What lessons have you learned after 20 years of pastoral ministry?

This week completes 20 years of serving in vocational ministry of some kind. I spent my first 8 years serving as an associate pastor in a variety of roles in several different churches (May 1995 – August 2003). These last 12 years have been spent as Senior Pastor of Auburndale Baptist Church (September 2003 – May 2015). There are several lessons to reflect upon, many through pain and suffering. Here are 20 in light of my 20 years:

 

1. God’s Word is sufficient to build Christ’s church.

I remember my first Sunday as Senior Pastor, 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. Over a decade later, I have watched God do that very thing.

 

2. The Gospel is powerful enough to change lives.

Programs, gimmicks, or personality do not change people’s hearts. Nor do these things give life to a church that had been in decline for over thirty years. For twenty 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 our church. The gospel of Jesus Christ is enough to change lives and revitalize any local church.

 

3. An effective pastor is one who feels deeply.

The church has bought into this phony idea of strong biblical masculinity being a stoic, unemotional, unrattled man. The Bible paints a different picture, one in which true masculine strength is a man who feels deeply so he is able to love passionately and sacrifice willingly. Feeling deep emotion causes our heads to descend into our hearts, allowing us to emphasize with hurting people. An effective pastor is one who owns his weakness, is secure in Christ enough to be vulnerable, and suffers with others.

 

4. Hang on to your family…

Read the rest of the article (Lessons 4-20) here.

Posted in The Pastor's Soul, Training for Ministry

How does a pastor minister to victims of sin?

Answer: Often it is out of our own suffering.

This is commonly how God works in our lives by his grace and pastors are no different.  This is true for my friend and pastor, James Carroll.  James grew up a pastor’s kid and played the role quite well.  His world was turned upside down when his father’s sin imploded his family and James and his mother was abandoned by him.  James’ father left his family and ministry without any warning and this left James and his family in a very confusing, awkward place.  It is a testimony of God’s grace that James would even want anything to do with the church, and yet here he is in God’s kind providence a pastor, writing on this part of his life for your benefit.

Needless to say, these two articles James wrote from those experiences and the lessons he learned are gold and worth your time.  His suffering has produced a wisdom beyond his years.  You can link them below.  I am confident James’ story of God’s grace in tragedy will bless you as it did me and instruct you how to minister to those harmed the imperfections of Christ’s church.

Lessons learned Part 1

Lessons learned Part 2

Posted in Oversight of Souls, The Pastor's Soul

What kind of pastor does God use to revitalize a church?

It is unfortunate the amount of dying churches that conclude they need one of two kinds of men to lead them to revitalize their church. Churches first pursue finding the next young, rock-star preacher to be their pastor, banking on his charisma will be what breathes life back into the church. The problem with this approach is not just the limited amount of so called “rock-star pastors” that exist, but that the Bible does not advocate that the men who lead the church must fit that description. The other kind of pastor churches conclude they need is a fiery evangelist who will go out into the community and win souls for Jesus and that will help the church grow and consequently bring new fresh life.  Neither of these is what is necessary for God to revitalize a struggling church.

God simply wants faithful shepherds.

God wants men who meet a certain qualification and godly character (1 Tim. 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9). God wants a humble eager man who feels called to shepherd the flock of God on behalf of the Chief Shepherd (1 Peter 5:1-4). God wants pastors who realize their calling is to take heed to themselves and to the flock who Christ purchased with his own blood (Acts 20:28).

God wants faithful shepherds who are not defined by their cleverness or charisma, but by a divine conviction to care for souls as if they will give an account to Jesus for them (Heb. 13:17).

Many approaches to revitalization challenge dying congregations often set in their ways to look outward for new life. I am not discouraging evangelist efforts, but if God has sheep already in a local church, we should begin there and not be so quick to simply try and replace them as the solution. Too often the decline of local churches has come as a result of the progression of neglectful, unfaithful shepherds. As a result, the spiritual life in the sheep of the church slowly dwindles throughout decades of neglect to a mere ember. But there is spiritual life in every true follower of Jesus, regardless how beat up and discouraged they may be. Christ still lives in them and is working to complete the work he began (Phil 1:6).  God needs faithful shepherds to care for the flock and God in part breathes life into the church when his sheep are well cared for and fed the bread of life.  Then, send those fed, equipped sheep out to get others.

Posted in The Pastor's Soul, Training for Ministry

Our Next Book – Caring for Widows…Now Available!

widows bookOur next book, Caring for Widows, by Brian Croft and Austin Walker (Foreword by Mike McKinley) is now available.  Crossway has done an excellent job with this work and we are hopeful this book completes the triad of Scripture (poor, orphan, widow) that is often neglected.  Here is what a few folks have said about it:

 

“This is a gem of a book, full of helpful advice when it comes to pastoring, loving, and caring for widows in our congregations. I personally found it challenging, and I can see it being a helpful tool in teaching church members about their responsibilities to the widows in our midst.”
Mez McConnell, Senior Pastor, Niddrie Community Church, Edinburgh, Scotland; Founder, 20schemes

“While reading this book, I went ‘Ouch!’ more than once because it points out ways in which we have been negligent in looking after the widows in our church. This is certainly one area in which we need reformation. I trust that my ‘Ouch!’ will be turned into action so that God may smile at our church as he sees the way we will begin to look after widows in distress in our midst. All of us who are church elders and deacons need to get back to this religion that is pure and undefiled before God!”
Conrad Mbewe, Pastor, Kabwata Baptist Church, Lusaka, Zambia

“We see them in the congregation; they rarely sit together; they occupy their customary place; and they have many friends. They are examples in femininity, humility, usefulness, and faith in a heavenly Father. They are the widows, but shudder at being labeled as such. They look to their preachers for the gospel message to exalt Jesus Christ. They look to their pastors for total respect and graciousness. They look to their fellow members for holy love and genuine friendship. They look to be remembered within the nuances of the body of Christ. This is what Croft and Walker enable us to do, to become better pilgrims on our way to the blessed gathering of all the elect, to be unashamed at the great reunion. ‘Well done for helping widows in their affliction.’ We need such help in this area, and then we find that increased thoughtfulness in one dimension encourages consecrated words and feelings in very different relationships within the holy body.”
Geoff Thomas, Pastor, Alfred Place Baptist Church, Wales

Get this book on both paperback and kindle here

Posted in Book Recommendation, Caring for Widows
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