Around this time of year, every leader I know is goaded by Isaiah 32:8 – “The noble man makes noble plans and by noble deeds he stands.”
I set my goals for 2012 this week. Some of them are personal, some professional, some physical, some familial. The process got me thinking. Are there some goals every pastor ought to write in stone and just commit to every day?
I think there are.
1. Walk with Jesus.
Easy to write, and tempting to skip. With a pastor’s pace, it’s easy to justify skipping your chair time every morning. But honestly, isn’t walking with Jesus job one?
2. Love your spouse.
First Peter 3:7 says, “Husbands, be considerate as you live with your wives… so that nothing will hinder your prayers.” I tell my staff, “If you’re not meeting with Jesus, you won’t have any true power for ministry.” I should add, “And if you’re not loving your husband/wife, you won’t be effective either.”
3. See as many people come to Christ as possible.
There’s always a tension between loving the flock and seeking the lost. In Luke 15, Jesus says that the good shepherd will actually leave his ninety-nine sheep in the open country to go after the lost one.
The problem for pastors is lost ones don’t make noise. They’re not bleating about better sermons, greater care, or whatever area of ministry is currently under-resourced or neglected. Lost ones have only the voice of God whispering in the preacher’s heart, “Come find me.” This is a call we ignore at the peril of others’ eternities.
4. Raise godly children.
The legacy of a great pastor can be a group of wonderful people serving God. The legacy of a great parent is children who grow up to exceed them in ministry. If you have to choose, pick the parent role over the pastor role.
5. Take care of your temple.
Time with Jesus gives you spiritual energy. Exercise and eating right gives you physical energy, as well as longevity of days. For years, I admitted that my sweet tooth had control of me. On March 31 this year, I decided that if the fruit of the Spirit is self-control, I didn’t need to let my palate be my guide so I gave up sweets altogether. It’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. There is not a single day I wake up wishing I had had some pie or cookies the night before.
6. Increase your skills.
Readers are leaders, so I set a goal of reading at least twenty-four books each year. Every year, I hire a new ministry mentor. Twice a year, I attend a conference. Every week, I watch a great preacher via videocast. (I used to listen to podcasts. Seeing the preacher’s face, posture, and the arrangement of the room help me.)
7. Expand your world.
I’ve discovered I can see things more clearly at a distance. Therefore, getting out of town several times a year helps my leadership. A few years ago, Lori and I visited friends in Quebec, Canada. They have history there! Seeing a different culture always stimulates my vision about what God may want to do in Oceanside. For this reason, I try to take an international trip every year. Every pastor should get far away from their city at least on an annual basis.
8. Avoid sin.
David had it right when he said, “If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.” (Ps. 66:18) God’s blessing to me and progress through me is hindered because of my folly. I want his best. Sin, by its very definition, is not God’s best for me. The more I say “no” to sin and “yes” to God, the more he is able to use me.
9. Inspire your staff and board.
I am clearly dependent on the people around me. The better they work, the better the work. One of my top priorities is to train, inspire, and encourage my inner circle fervently and strategically. I meet with my staff weekly, Board monthly, and take both of them on semi-annual retreats where I pour into them through Bible study, worship, planning, and prayer.
10. Feed your people.
I’m currently reading, Spurgeon: Prince of Preachers. That man changed a whole city by the power of his preaching! Technology and the “cool” factor can seduce us into devoting undue time to the production side of the church service. Leave that to others. The pastor’s greatest moment is the preaching of the Word. When it’s preached with power, lives are changed. Spurgeon believed there was a difference between the written Word and the spoken Word. He said, “I was convicted by the one, but converted by the other.” I’m becoming increasingly convinced this must be the Senior or Teaching Pastor’s weekly obsession.
That’s my list. What did I miss?