How pastors can be wise and discerning in 3 key areas

March 17, 2021
As a pastor, it’s easy to lose our joy and effectiveness. A key to maintaining or recapturing our joy and effectiveness starts with becoming a spiritually and emotionally healthy disciple, which involves having a proper view of God, ourselves and our families. 
As I began to once again sit at the feet of Jesus and truly worship Him, it radically changed how I saw myself and my family. Only after experiencing this renewal and having joy returned to my soul was it possible to begin to even dream of being effective as a pastor. 
Only spiritually and emotionally healthy disciples have the capacity to become wise and discerning leaders. Wise and discerning leaders have the proper view of the church they serve, the community they serve, and the ministries and programs they offer.
Following are things we should consider in these three areas. 
Proper view of the church you serve
Having a proper view of the church you serve has two important components. 
First, we have to make sure we are measuring the right things. Historically, we have measured our effectiveness as churches by attendance, financial giving and buildings. I recently saw a quote by Tony Merida, pastor of Imago Dei Church in Raleigh, that really struck me. He said, “You can have a large group of people and not have a church.” 
Admittedly, these measurements can give pastors great joy when they are elevated. However, these metrics can also give us great stress and cause us to doubt our calling when they are low. 
We must begin to measure the right things — understanding and engagement in the biblical mission, leadership development and transformed lives. 
Second, pastors must understand how God has uniquely gifted our churches. We can do this by spending time listening to people and celebrating how they have seen God work in their midst as a congregation.
Often the vision and pathway forward is rooted in the history of a church. Pay close attention to the gifts and passions of the people God is assembling within the body. There are some overarching calls of every church, like making disciples and being a house of prayer. However, God has also gifted your church in a very specific way to accomplish a very specific task.

Remember the mission is timeless, but the methods are not.

Proper view of the community you serve
A wise and discerning pastor must also spend a great deal of time and energy getting to know the community. There are many tools to simplify parts of this process. Tools such as MissionInsite are a great way to discover who lives near your church and what their needs are. 
Along with reviewing the data, a wise and discerning pastor must view himself as not just a pastor of a church, but the pastor of a community. This requires building relationships with county or city leaders, school officials, teachers, recreation leaders and other civic leaders. 
To truly love a community, a pastor must leave the confines of his office and nurture relationships with people in the community. Lead your congregation to pray for the needs within your community and seek to meet those needs. Look for ways to really love the people in your community.
It was a humbling moment for me when I was convicted of the fact that I could run church programs and not love people. Pastor, don’t just look for people to fill your programs, look for ways to love the people in your community.
Proper view of ministries and programs you offer
The ministries and programs our churches offer should always be born out of our mission. Our mission is given to us by Jesus, and making disciples is the lone imperative in the Great Commission.
Even with such clear instructions given to us by Jesus, pastors and church leaders often do not invest the time in establishing a disciple-making process. As a result, we find ourselves overscheduling our members as we try to maintain the busy church calendar. 
A disciple-making process gives us a lens by which we can evaluate our current ministries and ask questions like, “What do we need to stop?”, “What do we need to alter?” and “What do we need to add?” to accomplish our mission. 
Without an intentional disciple-making process, a church has no lens to evaluate ministries. As a result, we try to continue to promote sacred cows instead of having a way to put them out to pasture. In other words. we don’t know how to stop doing ineffective ministries. 
Remember the mission is timeless, but the methods are not.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the second article in a four-part series on how pastors can lead well. Here are other articles in the series: Part 1, Part 3, Part 4.

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

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