What I Would Say to Future Pastors
A while back a seminary student asked me the following question: “If you were going to teach a class titled ‘Introduction to Pastoral Ministry’ what would be the top three things you would want your students to grasp? Why?”
I’m passing my response along to you. While my response is geared toward those sensing a call to the ministry of pastor-teacher, I believe it can provoke and challenge all of us.
For non-pastors, this will help create understanding re: the pastor’s calling and role in the kingdom of God.
Hopefully, it will also motivate and encourage everyone to pursue the kingdom of God and the life of the Spirit will all vigor and focus. These are hard times we’re living in. We need serious believers.
God bless you as you read. Thanks for doing so.
“If you were going to teach a class titled ‘Introduction to Pastoral Ministry’ what would be the top three things you would want your students to grasp? Why?”
1. The importance of a vibrant, personal relationship and fellowship with Jesus Christ.
Not every person going into ministry knows the Lord. Jesus said, “You must be born again.” Just because someone has a seminary or Bible college degree does not mean that he/she is actually converted. So that’s of primary importance. I would probably go ahead and preach the gospel in my first class, emphasizing the great truths of the gospel, and the necessity of repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:3,4; John 3:3-8; John 1:12, etc.). Then I would give an invitation to receive Christ … in the class!
Beyond that, I would emphasis the need to develop a strong personal, devotional life. Time in personal prayer and the Word. Journaling. Praying in the Spirit. Too many times, the work we do in preparation for ministry replaces our actual fellowship with the Lord. It’s easy to let happen, but it’s wrong.
Only the minister who is abiding and truly enjoying the Lord will bear His fruit (1 John 1:1-4; John 15:1-8).
2. A complete dependence upon the New Covenant and its principles.
Zechariah prophesied that it is not by might, nor by [human] power, but by the Spirit that God’s work will be accomplished (Zechariah 4:6).
The essence of the New Covenant is Paul’s statement in 2 Corinthians 3:5-6 – “Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our sufficiency is of God, who has made us sufficient as ministers of the New Covenant, not of the letter, but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.”
The first disciples were commanded to wait in Jerusalem until they received power from on high. When Pentecost came, the Spirit of God came upon them to give them power for ministry. There is every indication that they continued functioning by this power … they did not revert back to their old methods or abilities. The Lord was the One doing the work.
The New Covenant as described by Ray C. Stedman in his excellent book Authentic Christianity is what I’m talking about. That book would be required reading. Honesty, integrity, authenticity, etc. are also emphasized in Stedman’s treatment of 2 Corinthians chapters 2-6.
Too much of the work of the church is being done today by human wisdom, creativity, and programs. I fear that if the Holy Spirit were to wholly remove Himself from what much of the church does, He would hardly be missed, if at all.
This is a tragic situation and worthy of our foremost focus, that it may change.
3. A lifetime commitment to prayer and the ministry of the Word of God.
This is the primary work of the minister, to pray and minister God’s Word. The Acts 6 story illustrates this truth. Rather than serve tables, the apostles were to dedicate themselves to these things. The same is true of every pastor-teacher.
While there are some teachers who may not be pastors, it is imperative that true pastors embrace the call to teach the Bible (Ephesians 4:11-16).
The greatest need in the church today, world-wide, is for the systematic teaching of the whole counsel of God. Paul the apostle proclaimed his own guiltlessness re: the Ephesians when he said that he had not shunned to declare to them the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:26-27). When he was with them, he taught them all the Bible there was to teach.
Today, too many pastors are opting for sermon-ettes for Christian-ettes. The fact is that we are serving Christianity “lite” in many of our churches. The pulpit is weak in doctrine and content. Therefore, the believers are spiritually undernourished and immature.
George Barna (pollster, demographer, and sociologist) refers to only 9% of American “believers” possessing and operating according to a Christian worldview.
The whole of scripture—from Genesis to Revelation—has been given to us for doctrine, for rebuke, for correction, for training in righteousness, and for the equipping of the saints for their ministries (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
The work of the pastor-teacher is to equip the saints. How else will be able to do that, except by the Word of God?
If our purpose is to build big churches with big budgets, buildings, and programs, we don’t need the Word of God. But if our purpose is to build strong people with big hearts who fear God, know what their spiritual gifts are, and who follow the Lord as cross-bearing, self-denying disciples, then we need to minister the Word of God.
Oh Amen to all you have said Pastor Bill… I am not a pastor, nor do I intend to be one, but I have been a student of the scriptures for the past 30 years, trying to live as a light in the midst of a dark world, and my heart’s desire is as you have so beautifully put it:
“But if our purpose is to build strong people with big hearts who fear God, know what their spiritual gifts are, and who follow the Lord as cross-bearing, self-denying disciples, then we need to minister the Word of God.”
I thank God for the faithful ministers of God’s Word he has always set over me, teaching me the full counsel of God and helping me week by week to better understand His holy precepts and walk in them.
May the LORD richly bless you.
Well said, Bill. Those are indeed our continuing foundation for ministry with the Lord.
I remember being asked by a missionary church-planter in Thailand (one of my former students & staff) to give a brief summary of pastoral priorities. I came up with love, feed & lead— first receiving these from the Lord, then passing them on & doing these same for God’s sheep.
As you well know, the hard part is doing it!
Thanks for the post! As someone who feels the call of God to go into ministry this is helpful, encouraging, and challenging. I used to think that what mattered most to being in the ministry was knowledge of the word (particularly knowledge of doctrine and reading books about the Bible) and now, thanks be to God, He’s been showing me that dependence on Him is absolutely necessary. Thanks again!
Thanks Jeanne, Trip, and Darren. And as Trip said, “the hard part is doing it!” Amen to that.