Yesterday, I celebrated ten years as Senior Pastor of Auburndale Baptist Church. The entire weekend that was planned by our church was so encouraging and a wonderful time to reflect on all the Lord has done. Although I have been in pastoral ministry for over eighteen years, these last ten as a Senior Pastor have been particularly difficult and yet very special. The first five years were very difficult, while these last five were a great blessing. Here are a few of the lessons I learned these last ten years that I pray will encourage you in whatever season of pastoral ministry you find yourself.
1) God’s Word is sufficient to build Christ’s church. I remember my first Sunday ten years ago, I sat alone in the sanctuary wondering if the doors of this church would be open a year later. I realized in all my cleverness or worldly wisdom I could not save this church. I believed then that God, by his Spirit and through his Word, was sufficient to build his church and revitalize it. Ten years later, I have watched God do that very thing. The Word of God is what changes people and builds the church. If we as pastors truly believe this, it will show in our preaching, counseling, discipleship, decisions, and the way we lead the church.
2) The Gospel is powerful enough to change lives. I realized that programs, gimmicks, or personality does not change people and was not going to give life to this church that had been in decline for over thirty years. For the last 10 years I have watched the gospel free people from the bondage of sin and give hope to the hopeless. I have watched the gospel unite old and young, black and white, rich and poor and give life to this church. The gospel of Jesus Christ is enough to change lives and revitalize any local church.
3) Hang on to your family. I was once told, “You can always have another ministry. You only get one wife.” I would add your children also grow up so fast and they need their dad. Make sure you balance ministry and family life in such a way that your wife and children still feel like they come first, even in the midst of the grind of ministry. These last ten years I learned to take all my vacation time. I learned not to answer the phone during dinner, devotions, and my day off. Don’t forget, if you lose your family, you lose the right to serve in ministry (1 Tim. 3:4-5).
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