherding with the Scriptures
Pastors are to be men of the word. The Scriptures must impact how we think about every aspect of our ministries. Bring the Scripture into every aspect of your ministry. Get creative and always be pointing them to the Scriptures. It is in the word of God that tells us about the word who became flesh. Point them to the Bible and you will be pointing them to Christ who is the chief shepherd whom you will be accountable for in your leadership.
How Have you led with the Scriptures? Any tips or practices that I missed? Share your wisdom with us in the comments!
Making disciples is why the church exists. At the very heart of the Great Commission is to "make disciples." Yet there has been a growing realization that many churches are failing to train and release disciples. All the wonderful programing we have innovated from Sunday School to Small Groups, there seems to be a lack of disciple making. Many churches are brimming with activity but usually fail to see the rapid reproducing of the early church. Part of the reason is the Spirit came in great power in that first century church. However, I think part of the reason we have not seen the multiplication cause by true discipleship is because we have failed to follow the biblical methodology of Jesus for disciple making. I think Jesus' method of disciple making can be boiled down to three basic elements–intellectual, relational, and missional.
A huge part of Jesus' ministry was teaching. He would constantly stand before the crowd and teach for long hours into the day. The crowd ate it up and loved hearing this man who preached with authority, unlike the scribes and pharisees. (Mt 7:28-29) Jesus taught in a way the masses could understand, but he also taught some deep things that were difficult for his own disciples to grasp. As he spoke in parables, the disciples would fail to get the point of the nice story. Jesus was the patient teacher pulling his twelve disciples together for a small group discussion, explaining the meaning behind his teachings.
A key part to their discipleship was being trained by the Rabi, Jesus. He taught about the kingdom, about money, about prayer, and the list continues. Jesus' taught his disciples everything they would need to know to lead and shepherd the early church.
As we look at churches today, some churches are strong in this area or weak. Some churches teach robust biblical doctrine in their classes and have a pastor who carefully preaches the word through expository preaching. This is a great gift and blessing. Knowing theology and learning the Scriptures is vital to any growing and reproducing disciple. Although education and the intellect is important, without the other two elements you will have just a church full of pharisees.
Jesus built relationships with his disciples. He poured his life into theirs for three years. When Jesus called his first disciples he gave them a simple command "follow me". We are told that Simon and Andrew dropped their fishing nets and immediately started following Jesus (Mt 4:19-20). The disciples hung out with Jesus 24/7. Every day for three years these men enjoyed nightly long dinner conversations with the messiah. They spent their days following the dusty road behind the saviors shadow. They lived life with him. Everything Jesus did, they did. Everywhere Jesus went, they went.
This relational component is one that is largely lacking in our modern discipleship methods. Discipleship is more than just meeting once a week for an hour, whether it be at a small group or a church service. Part of discipling someone is to invite them into the rhythm of your life. The disciples learned a lot from Jesus' teaching, but they learned just as much from watching his life. They watched Jesus as he was hungry, criticized, tired, and sad. They saw how a Christian was supposed to live by watching the life of Jesus. Relational discipleship is often messy, takes time, and can be inconvenient. We are often private individuals and do not want someone up in our business. Yet, Jesus opened his entire life for his disciples to watch and imitate. We must do the same in our discipleship.
If we are missing the relational component in our modern discipleship methods than the missional component is not even on our radars. Jesus discipled with a purpose. He called out to Simon and Andrew and commanded them, "Follow Me". Why are they to follow Jesus? For what purpose is Jesus beginning this discipleship with them? Well Jesus tells us, "Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men." (Mt 4:19) You see the reason we disciple is to train and release people to make more disciples.
Even in their three year discipleship, Jesus gave his twelve hands on ministry experience. In Matthew 10 we see Jesus send out the twelve under his authority to do ministry. He sent them out by twos on junior local mission trips preparing them for the Great Commission in which they were to go into all the world.
Churches often bring new Christians into the church for great teaching and maybe even some relational disciple making. Bringing them into the Christian subculture is easy. Releasing them into the culture as missionaries is much more difficult. In our discipleship methods, we are far to content producing well behaving Christian people than life giving soldiers marching to the orders of their king. A key component to our discipleship needs to be pushing disciples to participate in the Great Commission. We must encourage them to share the Gospel with their neighbors or the coach on their kids soccer team. We make disciples who are reproducing, going on to disciple others.
Making Disciples Like Jesus
If we can fire our discipleship process on all three cylinders, I can only imagine what God will do through our churches. We must train people intellectually in the Christian faith, teaching them the Scriptures. We must mentor and pour our lives into people in our relationships. We must challenge every Christian to be a missionary and reach their community and world for Christ. If we start making disciples as Jesus made disciples, perhaps we will recover the organic wild fire that was the early church.
Fruit in ministry is often delayed. For those of us who serve in the local church this can be a frustrating endeavor. We are the McDonald's generation and we want instantaneous results and immediate fruit. Unfortunately ministry does not often work that way. Spiritual growth is often slow and gradual, not rapid and immediate. This can be incredible frustrating because when you first arrive on the scene to teach a Sunday School class or lead a small group or pastor a church, it can feel like you are not making a difference at all. If you are like me, sometimes you feel like you're talking and teaching the same things until you are blue in the face. unfortunately most of us get so frustrated at this point in our ministry that we just give up and stop. We step down from teaching our Sunday School class or we move on to another church after a couple of years. When we go from one ministry to the next, and we do not plant ourselves and stay we are robbing the people of a consistent, loving, teacher in their lives and you are robbing yourself of the joyful fruit that will follow.
By God's grace, I've reached a place in my ministry years where I am able to begin to see the fruit of my ministry. To be honest, much of the frustrations I just described were frustrations that were my own. But one day, after several years of loving and teaching God will lift the vail and allow you to see some of the fruit of your labor. Such an experience has happened to me as I am spending time with my students here at Caswell this week. The Lord gave me a glimpse of how he has been working in these students lives and how things are starting to click and stick in their minds and hearts.
My primary goal with my students was to help them grasp and be wrecked by the Gospel. I've done my best to teach them to love and cherish God's word and see how Christ impacts all aspects of their lives. Many of my students couldn't even explain the Gospel to me when I first arrived, but that is beginning to change.
As we were sitting in our church group time at Camp Caswell, the power went out throughout the whole camp. This forced everyone to go back to their rooms and our church congregated on the porch and in the rooms. With darkness covering the whole campus, students were forced to do something they don't often know how to do; sit down and talk to one another. Cell Phone batteries were dying and there was no other option but to sit and talk. I was hanging outside with the majority of our students having a great time, but I stepped into our housing area and I walked in on a conversation with three guys who were talking about the christian faith, teenage culture, and the Gospel. I must say, this absolutely caught me off guard. In my two years of pastoring these students, I had never walked in on a spontaneous discussion on the Scriptures and the Gospel. I sat down, joined them, and the conversation spanned from church, entertainment youth ministries, discipleship, legalism, manhood, and the list goes on and on.
So be encouraged this morning. Ministry is hard work. It is often very difficult and by no means glamorous, but do not give up. Be obedient even in the midst of incredible frustration and keep loving and teaching even when there is little fruit. Often times after several years, the Lord will begin to show us the fruit of our labors. It is a joyful gift and it leads me to worshiping my God and my King. God works in spite of us and he often works behind the scenes without us even realizing it.
Since Jude has come into our lives, Kaitlyn and I made the decision to bring her home from work to invest her life and energy in our home. Over the past five months, I have not yet once regreted that decision. Sure the budget is a little tighter, but the benefits of her staying home far out weigh any economic loss. The past few months have been a tough season for us. Not only have we had a precious little newborn baby in our house, but I've stepped into the roll of interim senior pastor at my church. In addition I had a full load at seminary with 12 hours of classes. With the increase in my pastoral responsibilities, it has been demanding, and I have come to realize there is no way I could have survived this spring if Kaitlyn was not staying home.
The issue of stay at home moms tends to be a contreversial one. It shouldn't be. But in this blog post I want to give you 4 reasons why it is extremly beneficial to pastors to have their wives at home.
1. You Don't Have to Find a Baby Sitter
Kaitlyn and I are hundreds of miles from the closes grandparents. As a result, with the constant changing schedule of a pastor, I never have to worry about who is going to watch Jude. If there is a week night meeting or a saturday emergency hospital visit, I don't have to stress to find a baby sitter. I do not have to ever think "who is going to take care of Jude?" With the hectic 24/7 schedule of a pastor, it is a huge stress relief not to have to worry about my precious son being taken care of. Having Kaitlyn at home frees me to handle the constant craziness of a pastor's schedule.
2. It Allows Us to Practice Generous Hospitality
Kaitlyn's spiritual gift is hospitality. She loves having people over, planning meals, and creating opertunities for ministry in our home. Just this past weekend we had a young couple over for dinner, our youth over on Friday night, and a young family from our church over for lunch. If Kaitlyn was working full time, there is no way she could handle the demands of cleaning, shopping, cooking, and cleaning that it takes to show hospitality to others, let alone three times in one weekend, all the while taking care of a newborn infant. As a pastor, my wife creates ministry opportunities in my home through generous hospitality.
3. I am Able to Channel More of my Energy to the Church
If Kaitlyn was working, much more of my energy would be directed to keeping the home running. There are chores and tasks that are time consuming when having a family. Tasks like laundry and the dishes accumulate quite a bit of time to do. Kaitlyn has so graciously chosen to make the home her place of work. She takes care of a majority of the house work (I help too!), but the great thing is that when I am home in the evenings or on the weekends, I am able to spend quality time with my family. I do not have to worry about making sure things are taken care of at the house. I do not have to worry about wondering what's for dinner. Because of that, more of my mental energy can be channeled to ministry. Even this morning I am able to get up early, study God's word, plan my day and to do list, and even write this blog while she frees me to prepare and do ministry.
4. I am Ministered To
As a pastor, you are constantly pouring out your lives into other people through preaching, counseling, meetings, etc. Kaitlyn's God-given task is to minister to me. Unfortunatly, many churches place unrealistic and demanding expecations on the pastor's wife. They try to treat her as a bonus employee like a bogo deal at a shoe store. This is simply not the case. Kaitlyn's ministry is first and foremost to me, and she does an outstanding job at it. Her continued sacrifice as a stay at home mom allows me to be minsitered to. She serves me, encourages me, prays for me, challenges me, and loves me. Her primary ministry in life is to serve me as I serve my family and the church. In this way, a good pastor's wife isn't someone who leads the women's ministries at the church, she is someone who loves and ministers to her husband. Her ministry to the husband serves the church far better than anything else she can do in the church. She is the only one in the church who can love and serve the pastor the way she does.
Pastor's, I encourage you to bring your wives home. This has been the best ministry decision I have ever made. Churches, encourage and allow your pastor's wife to stay home. This means paying them enough to live off of one salary, not two. This doesn't mean that your pastor will be driving a BMW, but he should be able to support his family off of one income. The best decision a church can make is to encourage, allow, and praise a pastor's wife for staying home and to prioritize her ministry to her husband and children. As a result of Kaitlyn's ministry, I have been free to serve radically and sacrifically my own church. Kaitlyn's continued sacrifice allows me to do that. My own church should be grateful for this (and they are!) and I am forever indebted to the godly, sacrificial wife who serves me as I serve Christ. The life of a stay at home pastor's wife is often a thankless job. Few churches realize the stress and burden these women carry. They should be praised for their generous love of the church as they generously love their husbands.
It takes great humility to joyfully step into the background of a man who casts a greater shadow. We like to be the center of attention. We want everyone to look at us and see how great we are! We want the praise of men. We thirst for it with unrelenting lust.
This is why I am so amazed at the humility of John the Baptist. If you think about it, John's ministry would have been perceived as a complete failure if he was a live today. John starts a movement as the baptizer. Jesus comes along, steals his disciples and his baptizing ministry. John with his ministry passed on to Jesus is decapitated at the request of a teenage girl.
John Loses His Disciples to Jesus
In John 1, starting in v. 35, we read about Jesus selecting his first disciples. John was standing with two of his disciples and sees Jesus walking by and cries out, "Behold the Lamb of God!" John had just baptized Jesus and the Lord had made it clear to John that this Jesus was the Son of God (1:34). John's two disciples that were standing with him abandon John and start following Jesus. Imagine the heartbreak John must have felt. These two men he had been discipling abandon him to go follow Jesus. John knows that Jesus is the messiah, but if we put ourselves in John's place we can feel his pain with being cast to the side. However John's purpose from the beginning was to be a voice crying out in the wilderness, 'make straight the way of the Lord' (1:24). John knew ultimately that his ministry was never going to be about him. John is simply the one who prepares the way for the Messiah. Now that the Messiah has arrived, John graciously and joyfully steps in the background.
John Loses His Ministry to Jesus
In John 3, starting in verse 22, both Jesus and John are baptizing people. A discussion begins to develop with John's disciples and a Jew over the issue of baptism. John is told that Jesus is on the other side of the Jordan baptizing people and everyone is going to Jesus instead of John. The disciples of John are beginning to see a rivalry between John's ministry and Jesus' ministry. I'm sure the disciples of John were thinking, "We were here first!" However, John's response to his disciples is the most astonishing. John would say, "Therefore this joy mine is now complete. He must increase, but I must decrease" (3:30). John knows it is time for him to fade into the background and to get out of the way. His job of preparing the way for the Messiah is now over, his task is complete. John's job know is to simply decrease and fade away so that Jesus' ministry can get all the attention.
Fade Into the Background
What amazing humility John the Baptist has! Would you and I do the same? I suggest our egos and pride would far to much get in the way. We are far to narcissistic to bow out gracefully like John did. Yet, we must imitate John in his humility. As we serve the Lord it is so easy for us to seek to become the center of attention. We want everyone to praise us for our gifts, for our obedience, and for our service. A true Christian however has the attitude of John the Baptist, we must decrease so that Christ can increase. Our task as Christians is not to make much of ourselves, but to make much of Christ. Just as John the Baptist we must get our own egos out of the way so the people around us can see Jesus clearly as the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.
It takes great humility to joyfully step into the background of a man who casts a greater shadow.
Recently I was at an event with a lot of pastors. As we were sitting around the table and conversing, I heard comment after comment showing their frustration and personal anguish over their own churches. Each and every one of these guys seemed so burned out and frustrated over their congregations that they seemed to have practically given up. It was a sad sight to see so many called men of God seem so discouraged. Discouragement and frustration are a natural part of ministry. disappointment will happen and church ministry can be very tough. I've noticed in both my own life and in the life of other pastors there tends to be a few common lies we start believing when discouragement comes our way.
Lie 1: I Must Not Be Called to Ministry
This tends to be constant doubt many pastors have. Am I really called to this? Where is the fruit of my ministry? Am I just fooling myself that God wanted me to do this? However these doubts are lies from the enemy. In our age of instant gratification, where you can go to McDonald's and get a Big Mac instantly, we want to see results instantly. Many pastors begin their first few years at a church and results seem to be small and insignificant. We want results and we want them know, so when things begin to get difficult we automatically think that we were not called to do this. Sure, there may be some problems in our own hearts we need to address, but just because things are tough does not mean that we are not called by God. Many men in the Bible faithfully served with fruitless ministries. Jeremiah is a prime example.
Lie 2: God Can't Work in My Church
In addition to doubting ourselves, we tend to doubt God. We think that God is unable to revitalize this church, that he is unable to transform the lives of our people. Our people are to difficult for God, so we think. Pastors, we should know above all others, as men of the Word, that this is a blatant lie. God can transform even the most calloused hearts. If he can transform the heart of the apostle Paul and if he can transform our hearts, than God is able to transform the hearts of those in our congregation. As you faithfully minister do not doubt the power or the ability of God to bring revival to your congregation. Beg God to move through prayer and faithfully lead. Wait for God to do the impossible. In your frustrations in ministry, do not doubt the power or goodness of God.
Lie 3: We Need a New Program
This is a temptation many pastors face. Things are going so well so we get the top church ministry books and then viciously apply them in our local churches. We take models of bigger churches and try to force them on our churches. The problem however, isn't just our programming, it is our hearts. Trying to bring revival through programming is like trying to put a roof on a house that isn't built yet. Programs are not the answer to your churches woes. The problem with our churches are not external programs, but the internals of our hearts. Our temptation is just like the Pharisees, to white wash the tomb while our churches are rotting on the inside.
Externals and programs are perceived by pastors as a quick fix that provides instant results in our churches. That is why we so quickly gravitate towards them. This is why we have an obsession with what the latest "Successful" church is doing and we try to copy it. However, as faithful pastors we must shepherd the hearts of our people, pointing them towards Christ and the power of His Gospel.
Love Your People. Preach Truth. Lead with Conviction. Pray for Revival
Pastor, do not believe the lies of pastoral ministry we are so quick to think in times of discouragement. Ministry is not always easy. We will suffer. We will be criticized. We will often feel all alone. However, we must not doubt the power of God in our ministry. In times of desperation, run to our good God and King. Fall on your face in prayer. Ask him to give you the strength to be faithful. During these tough times of discouragement love your people like Christ has loved them. Preach boldly the truth of God's word. Lead with conviction over the truth of the Gospel. Pray that God would do the miraculous in your ministry. Beg God that he would open the eyes of the blind and raise the dead to life. He is able.