3 things pastors must do to enjoy the journey of ministry

March 31, 2021

My journey in ministry has been one marked by many ups and downs. Through my many failures, I have been extended grace and allowed to learn some lessons that I hope will help others on their journey to fulfill God’s call in their lives.

There are some leadership skills we must learn in order to be effective. We must learn to be spiritually and emotionally healthy disciples. Spiritually and emotionally healthy disciples then have the capacity to become wise and discerning leaders. Wise and discerning leaders are also persistent and patient leaders through change and transition.

However, we experience true joy in ministry by having a proper view of the journey and being content as we embrace the calling God has placed on our lives.

Allow me to share three things I’ve learned that pastors must do to enjoy the journey of pastoral ministry.

Remember it’s not your church
Often in our conversations, we refer to the church we pastor as “our church.” Theologically we know this is not correct.

But we often take ownership of the church and put unrealistic expectations and responsibilities on ourselves as we seek to lead and shepherd the flock. This perspective always leads down a road to disappointment.

When things aren’t going well, we feel shame and disappointment and wonder where we have failed. On the flip side, when things are going well, we are tempted to take credit for the work God has done.

A proper perspective allows us to see the blessing of being involved in carrying out the mission of God and leaves the responsibility of building the church with Jesus.

We experience true joy in ministry by having a proper view of the journey and being content as we embrace the calling God has placed on our lives.

Be present where you are
As pastors, we all have a philosophy of ministry as well as our idea of “the perfect church.” This idea tempts us to long for a church that embodies our man-made idea of perfection. Many pastors have left churches far too soon because they were looking to pastor the church of their dreams.

Here’s a reality check — there is no perfect church. Every church is filled with broken sinners who are saved by God’s grace. When broken humans interact, there will always be issues and conflicts that must be addressed. As a pastor, commit to leading people closer to where they need to be regardless of where they are at the moment.

God may call you away, but when leaving, make certain you are being called to something and not running from something.

Pastor, don’t do Christ’s church a disservice by going through the motions of ministry while longing for a place that exists only in your imagination. There is great joy to be found if we will simply remain present where we are.

Enjoy the people
One of the most heartbreaking statements I have heard from a pastor is, “Ministry would be great if it weren’t for the people.” It’s heartbreaking because ministry is all about the people. A pastor will not experience effectiveness or joy if he does not take time to love and enjoy the people he has been called to lead.

People will follow our leadership only to the degree we have opened ourselves up to them. We should never look out into the congregation and see only pawns we are trying to motivate and maneuver in order to accomplish a mission.

Historically, I believe pastors were even taught to be careful not to develop personal relationships with members of the congregation. My experience has been that when I have dropped my guard to love and laugh with people, they have been very caring and supportive of my leadership.

You will not be able to have an amazing relationship with every person within the congregation, but you should make yourself available to everyone — from the youngest to the oldest. Then you will find that there are some amazing people God has placed on your journey who will bring you so much joy.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the last article in a four-part series on how pastors can lead well. Here are other articles in the series: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.

by Sandy Marks  
Church Health and Revitalization  /  Baptist State Convention of North Carolina

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