Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Reflections on Pastoral Ministry

When I started this blog I posted my simple strategy for pastoral ministry. Since my pastorate began in March 2008 I’ve resolved to do three things- preach the Word, live the Word, and shepherd others to follow the Word. I’ve found it helpful to constantly revisit these goals. Each week I’m trying through my study to understand the text of Scripture more and more so that I can present its meaning and intended application more clearly. This is probably the part of pastoral ministry I love the most. Don’t get me wrong, I do love people and ministering to them, but hunkering down with Scripture for hours during the week is a delight I never feel I get enough of. Since the summer of 2008 I’ve been preaching through the Gospel of Matthew with only brief breaks to address issues such as a Biblical view of marriage and a Biblical understanding of the church to name a couple. This area of my ministry is and will always be a work in progress.

The ‘living the Word’ part of my life and ministry is probably the hardest. It is always easier to look at other people’s lives than your own. However it is amazing that God always presents challenges to me and opportunities for application regarding the sermon I am preparing for during the week. He’s always pressing me to live it out. It is very convicting and sometimes frightening to think that my life and lifestyle can hinder people from hearing God’s Word clearly. While I know the Holy Spirit overcomes my own imperfections to plant the Word on people’s hearts it is still incumbent upon me to strive to “practice what I preach” and this can be tough.

The third part of my pastoral strategy (so to speak) is easily the most frustrating part but also the most rewarding part. Shepherding others to follow the Word can be really discouraging because when you stare at the text for hours you begin to form these expectations and ideals that everyone- including myself- is going to struggle to meet. I’ve had to be reminded over and over that sanctification is a process over a lifetime and it occurs in increments, day by day. Generally I get good feedback from my sermons and my leadership but whether the text is being personally applied or just theoretically agreed with is not certain. Still, the shepherding part of ministry is so rewarding. What a wonderful thing to see the Word reflected back from your people and that comes not only by preaching it, but by living it, and by shepherding them in it. Visiting the sick, listening to the hurting, and just building friendships provides those opportunities essential to helping the Word of God stick.

Well, there are thousands of better pastors and preachers out there but I’m not competing with them. My aim is to simply keep seeking to please Christ and follow His Word. So I’ll keep working at (with God’s grace) preaching the Word, living the Word, and shepherding others to follow the Word and just trust God with the results.

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