Are you willing to be a good pastor and leader?
Preparing for our Pastoral Lives with the Right Mindset Part II
Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that He may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you. 1 Peter 5:6-7
The key to building and leading a healthy church is to be a good and healthy pastor (and leader)! Yet, so few of us in ministry take this seriously or make this a priority! We tend to chase trends and our personal agendas and not pursue HIM!
For He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son He loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. Colossians 1:13-14
We must seek and pursue Christ first before we show others His Supremacy and Centrality. His Supremacy and Centrality must be rooted in us deeply, and then we can proclaim Him to those in our care to do so too, even with words! For the reason that we can't lead where we have not been before ourselves. This comes down to who we seek and what we place first in our personal and professional life.
So, are you willing to carryout your pastoral life or leadership position with the right mindset of what is really important in life and ministry? If not, what is in the way? What possibly could be more important in God's universe than pleasing Him as His representatives?! Are we in leadership seeking what is really important to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ? If not, why? What is in the way of His Way? Do you fully realize you will fail in life, family and ministry? If we do not place Christ first and foremost, what then are we doing in ministry? All we will accomplish is hurt to ourselves and others around us! We will end up crafting divisions, creating factions, causing chaos, bringing discord and the result will be the breakdown what we are called to build up. Christ and His reputation will be tarnished, His Supremacy and Centrality will be ignored resulting in the churches direction and function and that is dysfunction. Our church will be in ruin and our people will be so hurting so they keep on hurting others too. All we will have in life personally is loneliness and regret. Or, we will be so burned out and angry we may even become more dysfunctional in our family life and ministry and perhaps even destroy our family and church that we once loved and sought to shepherd. Have you found yourself "unintentionally" seeking this?
Perhaps, you are already on that "road to perdition," which is self destruction by making the wrong decisions based on past hurt and not of Christ. Focusing on agendas and not on love and Fruit, I know I have. Perhaps, you feel you have good reason! Church people have hurt you and do not want to do as you have done before. Many of us are fed up with the traditional church scene-the gossip and the power plays, and are searching for an alternative. Perhaps, this is true for you. If you think your busyness keeps you from finding contentment or faith, then consider that almost certainly something or someone needs to change. That someone is you, and that something is your attitude and outlook on life and ministry. No, we do not like to hear those words, do we? But, we do need to hear them. I know I do!
Are you willing to take a close look under your ministerial hood? Is your pastoral engine "timed" to His call and set precepts? Is the Spirit and His flow of the FOS (Fruit of the Spirit) and Character fueling and empowering your ministry? Or is it something else? We all need at times and perhaps regularly as I do, seek Christ in prayer and ask Him:
Oh LORD, what is in the way of me seeking you first and pleasing you foremost?
Perhaps this prayer may be said in honesty and reverence before your feet hit the ground in the morning. Do not let this ministry and life dysfunction happen to you or anyone around you! You have the power and ability by His lead and empowering to change and grow! The key is simple; seek Him First, Matthew 6:33 applies to us in leadership too! His Sovereign rule must be our priority. Our gratitude for what He has done for me must move me to glorify Him. If not, remove yourself from ministry until you are right with God!
Pastors must focus on Christ
In our struggle to learn biblical character and apply it to our lives, we can cut through the thorny jungles of complicated church life to discover the means to having and building a meaningful ministry. This is not only possible-it is for you! Yet, for many pastors, this is struggle number one!
The answer is not in the latest fad or service; it is in getting our priorities straight, then seeking out mentorship; building our relationship in Christ must be first and foremost! If your call and desire is to have your church people have a committed relationship in Christ and demonstrate that in their lives and community, you will have to make room in your life for one. That means you will need to be willing to prepare yourself, emotionally and mentally, with the right biblical attitude and mindset. If not, then you will be gambling with the second most important decision and choice you will ever make. And, when it comes to your marriage and family, your choices and attitudes will have lasting repercussions for many people, and for many generations to come. It will become a crapshoot with much greater and higher odds for the "house" (where the "house" is a regretful and discontented life) than for you.
As pastors, our primary purpose in life is to grow in our relationship to our Lord. We need to serve and glorify God, and fulfill the call and the destiny that He gives us. This also translates into who we are, and how we should be in Christ. This is true in the arena of all relationships, even for building a good church. Thus, we need to find out what God's plan is for His Church, and then follow it. It seems simple on the surface, and it really is. The problem is that we have clouded God's plan with our superficial culture, trends, pride, and desires. We seek that crapshoot rather than the stability of impacting faith and godly values.
Pastors must have Humbleness?
Humbleness is the fruit that shows fullness has taken hold in our lives. And this is what we communicate to our congregation by our attitude along with authenticity and Fruit-not just with words, but also with whom and how we are!
I do not know about you, but my early years were very rocky and my pastoral journey since then has also had its ups and downs. Even in my youth and inadequateness, I wanted to let those young people I worked with know, while they were still in their youth, that they did indeed need Christ and not to miss out on what God has for them. We do not need to spend all of our energies chasing after what is fleeting while ignoring what is good. What I was seeking to commutate to others sometimes did not sink in to even me. I slowly learned to be a sheep before I could be a shepherd and feed upon Christ and be led by His life and precepts. I learned I could not lead others where I had not been before. I could not grow a church unless I was growing too. I could not instill spiritual maturity in my congregation until I started to mature myself. Perhaps, you need to learn these things too? I still need to learn them!
Most of us pastors live in the world of stress, loneliness, and personal struggles; we compare ourselves with others, demand respect, and we often carry on in fear, perhaps even manipulating others to get our way. Even in our inadequacy, we think we can continue, or flee when we should not. But, when we are in Christ, we can push our pride away, we can move beyond and live above our hurts and fears and even be content. We do not have to be angry when we do not succeed or get our way. When we are firmly in Christ, when we are pursuing our faith in His Word and Spirit, we are being authentic and capable. Thus, we are succeeding. In so doing, we can be the pastor Christ has called us to be-doing His Church led by His way. We need to learn and apply the fact that life and ministry is about "His Kingdom," and not ours. It is about "His fullness" not ours; it is about "confessing sin," and we need to learn about ourselves, face our fears, and get over them. To pastor effectively, I had to learn we have to have an appropriate and growing relationship in Christ before I could communicate and teach others, and to be infused with Christ, not infatuated with myself.
Remember this valuable point: Just like love, being an effectual and effective pastor is our choice. It does not need to depend on our circumstances; it must depend on our Lord!
Do you have a deep dependence upon God for your personal and professional life? Or, do you have a problem with pride as I once did and still struggle against? Pride is thinking I have arrived; I do not need God, when we must realize that without Christ, we can do nothing!
It is my prayer that we can carry out our pastoring years with the right mindset of what is really important in life, what is really important to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. In so doing, we will not end up in loneliness and regret, or get so burned out and angry we become a mess and perhaps even destroy our family and church that we once loved and sought to shepherd.
In the last article we looked at the first two mindsets, "Understanding the Kingdom of God" and "Applying the Mind-Set of Fullness." Now, we are going to look at two more.
Third: Reconnection and Confession
Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:2
Take another look at those three ageless questions of "Who are you?" "What do you want?" and "Where are you going?" So, what do you want to do in your life? What about your pastoral goals and agendas? Do they correspond to God's Word? Our call in life is to please God. Will you seek His Kingdom; will you be filled with fullness even as you pastor, counsel, and lead? This can be our joy as well as our stumbling block. We have to realize that the Fall of man defaced everything in this world, including our thinking, relationships, and ability to lead! Our sin will block any attempt to seek our Lord; that is why the cross was, and is, so essential. This applies to everyone; even those of us who are fortunate to be saved by Grace are affected by sin. Christ's atonement means He covered the sin, but it still remains-lurking, destroying, and causing us to replace good thinking with bad.
This essential third attitude will allow us to recognize, and then confess our sins. Confession will motivate us to yield to the work of the Spirit within us. Our confession helps remove the blockage, to allow His work to flow. His work is there; it is done. He can force it, but normally, He will not. Sometimes as pastors, we think we are immune from this. Why, people come to us for confession! But, we have to see this as essential for us to do before we ask it of others. Yes, God did so with the apostle Paul, but who of us is Paul? We still have to respond to it by faith. Sin and confession are not popular subjects. Who wants to be bothered and confronted, let alone be convicted? But, for us to grow and mature, we have to, lest we remain in those sins-and how sad that would be! The sin will cloud everything. It will blind us to truth, and from seeing the will of God for our lives. We will, instead, be lost in the worldliness of despair, and end up making very poor choices for our lives, our family, and especially in our church that we serve! Fullness will be choked off, as well as His Kingdom, making the distance too far for us.
We have to be willing to declare: I, as a follower of Christ, bought and paid for by His shed blood, must acknowledge my own sinful nature. If this is not in our practice and in our mindset, we will fall way short of His plan and possibly even His redemption for us. If this is not in our practice and in our mindset, there is no way we can run a church and lead others to Him! All of humanity is fallen from God, and, we are corrupt in our thinking and actions, even us pastors. Unless God's Grace is not only flowing in us, but is also being emphasized and utilized, we will fail to make the right decisions. Our sinful nature directly relates to friendships, marriage, our sexual choices, and the church. Each of us must commit to ongoing confession in this area, from selecting godly mentoring relationships, to battling lust, and to growing in a marriage.
The Israelites, during the time of the judges, were at a crucial juncture, as the Philistines had occupied their land and killed thousands of them. God was neglected, His law was refuted, and His people were in bondage, all because they refused to acknowledge Him as their Lord (this should look familiar because this is also the essential ingredient of how to make a church die!). Instead, they prostituted themselves to foreign gods (faulty trends, pride, placating to people's agendas and not God, etc.) who led them into sin and ruined their lives. They lived their lives as they saw fit (do we lead "our" church as we see fit?), so, God raised up Samuel to be their leader and help them see that what they saw as fit really was not. He further showed them how false gods and pride devastated them, enabling them to see how to turn from their sins and back to Him. Samuel calls to them, after many defeats and hopeless situations, to turn back to God. And, to do this, they had to renounce all of their idols and false gods, repent, and turn to the God who served, loved, and protected them (What are the idols you and your church need to renounce?). So, the Israelites repented and recommitted themselves to God. Thus, the people were spared from the Philistines and became ready to receive the blessing of God, for the land to be healed, and for prosperity to come.
To be willing and able to confess sin will renew your mind and prepare you to be more effective in relationships and in ministry because you will have given yourself to God-both in mind and body. Just think through what He has done for you, the incredible amount of forgiveness you have received, and your response to what He has done. It should be gratitude that leads you to desire to purge yourself of sin. And, it should be your gratitude that compels you to lead others to do so. When we do as we see fit, all we bring on ourselves are strife and confusion that lead to endless hurt to us, to our family, and to our church family. When we have purged the sin, and continue to do so as an ongoing venture, we will have no desire to copy the evil ways of the world. Rather, we will desire to be further transformed and renewed by God. We will be new persons, infused by the Spirit, so that all we think and all we do is pointed in His direction and call. Because of this renewal, we will know what He desires for us, what is best, and what is pleasing and perfect.
Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ's physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation-if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant. Colossians 1:21-23
We have to make a commitment to acknowledge our fallen nature, and be willing and able to confess our sin to God and repent, which means we do not do it again. It also means we need to have someone hold us accountable.
When we are not accountable to God or to others such as a spouse, another pastor, mentor, or friend, we are free to sin, which will lead to social and physical disaster. The sin of the Israelites led to their being occupied by their enemies and the loss of countless thousands, all from the desire to do as they saw fit, which was the refusal to see their sin and recant it. Their sin was pride; it is the root of most sins. Refusing to deal with your sin will lead to pornography, flirting, inappropriate lust, jealousy, and then sexual encounters, relationship breakdowns, and perhaps the break-up of a marriage that God brought about or the loss of a pastorate. Just think how devastating sexual addiction can be. If you think because you are single you are OK, or, you have a good marriage and you do not need this, know this: it will lead you to betray your spouse, your future spouse, your Lord, your church-and you may even acquire a disease and die!
Living a surrendered, redeemed life is about seeking the Lord's will, and seeking to glorify Him!
Fourth: Be Willing to Learn About Yourself
Let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance. Proverbs 1:5
One of the themes of the book of Proverbs is the contrast between the wise man and the fool. The Word tells us the right and just way, and then, the wrong and irrational way. We need to see the value and importance of being willing to be taught and to learn. Otherwise, we will keep repeating the same patterns of wrong thinking over and over again. By refusing to learn and grow, we place ourselves in the realm of what the Bible calls the fool! I hope it is not your desire to camp in that area. Because, if and when you do, you delude yourself into taking the wrong direction in life, and missing God's best for you.
We have to ask ourselves, why would I want to be a fool and miss out on so much? Why would I want to do as I see fit, hanging on to patterns and ways that do not work, going from broken relationships to more failures and more broken relationships, causing hurt, pain, and loneliness as well as depression, dysfunction, and strife? Why? Just to hang out in our own pride? Do people actually find fulfillment in this? Perhaps, we get so blinded by our pride we just never look up to see what God has to offer in the areas of growth, healing, and learning. So, why be the fool, and miss out on so much? Just to have a little fun? To do as you see fit? To make sure we are in command and in control of our church? Remember, that did not work for the Israelites, did it? Have you ever seen it work? In over twenty years of pastoral ministry and counseling, I have never seen it work in either a personal life or in church leadership!
Just read through Proverbs, and let God's Word reveal to you what will happen. By reading just one chapter a day, you can get through it all in one month. You will spend less than five minutes a day, and be far wiser too! The sad fact is, too many of us will not spend the time needed in the Word. Too many Christians will put their minds in the ways of the fool and not in the ways of the wise. And, pastors are not immune from this. We can miss out, too. What makes a fool a fool? The fool refuses to learn; he does not want to be told that something is right or wrong; he just wants to do his own thing. This may sound like fun and a great way to lead, to make sure we have command and in control, but the lifestyle of the fool results in consequences of misery that we should all pray might never happen to our church or us.
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline. Proverbs 1:7
Wise people and yes, pastors, are those who are willing to grow and improve themselves. It is not an IQ thing; intelligence has nothing to do with wisdom. Some of the most intelligent people I hung out with in college and grad school, even in Mensa meetings, did some really stupid things, and led lives of self-destruction. I have also seen people with little education who live their lives with real, practiced wisdom. The wisest people are not perfect and they make mistakes; but, there is one key aspect that keeps them wise and blessed. They are willing to learn. They are willing and able to look at their behavior and past mistakes, and brainstorm through the guidance of God's Word to develop the needed skills of life and ministry, and be better than they were before. By doing this, they learn how to avoid the same mistakes in the future. The fool, the bad pastor, will keep repeating his mistakes over and over. This is why so many people go into numerous, varied positions; they go from one church that does not work to the next one that also does not work, and so on and so forth. They seem to never learn. They do not strive to make it work.
If you see yourself here, do not be dismayed. I can see my self here too. I have been on staff at more churches than most pastors would if they had hundred year careers, mostly because youth pastors rarely stay longer than eighteen months; we seem to always find some way to get fired, so it seems. The question is, were you fired because you don't get your way, or because you were leading people to Christ and they did not want to be led that way? Perhaps it is pride? The fact that you can recognize your pride and your past refusal to learn becomes an important first step. You must be willing to commit to improving yourself. These improvements in the realm of our character, values, and ability to relate to others better, especially to your spouse and family, are essential before we can relate to a church.
You must be willing to learn about your personality and what you need to improve and work on. We will look at several key components of character in the "character channel" under Bible Studies that will pave the way to building good, quality relationships, and a lifestyle that is pleasing to the Lord.
How do you begin to be a person who learns? Be a person who listens! Those of you who are just starting out in ministry-listen to more experienced pastors. Yeah, I know how hard that is! They have been there most of the time and they know ministry better than you know it. Do not rely only on your friends, especially if they are less mature than you. Rather, seek older people with whom you can talk and with whom you can form a mentorship. This involves ongoing conversations about life, ministry, trials and troubles thereof, and the changes and growth we all need to go through; it also includes dating, marriage, and responding to questions. It involves different kinds of conversations at each stage of the seasons of life and spiritual development.
So, no matter if you are 15 or 115, if you have just entered seminary or have pastored for forty years plus, commit yourself to listen to others, and take the time to observe your own behaviors. You can do this by finding a good mature mentor with whom you can talk and from whom you can learn. If you already missed out on mentoring, or if growth and learning did not take place in you, do not be dismayed. It happens this way with many pastors. Make the commitment to grow NOW. The classic disciplines of the Christian faith are your keys too, as well as devotions, getting into the Bible, Bible study, good Christian fellowship, and being in a quality church where you can worship, and where God's Word is proclaimed with power, conviction, clarity, and truth. See our "Disciplines of the Faith" channel under Bible Studies.
Putting it all Together
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23
1. Am I really mature enough to share myself with a church for the long run?
2. Do I spend too much time at work and ignore my family?
3. Are there other things cluttering my time and attention that are wrong, or need to be cut back?
4. Are there unresolved issues? Am I clear of my past?
5. Is my attitude and relationship with Christ employing and empowering me for ministry, or is it my own will and determination?
6. Are these four attitudes permeating my life and infusing me with the Holy Spirit? If not, what is in the way?
Once we get ourselves properly lined up with God and His will, a whole new world opens up. We will build the right character, maturity, and mindset as we emulate the Fruit of His Spirit. Then, His plan starts to become clear as we become more comfortable with and able to lead and manage His church for His glory and make the right choices therein.
If you only seek what you can get, you will end up in despair and a broken church! You will not be able to build a family or a church, develop quality relationships, or compliment and help others because you are not seeking Christ. Therefore, you will not bring your faith and maturity into the church relationship as much as you are seeking to take or get from it. What we bring must come out of a life filled with Christ. Whether you are in ministry professionally or not, we all have the same job-to know Christ, to grow in Christ, and to get the word out about the Word. To help you further in this pursuit, seek people who will bring out the best in you, and will be your partners and companions in the exciting, adventurous journey of life and ministry. This is especially important when it comes to your spouse or that special someone who will be your spouse. If you are married, your relationship priority is to make your spouse that special someone!
What we have been talking about may seem difficult, and perhaps even overwhelming, but take this to heart:
God does not call you to do anything that He has not empowered and enabled you to do! The cross is the proof text of how far He will go for you!
Our God has rescued you from your sin through an event, the depths of which we can never fathom. We are not good enough on our own, but He makes us good enough to lead His church! Our sins have built a chasm that totally cut us off from a relationship with and salvation in Him. In our election and acceptance of Jesus as Savior by faith alone, making Him Lord over all, we freely obligated ourselves to die (get rid of) to our old nature (sin), and be totally reborn (recreated) in the new nature that He offers us. His living a sinless life in our place, and His death on the cross to pay our penalty of sin not only purchased our redemption, but it also allowed us to identify with Him in an intimate way.
Thus, God Himself, from His immeasurable love, paid our debt and freed us from His wrath. So, we must ask ourselves, what now? What do I do? How will I live? How will I lead and manage my flock? Will I do as I see fit (God may let you), or, do I go His way, the best way? Do we allow Christ's love to motivate and control us, or do we go it alone? If we really, truly believe in Him with sincere trust and obedience, then results will come. We must allow that result of fruit (Galatians 5:22-25) to reside in us.
For Christ's love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. 2 Corinthians 5: 14-15
I firmly believe that the Love He has demonstrated for us is the stimulant of life and ministry, the prime directive for us to live out, our model to follow, and what we are to show to others in our life and preaching. We are secured in eternity; our life here is a learning experience, molding us for our life to come. What we do here will echo throughout eternity, so, let us make the most of it! By focusing on what is important, we are motivated to be much more than we could ever be on our own. What is it?
Giving God the Glory and being surrendered to Him as LORD build our relationships and church!
It is living out our lives, centered upon His glory, so our lives ooze Christ-like character and personal growth and striving for greater heights, good works, and personal growth. So, our goodness by what He has done for us becomes intertwined with distinction for one another as we lead others in and to His precepts and faith. It is not because we earn anything, but because we are filled with gratitude, which translates into compassion and friendship with others. And, of course, the call He has given us.
When we learn and apply these four primary attitudes, then Christ is glorified; moreover, a quality pastor and church is built and kept! This happens best when we realize that Christ paid our debt in full!
And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. 2 Corinthians 5:15
Principle Scriptures to Preparing our Pastoral Lives with the Right Mindset This chapter is the template to the rest of this book. These Biblical principles are where our focus is to be: Proverbs 12:4; 28:20; 31:10; 2 Corinthians 5:11-21; Colossians 1
1. Work of Jesus Christ: Luke 17:20-21; John 18:36; Acts 2:36; Romans 14:17; Ephesians 1:20-23
2. Saved By the Grace: Isaiah 57: 15; 66:1-2; Luke 18:13; Galatians 2:20-21; Ephesians 2:8-9
3. Joy: John 14:16-26; 16:12-15; 17:17; Ephesians 1:13-14; 4:30; Colossians 3:15-16
4. Reconnection and Confession: Judges 17:6; 1 Samuel 7: 2-10; Romans 12:1-3; 2 Corinthians 5:9-21; Colossians 1: 9-14; 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8
5. Confess Your Sins to God: Romans 14:12-13; Galatians 6:1-5; Ephesians 6:21; 1 Peter 4:10-11
6. Learn About Yourself: Proverbs 1:5-7; 3:11-12
7. Putting It All Together: 2 Corinthians 5:14-15; Galatians 5:22-25
This article is taken in part and modified from Chapter One of the book, The Field Guide to Healthy Relationships, and new content added.
Research from the Francis A. Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership Development. Thinking and Providing Biblical and Grace Centered Theological Resources for the Church.
© 1999, 2004, 2007 R. J. Krejcir Ph.D., Ph.D. Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership, www.churchleadership.org