Here’s the simple truth: the great majority of pastors are doing the best they can to lead their churches. They aren’t stealing from the offering plate, living double lives, or indifferent to the needs of their flocks. They are faithful and lead to the best of their abilities.
While there are many, many things pastors do that are needed and are valuable for their own spiritual development, here are some things pastors do that are directly beneficial to their congregation.
Preaching and teaching the Word
The faithful preaching and teaching of God’s Word is a balm to the wounded soul. It is a protectorate for those who would otherwise be deceived. Pastors are not always aware of how faithful preaching and teaching of the Bible ministers to the hearers. They hope so and they pray it is so, but they aren’t always certain. But it is.
Spending time with the flock
This one can be a challenge. There are only so many hours in a day, so many days in a week. Even in a small church spending time with everyone is difficult if not impossible. In larger churches it is literally impossible.
But, “spending time with” doesn’t mean 5 hours on a golf course or two-hour meetings ever afternoon just to shoot the breeze. It’s a phone call while on the road. It’s those few minutes after the service listening to a prayer request. It’s grabbing a cup of coffee and sharing a prayer time a couple of mornings a week. It’s dropping by a deacon’s workplace just to check-in. All these represent spending time with the flock.
Leading with love
Mark Dance hit on this one earlier this week. Loving before leading goes a whole lot farther.
The fact is most pastors love their church! Maybe not 100% of the time, but most of the time they love the people, the love the community, they love the combined ministry, and they love what God is doing.
I’m grateful for the focus on being intentional in ministry. Pastoral ministry is no place for the proverbial dead fish that only floats with the current. Having a purpose for ministry and carrying it out with intent are of unending benefit to the congregation.
Personally making disciples
When I was a young preacher-boy there were a number of young and older guys in our church who had professed a call to the ministry. Our pastor started a “Prophets Class” that met each week. He discipled us in praying, preparation, delivery, and more. We preached to and critiqued each other as if we were a junior league seminary homiletics class. It had a huge impact on my preaching and my spiritual life.
In my own ministry I’ve seen the most lasting fruit in the lives of those I’ve personally discipled, whether one-on-one or in small groups. This same testimony has been evidenced in the ministry of many pastors I know. The influence of the Navigators and the impact of books like LeRoy Eims’ The Lost Art of Disciple Making and Bill Hull’s The Disciple-Making Pastor cannot be overstated.
The majority of pastors I know are consistent and this is a great trait. Our churches need the assurance of a shepherd who isn’t loving and kind one week only to be angry and belligerent the next. Having an even-keeled pastor brings confidence to the flock.
Treating everyone equally
The church is not place for partiality (James 2:1-9) and the pastor who loves everyone equally is wise. In Jesus’s day children were not generally respected, but Jesus treated them as humans having value going so far as using them examples of how to enter the Kingdom.
In our day it means treating the poor church member the same as the rich one, or the person of no influence with the same deference as those who have great influence. Pastors should strive to allow no one person or group of people undue influence on their ministry.
Being honest about themselves
The tendency of most church members is to put the pastor on a pedestal of sorts. I’m not suggesting most worship their pastor, but many do look at the pastor as a kind of Super Christian. It is good to respect one’s pastor, but an unhealthy elevation is not good. It actually sets up the member for a disappointing crash when they finally realize the pastor has feet of clay.
I think it’s healthy when pastors expose their own weaknesses; we shouldn’t pretend we have it all together. Everyone knows we don’t!
When the pastor can say, “Here’s one of those texts that works on my every time because I struggle here,” or, “This was a terrible week for me personally so pray extra hard for me this morning,” it demonstrates humility and reality. Being honest about ourselves is beneficial to the congregation and makes it easier for them to be honest about themselves. Honestly results in spiritual growth; deceit results in spiritual stagnation.
Featured image credit, edited for size.