I meet a lot of young pastors and men who are preparing to enter the pastorate. I love their boldness, passion and courage. We need godly men of all ages who are willing to make the sacrifices required to minister and to expend themselves for a lifetime of faithful service.
As younger men and those who are new to ministry are oft prone to do, they speak of their vision of how they believe the work will go, what their focus will be and how they will begin ministering to a local congregation.
Some envision this preferred future. If God allows and graces, the church will be transformed, renewed, refreshed and revived. Amen, brother! Amen!
But how will this forward movement occur? How will a congregation experience a turnaround after decades of decline?
In my experience, it does not come through a revitalization consultant’s roadmap. It does not happen by sheer force of pastoral will. It is not the result of a full arsenal of charismatic pastoral gifts and (hold on, you may disagree) it’s not due solely to the expository preaching of God’s Word.
All those things matter and are important, and each of them can work to bring about renewal and reform. But alone, and even laced together, they do not guarantee the pastor’s vision for the congregation will become reality.
Is there hope? Mostly definitely. The way of renewal in a local congregation is tied to the works of pastoral ministry – works often unglamorous, unnoteworthy, basic and simple. In most cases where one observes steady growth and progress in a local congregation, you’ll find these three common elements:
I’m struck by the pleas of the Apostle Paul, a man bold in his proclamation, sharp in his apologetics, grounded in his theology and proven in his disciple-making capabilities. This apostle’s work stood tall — and still does – in the history of the church. Notice, Paul pleaded for others to pray for him, and the ministry God had called him to fulfill. (2 Cor. 1:11, Col. 4:3, 1 Thess. 5:25) Pastors, we need the consistent prayers of others on our behalf.
2. Pastoral Care
Jesus’ pursuit and reinstatement of the erring and denying disciple Peter is a model of grace and an example of a charge that flows from the place of renewed love for a forgiving Savior. “Tend my sheep” is the command of the risen Christ to Peter, whose work now lies before him. (John 21:16) The word “tend” speaks to the important work of caring, guiding and guarding God’s people. Its context is relational; in practice it means the shepherd will move and be present with his people with great regularity. He will know them, and they will know him.
3. Proclamation of God’s Word
One of the central functions of our role as a pastor is to rightly proclaim God’s word to the congregation. I’ve heard some say that the pulpit (meaning the preaching ministry) is the rudder of the local church. Paul exhorts Timothy, a young pastor, to preach the Word (2 Tim. 4:2). God’s word is central to our worship and our way of life. Rather than sharing our own opinions or the opinions of the day, God’s word must be the message.
Taken together, prayer, pastoral care and the proclamation of God’s word serve the church well and can set the stage for the important work of renewal to begin.
Published May 11, 2022