Four Pastoral Priorities in Ministry

One of the passages that has helped to shape my pastoral philosophy is Colossians 1:24-29. In this passage, the apostle Paul writes to believers in the region of ancient Colossae stating,24Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church, 25of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, 26the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints. 27To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.  28Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. 29For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.”  For Paul, the ministry was an all-encompassing, Christ-centered, Spirit-enabled, word-saturated, and people-focused endeavor.  Paul’s aim, simply put, was to “present everyone mature in Christ.”  Anyone who has spent even five minutes in the gospel ministry likely knows just how painful and frustrating this noble pursuit can be.  Still, each time I read of Paul’s passion for the church—about his precision in keeping the essentials primary and the non-essentials secondary—I am challenged and encouraged in my own pastoral ministry.
 
A few years ago, I sat down and captured what are my own pastoral priorities in the gospel ministry. There are four of them.  And, of course, just as with any good pastor (sarcasm intended!) they are alliterated; each one begins with the letter “P.”  My four pastoral priorities—the “first things” that I seek to order my daily and weekly schedule around as a servant of Jesus Christ and his church—are summed up in the words: preaching, prayer, people, and, lastly, pattern.  Let me explain why each one of these is so important to me.
 
First, Paul said to young Timothy, “Preach the word” (cf. 2 Tim. 4:2).  Jesus went about “…teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom…” (cf. Matt. 4:23; 9:35; Mark 1:14).  And, in the book of Acts, when the church was growing rapidly and the apostles needed to remain focused on their divinely ordained priorities, they said, “…It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables” (cf. Acts 6:2).  Again and again, we read throughout the New Testament that preaching—heralding the Good News of the crucified and risen Christ—is of paramount importance for the under shepherds of Jesus Christ in his church.  Preaching (and teaching) are “first level” priorities because God works amazingly through His word.  Pastoral ministry is essentially and inseparably connected to the proclamation of the Christ of the word and to the word of Christ.
 
Relatedly, in order for pastoral ministry—even a word-saturated pastoral ministry—to be an empowered ministry, God’s servant must be deeply committed to prayer.  In Acts 6, not only did the apostles state that they couldn’t abandon the word of God, but they likewise said, “…but we will devote ourselves to prayer…” (cf. Acts 6:4).  Prayer, then, is the oxygen of passionate, God-dependent pastoral ministry.  Praying for, with, and on behalf of God’s people seems to me to be of great importance because Jesus himself modeled such a wonderful ministry among his followers (cf. Mark 1:35; Luke 5:16).  Prayerlessness in pastoral ministry results in impotency in the service of the church.  Along with boldly preaching the word of God, drawing near to God in both personal reliance and persevering intercession is an absolute necessity for effectiveness in my work as a pastor.
 
Numbers one and two are pretty obvious, right? Ask almost anyone what a pastor’s job revolves around and both preaching and prayer are sure to come up.  But, the next word—people—seems to be astonishingly absent from the list of priorities of some of God’s ministers today. 

 

“People are the ministry.”  This was one of the important things that I told the search committee during my interview process.  You see, it isn’t orchestrating events, organizing programs, or even my own opinions which matter most.  It is caring for God’s people, the church.  Being the relational guy that I am, noticing and caring about people seems to come pretty natural for me.  However, in the mix of many demands and pressing deadlines, making time for people in the ministry can be tremendously challenging.  This is why, I think, making spending time with God’s people as an explicit priority is so important for pastors.  Investing time in our people is just as significant as the time we invest in preparing messages from God’s word.
 
My last pastoral priority relates to the word: pattern.  In all honesty, what I really want to say here is the word “leadership,” but that would throw off my fancy alliteration…Nevertheless, one of the things that is hugely important both for me, and I think for all ministers, is how we set a pattern for others to follow.  First Timothy 4:12 states, “Let no one despise you for your youth, but set a pattern for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.” Paul exhorted Timothy to set a good example as a young pastor for the church to follow.  Similarly, the writer of Hebrews says to believers, “Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith”  (Heb. 13:7).  Leadership—pointing the way and setting a pattern for others to follow—is an urgent priority in pastoral ministry.  In actuality, this idea of setting an example is the inevitable outflow of an authentic love for God (i.e. preaching and prayer) and love for others (i.e. people).  Providing godly leadership and a good example rounds out my top four priorities in my personal pastoral philosophy.
 
So, there you have it. My top four pastoral priorities: preaching, prayer, people and setting a godly pattern for others to follow.  Please note that eerily absent from this list is the word perfect (ha! another “P”!).  By God’s wonderful grace I can honestly say that I am growing in each of these main areas as I live out my calling to serve the Lord and His church.  But, I am far from perfect!  Still, for those of you from our church who may be reading, or even if you are just checking out our website and considering visiting us some Sunday, I hope this brief post helps you understand a bit better what I strongly believe are the most important things in my “job description” as Lead Pastor here at Trinity.

 

To read more about our church’s leadership team, please click on the “Leadership” tab.

Blessings,

Pastor Dan