Pastors have a special place in my heart.
My father was a pastor, as was his father. And I have been in active pastoral ministry all my adult life – for almost 40 years, now.
One of the most important lessons I have learned in all those decades is that there’s nothing special about us. Yes, there’s something very special about our calling and about what God does when we answer that calling. But pastors are just as subject to the ups and downs of life as anyone else.
We make mistakes. We forget important appointments. We misspeak, even when we’re preaching and writing articles.
The title of pastor does not confer some special knowledge upon us that isn’t available to others.
At best, it’s an acknowledgement of a call of God upon a person’s life to serve Christ’s church in a specific way. But even that calling doesn’t impute anyone with abilities beyond those of mere mortals.
We can’t leap tall buildings in a single bound. And we aren’t granted perfect knowledge or super-human decision-making skills.
The Priesthood Of Believers Means Just That
There are other leadership positions in the church besides the pastor. In fact, the only New Testament passage in which the word “pastor” is used to describe a position in the church is shared with four other leaders (apostles, prophets, evangelists and teachers – Ephesians 4:11-12).
If the church is a priesthood of believers, with multiple ministry gifts, then the pastor isn’t the only person who is able to hear from God for the church. Or speak to the church.
The church is a community designed and called by God, not our personal project. As such, we should be open to God’s ideas, no matter what source they come from. And we should create spaces for those ideas to be heard.
We should come to important decisions together, not by the declaration of one individual. This is especially true in smaller congregations.
(For more on this subject, read my previous article, Pastors, The Church Is Not Our Personal Platform.)
Sharpen Our Listening Skills
When I went to Bible college I was taught how to preach. I was also taught how to study, how to organize, how to inspire and how to raise funds.
But I was never taught how to listen.
Yet, in over 30 years of pastoring I have needed this skill more than any of the others.
When we listen carefully, we hear things that make us better pastors. We recognize needs we might have missed, we hear creative ideas we would never have imagined, and we’re able to implement them using methods we couldn’t have devised.
The Essential Role Of Humility
More pastors get in trouble through pride and arrogance than maybe all other character deficits combined.
Pride blinds us in so many ways. It stops us from seeing our own faults, just as it makes us incapable of seeing great ideas that come from others.
On the other hand, humility is as close to a can’t-miss magic cure as we will ever find this side of heaven. But, like sunblock at the beach, it needs to be re-applied on a regular basis.
Jesus Is Building His Church
Pastor, the church was there before us. And it will survive and thrive after us.
Even if you planted a local congregation, you need to realize that you didn’t start anything new, you seized an opportunity to help the church expand. And we are grateful that you did.
But the church belongs to Jesus, not to us.
We’re not owners or bosses, we’re stewards and shepherds.
The sooner we reject the one and accept the other, the better our ministry will be and the more God can use us.
No, fellow pastors, we’re not always right. But we serve the one who is. And if we’re humble enough to let God be God, and let Jesus build his church, he will do more with, in and through it – and through us in it – than we could ever imagine.
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