In November 2009 I was ordained as an elder/pastor at Grace Bible Church in Escondido, CA. In the past year I’ve learned that I have so much more to learn about the gospel, life, and ministry. With that said, there are a few important takeaways from my first year of pastoral ministry that I’d like to share.
Keep your priorities straight
Pastoral ministry is important work, but it isn’t top priority in the life of a pastor. I’m called to be a follower of Christ first. Unfortunately it’s quite common for pastors to neglect their own spiritual health and growth while seeking to help others.
I’m also called to be a faithful husband and father. There’s a constant temptation in pastoral ministry to neglect your wife and children because you’re “serving the Lord.” That kind of thinking can destroy marriages and families. I would consider myself a failure in 30 years if I had a “successful” ministry, but my wife and sons doubted my love for them. A pastor who isn’t a leader in the home shouldn’t be a leader in the church.
Don’t be fooled by the smile
I encounter a lot of smiles as I greet people at the worship services on Sundays. However, many of the seemingly happy people with whom I interact are struggling on the inside. They’re wrestling with disappointment and depression; burdened with worry; overwhelmed by circumstances; angry with a spouse or child; dabbling with sin. They need to be loved, encouraged, and admonished but on the surface everything may appear to be OK. A simple “How’s it going?” isn’t going to draw out what’s really going on. As a pastor I need to take the initiative in asking strategic, and sometimes tough, questions. I need to make myself available and demonstrate that I care.
Keep the gospel at the center
The gospel is central to Christian belief. It’s also central to Christian living. All too often we pastors tell people what they ought to do, but fail to show them the ways in which the gospel provides the whys and hows of godly living. It’s critical that I help people understand that the gospel informs belief and behavior.