142 Posts Categorized as about "The Pastor's Role"

Affectionate Leaders

Good leaders have affection for people. Paul writes, “Having so fond an affection for you, we were well-pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God . . .” (1 Thessalonians 2:8). Is that great, or what? Paul didn’t shrink from sharing his emotions with his flock. That strong man, an apostle of Christ, looking back on the Thessalonians said, in effect, “Oh, what an affection I had for you. How dear you were to me!” Those are affectionate words of intimacy.

To keep this simple and easy to remember, I want to suggest that affection for people can be demonstrated in two ways: small yet frequent acts of kindness and stated and written words of appreciation. Those you lead should have a few notes of appreciation and encouragement from you by now. They should be growing accustomed to your expressions of affection that include small yet frequent acts of kindness. No one is so important that he or she is above kindness. That aspect of leadership calls for courage and a spirit confident in God’s grace.

I came across a couplet that summarizes this point nicely:

        Life is mostly froth and bubble. Two things stand in stone.
        Kindness in another’s trouble. Courage in your own.

I’m grieved by strong leaders who consistently walk over people. We wonder how people like that make it into significant places of influence. Here’s some free advice I give from time to time: If you don’t enjoy people, please, do us all a favor, don’t go into leadership! Choose another career stream. Everyone will be better off. Say no when you’re offered an opportunity to lead.

Neither the world nor the ministry needs more bosses. Both need more leaders––servant-hearted souls to lead as Paul led, with sensitivity and affection toward others. Love and affection, when appropriately given, fill the gap when words alone fail to comfort. If people know you love and value them, they’ll go to the wire for you. Paul told the Christians at Thessalonica that he loved them. They never got over it.

Neither will your flock.

                                                —Chuck

People-Pleasing Pastors

The way God chooses to lead His ministry is often difficult to get our arms around. Finding direction in the corporate world comes somewhat easier. There’s a clearly stated bottom line, shareholders to report to, and defined markets that guide company decisions.

Ministry matters are rarely that obvious and never that objective. We serve a Head we cannot see, and we listen to a voice we cannot literally hear. Often we feel as if we’re being asked to follow a plan we do not understand. And of course, during the process of discovering God’s leading, we experience enormous changes. These are changes we must embrace in the power of the Spirit if we are to obey our Lord’s lead. Though we are accountable to the churches we serve, ultimately, each one of us, as a pastor, answers to God. Without that sort of single-minded devotion to the Lord, we run the risk of becoming people-pleasers or worse, slaves of other’s expectations. Pastors who become pawns as they focus on pleasing people are pathetic wimps.

Honestly, there have been times in my life when I stumbled onto that slippery slide. I look back on those occasions with great regret. Nothing good ever comes from a ministry devoted to pleasing people! Rather than being a warrior for the King, it is easy to become an insecure coward, relying on human opinions and longing for human approval. By His grace, you and I don’t have to go there anymore.

Our responsibility is to deliver what God’s people need, not what they want. As we do, that truth should hit us with the same authority as it does the folks to whom we communicate. May God deliver every honest pastor, every truth-seeking church leader, and every Christian from the bondage of pleasing people.

“For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ” (Galatians 1:10).

                                                                —Chuck

The Gospel to the Lost . . . Grace to the Saved

Want a wonderful paradigm for ministry?

Paul’s message emphasizes the gospel to the lost and grace to the saved. As I’ve studied the life of Paul, particularly in his later years, I find two prominent themes woven like threads through the tapestry of his ministry.

First, his message offers the gospel to the lost. “Let it be known to you, brethren, that through Him forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and through Him everyone who believes is freed from all things, from which you could not be freed through the Law of Moses” (Acts 13:38–39). Imagine the impact our churches would have on our communities if each Christian committed to sharing the gospel once a week with someone who expresses a need.

Second, his message includes large doses of grace for the saved. Just as the lost don’t understand the gospel, the saved rarely understand grace. There are few activities more exhausting and less rewarding than Christians attempting to please the people around them by maintaining impossible legalistic demands. What a tragic trap, and thousands are caught in it. When will we ever learn? Grace has set us free! That message streams often through the sermons and personal testimonies of the apostle Paul.

The lost need to hear how they can cross the bridge from a life filled with emptiness and guilt to a life flowing with mercy and grace, peace and forgiveness. We help build this bridge when we lovingly and patiently communicate the gospel. You don’t need a seminary degree. You don’t have to know a lot of the religious vocabulary. In your own authentic, honest, and unguarded manner, share with people what Christ has done for you. Who knows? It may not be long before you will know the joy of leading a lost sinner from the darkness of death’s dungeon across the bridge to the liberating hope of new life in Christ.

Once they’ve arrived, please release them. Release them into the magnificent freedom that grace provides. Don’t smother them with a bunch of rules and regulations that put them on probation and keep them in that holding tank until they “get their lives straightened out.” Making us holy is the Spirit’s work, not ours. You be faithful to dispense the gospel to the lost and grace to the saved. Then leave the results in the Lord’s hands.

That was Paul’s paradigm.

                                            —Chuck

Prayer and Preaching

You have to love Paul’s humility. Here was a man in his sixties who has been preaching for years asking for prayers for a clearer delivery. Read his words carefully:

Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving; praying at the same time for us as well, that God will open up to us a door for the word, so that we may speak forth the mystery of Christ, for which I have also been imprisoned; that I may make it clear in the way I ought to speak. (Colossians 4:2–4)

There was no pretense with Paul. No degree of success or number of years in the ministry gave him a false sense of ultimate accomplishment. He knew he had not yet arrived. He remained dependent on the Spirit of God. He was convinced his preaching could be improved. And so with a genuinely thankful heart, he entreated his fellow believers for their prayers. Can you see the power of that kind of attitude? Very refreshing in the first century. And very rare in the twenty-first.

No wonder the man made such a lasting impact for Christ.

––Chuck

Powerful Preaching

As one responsible for communicating biblical truth, I want to share four principles especially for you. Pay close attention; read slowly, thoughtfully and carefully as I apply this to your ministry of proclaiming God’s Word.

First, always stay on the subject—Christ. For Paul it was always about Christ. Paul spoke of the “God who made the world and all things in it” to the followers of the “unknown god” of Athens, and everything for Paul pointed to Christ (Acts 17:10–34). Preaching that which doesn’t exalt Christ is empty preaching. Paul wrote to the Corinthian believers, “For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2). For Paul, to live was Christ and to die was gain. Clearly, his subject in preaching was Christ.

Second, always speak the truth. Do not hold back. Do not fear. Do not be overly impressed with those who have come to the class or who sit in the church where you serve. It makes no difference how much they’re worth or how little they contribute. Speak the truth.

Third, always start where your audience is. Paul hooked those men in Athens with his first sentence. You can, too, if you spend some time thinking about it. Know your audience well enough to build a bridge quickly. Find a way to get into their world and then build a bridge to Christ. Remember: Begin with the familiar in order to acquaint them with the unfamiliar.

Fourth, always surrender the results to God. Once they have heard the message, your part ends. Your task is to communicate truth. It’s God’s job to draw people to Himself. You prepare the patients; God does the surgeries. Stay away from manipulation. There’s enough of that going on. You don’t need to follow them out to their cars or check up on them at home. God will reach them, just as He did in Athens. Leave the results to God.

When your heart is right, it’s amazing what you’re able to see. And when you see it clearly, it’s remarkable how God can give you the words to say. You may be amazed how God uses you, just as He did Paul in that ancient metropolis so many years ago. When his moment arrived, he was ready.

When your moment comes, stand and deliver. God will give you courage as you tell others of His Son. There is no greater honor on earth.

––Chuck

Exalting Christ

We all own an invention that is almost essential.

It is very revealing, and it never tells a lie. It says it like it is, yet it never makes a sound. All of us stand before it prior to going out in public. And if we didn’t, we should have. It is a mirror—especially a full-length mirror!

God’s Word calls itself a mirror. It reflects the truth. I’ve observed over the years that churches rarely stand before full-length mirrors to examine themselves. We pastors are often the same.

I’ve discovered that it’s helpful to back off occasionally from our activities, important though they may be, and just look at ourselves a little closer in the mirror. Do that with me for a moment, will you?

Look at what Paul wrote to a church obsessed with image: “And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God” (1 Corinthians 2:1).

What we do is not about impressing others. The pastorate is not a place where an image is polished or where emphasis is placed on one’s self. Paul didn’t preach with overpowering oratory or philosophical arguments to wow his Greek audience in Corinth. He came as a simple man with a very basic, albeit, profound message regarding Christ.

In fact, what we say is all about exalting Christ. Paul continued: “I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified” (2:2). Look at your reflection in that verse. Do you see the person of Christ and the work of Christ on the cross in your ministry? Those two thoughts deserve center stage.

Ministry is not about my agenda. It is not about my personality. It is not about my charisma. “I came to know nothing among you,” says the apostle, “except Jesus and His work on the cross.” As pastors, we must step aside and remind the flock that it is Christ who is the Head, and it is His cross that is important.

If our congregations leave a service more in love with Jesus, it was a successful time of worship. If they leave impressed with another dimension of the cross, you and I have done a good job.

So this Sunday, as we stand to deliver—with our hair combed, our teeth brushed, and our messages carefully prepared—let’s remember that our purpose is not about impressing others.

It is all about exalting Christ!

—Chuck

Answer the Charge

Paul wrote with urgency, “I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction” (2 Timothy 4:1–2). In other words, stick with the preaching plan God has promised to bless and use: preaching the Word. Deliver the biblical goods! Be a man of the Book!

Did you notice something here? This exhortation is not addressed to the hearer; it’s for the speaker. The one who is to obey this command is the one proclaiming the message. That’s you. That’s me. That’s all who are called to stand and deliver.

We’re to be ready to do it in season and out of season. Being ready implies being prepared both mentally and spiritually. Don’t try so hard to be so creative and cute that folks miss the truth. No need for meaningless and silly substitutes for God’s Word. They may entertain but rarely convict the lost or edify the saved. Teach the truth.

In essence, Paul says, “Don’t be lazy. Do your homework. Don’t stand up and start with an apology that you didn’t have adequate time to prepare. That doesn’t wash.” And prepare your work faithfully—when it’s convenient and when it’s not.

Sadly, in an alarming number of churches today, God’s people are being told what they want to hear rather than what they need to hear. They are being fed warm milk, not solid meat. A watered-down gospel will attract large crowds (for a while), but it has no eternal impact. I’ve not been able to find any place in the Scriptures where God expresses the least bit of concern for increasing numbers. Satisfying the curious, itching ears of our postmodern audiences is an exercise in futility.

The task of ministry is to deliver truth. Frankly, I intend to continue doing just that, by God’s grace, until the day He calls me home. I believe that’s your passion as well. That’s why you became a pastor. Thankfully, there is an ever-increasing body of believers who long for nourishing messages based on the Word of God, not human opinion.

Will you answer the charge?

Jesus said, “Go and make disciples of all nations. . . . And surely I am with you always” (Matthew 28:19–20 NIV). There is no greater challenge and no more comforting promise. Believe it. Trust it. And by the grace of God, just do it!

I’m right there with you.

––Chuck

To Help You Counsel

Suffering is a universal experience. No matter what language we speak . . . no matter what ethnic or economic background we represent, each of us knows heartache. In fact, Joseph Parker, a great preacher of yesteryear, once said it this way to a group of young ministers:

Preach to the suffering and you will never lack a congregation. There is a broken heart in every pew. —Joseph Parker

I know I don’t need to convince you of that. You hear variations on that theme countless times each week as you interact and counsel with people who need direction and encouragement from God’s Word.

For us, the question is obvious: “In light of my demanding schedule as a pastor, how do I adequately prepare in order to point my counselees toward healing and hope?”

We at Insight for Living Ministries ask ourselves this question too . . . because people continually turn to us asking for answers to their own tough questions. And so, through years of intensive, elbow-deep study of God’s Word and continual involvement with people, we created a resource especially to help the busy pastor.

Counseling Insights touches on 50 of the issues you'll deal with most in your counseling ministry. Issues related to marriage, the family, the Christian life, as well as personal and emotional issues. You will be able to:

  • Prepare for counseling sessions by giving you a case study and sample questions to ask
  • Understanding the issue being considered from a biblical framework with Scriptures specifically related to that issue
  • Counsel with “tried-and-true” wisdom to help the counselee through the correction, healing, and restorative processes necessary for lifelong emotional and spiritual maturity
  • Download instantly any or all of the 50 PDFs related to the issue you need for your upcoming session. No waiting!

In this helpful counseling resource, you will not find simplistic clichés or quick-fix solutions but biblically based principles that equip you to offer assistance to those struggling through life’s deepest hurts. See the topics addressed.

My prayer is that Counseling Insights will become a tool that genuinely assists you as you minister to others. You can instantly download individual topics or the entire set at our Counseling Insights store page.

I highly recommend it for your pastoral ministry.

—Chuck

The Superman Syndrome

Are you an aspiring Superman?

I’m not talking about pulling on a pair of blue tights and a red cape and putting a fancy “S” on your chest. I’m talking about an attitude: “I am self-sufficient,” “I need no one else,” or “I will show no weakness or admit any inadequacy.” These betray the presence of the Superman Syndrome—that particular peril for pastors who go it alone.

Funny thing is, I’ve rarely seen anyone lose ground by admitting inadequacy or weakness. The best professors I ever had said, “I don’t know, Chuck, but when we come back together I’ll try to have that answer for you.” I deeply respect that attitude in a person. Kids acknowledge weakness all the time and never feel as if they’ve lost face.

As pastors, we set ourselves up for letting people down when we pose as Superman. I remember a young believer in our church who gushed, “I don’t know of anybody I admire as much as I do you.”

“Stop right there,” I interrupted. “I appreciate your admiration, but always remember: When it comes to one another on this earth, never put anyone on a pedestal.”

“I never thought about that before,” she replied.

“Only one person deserves to be on a pedestal, and He’ll never fall off. That’s Jesus. You can respect me,” I continued, “but please don’t put me in that place where I’m sure to let you down.”

By the way . . . have you heard what the mother ape said to her baby ape? “Watch out about climbing on those high poles. The higher you get, the more they’re gonna see your rump.” Remember, when you’re up high, you’re a big target. You’re on display. So it’s essential to say, “I can’t handle this myself.” Or, “I need you guys right now.” Didn’t Jesus do this at Gethsemane?

As 2 Corinthians 2:16 asks, “Who is adequate for these things?” Obviously, the appropriate attitude is to embrace this fact: We are not self-sufficient. We need other people. It’s wise for us to ask for help. We should never leave the impression that we don a cape and tights.

Let’s get practical. Ask for help! Hardly a day passes that I don’t ask someone to assist me in doing something. Also, make sure that when someone helps with a project, that person gets the credit. If a guy comes up with a great idea, and the whole church applauds it, let the people know it was his idea. Why leave any other impression?

Admit weaknesses and failures. Acknowledge your own fallibility. Don’t buy in to the Superman Syndrome. You can’t carry the weight of the whole world on your shoulders. Someone else already has that distinction.

—Chuck

Know Your Audience

Two mistakes are commonly made in our pulpits.

The first is giving Christians too much of the gospel . . . the second is giving lost people too much theology.

Christians don’t grow if they only hear about the cross and the resurrection in our preaching. Expositional teaching in sound theology will help the saints grow strong—especially when they are struggling with life. Practical theology reminds us that God has chosen us for salvation and for a life of obedience and good deeds—and that we are secure in the family of God. The Lord will never abandon His own.

Lost people, on the other hand, don’t need the deep subjects of theology. They need, first and foremost, the plain truth about their sin, their Savior, and the faith that can set them free.

My point? We preachers need to know our audience . . . and then give them what they need.

—Chuck