Pastors are a motley bunch of souls. We represent different personalities and tribes, different methodologies and styles, not to mention denominations, traditions and theologies. But I’ve learned over the years that there is something many of us all have in common—a profound sense of insecurity for which the only antidote is the gospel.
It’s easy to succumb to the temptation to compare one’s ministry to that of another pastor, or give in to the need to impress others and be liked.
The only remedy for these ministry idolatries and all others is the gospel because it announces, among many things, we are justified, accepted, loved and satisfied by God in Christ.
Until pastors discover and embrace their identity in Christ—which is accomplished by Christ and received by faith, not works—they will keep trying to find their identity in their position, their preaching, their persona and their programs.
While every pastor would affirm the gospel’s centrality to their ministry, we still need to remind each other this isn’t just some religious formality. Knowing how Christ’s finished work works in our own lives and ministries is vitally important.
So how do we become a “gospel-shaped pastor”? How (and why) should we keep the good news of the finished work of Christ at the center of our hearts and the forefront of our minds? There are many reasons, but here are four of the more important ones.
1. Remember the gospel so you will have the power you need.
In the trenches of day-to-day ministry work, it can become tragically easy to think of the whole thing as a managerial enterprise. We plan and program, we mentor and coach, we write and preach. The relational work of ministry is taxing. Studying takes its toll.
Nearly every pastor I know has been wearied by ministry. For this reason, we need to remember Christianity is not some ordinary religious methodology. It is supernatural.
We pray because we aren’t in control. We preach the Scriptures because only God’s Word can change hearts. We share the gospel because only the grace of Christ can bring the dead to life. We have to remember who we are in Christ or we will go on ministry autopilot, assuming we’re working under our own power.
Knowing the power of the gospel (Romans 1:16, 1 Thessalonians 1:5) means the weakness of the pastor is no hindrance to the Lord at all. In fact, the very idea of Christianity presupposes human inability and weakness. Paul goes so far as to boast in his weakness, knowing that when he is weak, Christ is strong (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).
We’re told that a Korean pastor once visited the United States and was asked what he thought of the American church, to which he replied, “It is amazing what the church in America can do without the Holy Spirit.” May this never be said of us!
If we pursue pastoral ministry in our own strength, trusting in our own selves, we will be in big trouble. Our churches will be devastated, and so will we.
No, let us remember all that we are is because of Christ, and apart from him, we can do nothing. This reality will empower our leadership and our preaching and achieve real spiritual impact.