1) Discover Spirituality
This doesn’t mean to resign your ministry and go to a monastery. Nor does it mean that one should become ane xtremist mystic.
2) Recognize Doctrine as a means, not an end.
Your goal is not be be a stiff, uncompromising defender of doctrine for it’s sake. Rather, it’s to recognize that a solid, uncompromising Scriptural basis as the only basis for pastoral ministry with integrity.
3) Recognize the Result of Original Sin in your life and ministry.
Dysfunctionalities of various kind are simply indicators of what ministry is all about: preaching to a broken, sinful world in which pain, suffering, sorrow and rejection continue to threaten peacefulness, grace, forgiveness, and the power of God.
4) Trust God–I mean really, really trust Him.
One cannot last long in ministry without an uncompromising trust in him. Such uncompromising attitude does not come from an academic study of the Word or an accurate understanding and erudite apologetic eloquence. You have to learn to trust Him.
5) Minister For God, Not For Advancement.
You are not called to be greater, faster, more effective than the preacher down the street. Nor are you necessarily called to be the most influential person in your denomination. God’s calling for you is to recognize, respond and faithfully utilize the specific unique giftedness which He has given you for use in the specific ministry setting in which you are in (cf. Ministry Health article 120 “How’s Your Career Path Going?”)
The key mark of a prophet was not just that HE preached God’s word faithfully. Instead, the key mark of a prophet was that they were rarely found in hierarchies rarely found in places of their choosing and aspiration. Instead, it was God who moved them to stand before kings, princes, and the spiritually rebellious nations opposing God.
In carrying out their calling, they never got “promoted.” Instead, they just kept on being called to greater and more heart-wrenching challenges.
6) Be Able To Walk Away
How important are you to your church? How important is your church to you? Is it the core of your identity, self-esteem, and sense of value? If it all collapsed tomorrow, could you walk away?
This is not to be taken as to be indifferent to ministry or to remained detached from people. Nor is it a statement intended to encourage pastors to not work vigorously and passionately in every way for the extension of God through their ministry.
What it is, however, is a true test of discipleship. Are you so attached to your church that if it ceased to exist, you would fall totally apart? Or could you, as Job, watch it all go away before your very eyes and say, “The Lord gave, the Lord taketh away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” Job undoubtedly worked diligently, passionately with all the energy he had to build up his billion-dollar worth.
What separated him from everyone else was that he was a wise builder. Everything he did, planned and built, he committed to the Lord. When it was taken away, he knew it wasn’t his loss. After all, everything was the Lord’s. Whatever the Lord would choose to do with His things was find for Job. “Blessed be the name of the Lord.”
7) Renounce The Lies of Culture
“How can I ever live without you?” the lyrics read. “If you leave me now, you take away the biggest part of me,” plays another song. “How can you just turn and walk away….?”
You know the songs. You know the words. But you may not know that these songs lie. They lie to me, to you, to everyone who hears them. They lie to your members. They lie to our whole civilization.
The worst thing of these lies, however, is that we believe them.We believe that we can’t go one without so-and-so. We believe that unless someone or something external is with us, we can’t survive. We can’t go on.
Though grief, especially in the loss of loved ones, is real. Though it is appropriate to weep as Jesus did for loved ones, and though it is difficult to go through grief, the reality is that we can go on. We do go on. We will go on. Who and what we are really does not depend on ourselves, our successes, our impressive feats, etc. It really doesn’t. The moment we think it does, we live the lie and are controlled by the lie.
Paul, in Philippians 3:18-19 said, “many lives as enemies of the cross of Christ….Their mind is on earthly things” (NIV). What is your mind on…how much you can “squeeze” out of God’s calling for you to “go higher” in the eyes of the world? On the earthly things like recognition, the “bigger and better,” et al? Those who do, Paul says, share a common destiny: destruction.
8) Be confident of God’s plan.
It is not to hurt or harm you. God’s plan is to build you up and strengthen you. However, one can only receive such strength when sufficiently weakened. God’s plan is not deciphered by random sequences of snapshots of various events. Nor is it made plain by forcing our will and interpretation on it. Instead, it comes from simply trustingly falling into the arms of God and saying, “Here I am Lord. Send me.”
Don’t even ask where He’s sending you. It’s not important. What’s important is having developed a level of trust that, like Abraham, simply follows where He leads and leaves behind whatever God calls one to forsake.
9) Expect Testing And Trial
Testing and trial are not only the lot of Christians, but the lot of Pastors as well. It is God’s greatest method of urging people to confront the necessity for true spirituality. You will be tested. The testing will be difficult. The testing will always involve loss. When it comes, recognize it for what it is. Not a guilt trip, not a punishment, not an invalidation of your ministry. It’s a test. Only a test. Endure it.
10) Discover Paul’s Secret
Paul’s letter to the Philippians is a remarkable exposition of Christian coping mechanisms. Called the “Epistle of Joy,” it probably should be renamed the “Epistle of Joyful Contentment.” In spite of being imprisoned, beaten, stoned, left for dead, rejected, humiliated, starved, et al, Paul could remain content. Why? Because he knew the secret for contentment in ministry.
“I know what it is to have need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in ay and every stiuation, whether welll-fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” Philippians 4:12 (NIV).
What was Paul’s secret to endurance, perseverance, enduring untold suffering and never-ending ministry frustration? It wasn’t his friends. It wasn’t his church. It wasn’t his personality. And it certainly wasn’t his circumstances.
The secret was simply this: “I can do everything through Him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13). Nothing fancy. No bells, whistles or special training needed. All that’s needed is a simple recognition that with my strength I can do nothing. With God’s strength, Paul affirmed, I can do everything that He wants.
One may not be able to do what one wants in the way one wants. But that’s not important…at least to God. If it’s important to one, they don’t have the slightest possibility of finding contentment.
One’s calling as a Christian–and especially as a Christian pastor–is to do what He gives the strength for one to do. The plans are His. The strength is His. The results are His. Contentment is simply a recognition that only His things matter, not ours.
One can’t “do it all.” So let God’s strength and wisdom do as He determines in His servants.
11) Look For God
He is with us always. Walk in the woods, look at the stars in the evening. See the majesty of God in the sanctuary. What is seen is not just trees, birds, stars and creation. It’s the permeation of God’s power and presence among us. As one writer said, “Before one believes in God, a tree is a tree.” Then, when ones believes in God, the tree is no longer a tree. Then, after faith takes hold, the tree is a tree.”
Sometimes, like Elijah, we look for God in the powerful, the majestic, the miraculous. If only we look at the simple manifestations of His glory. If only we could really “practice the presence of God.”
12) Understand Paradox
Scriptural truth is best understood as paradox. Give up your life to lose it. In weakness one finds strength. The first shall be last.
13) Understand the Power of the Word
The lyrics of one famous Bee Gees song read, “Words are all I have, to take your heart away.”
The truth is, “words” are really all we have. Nothing in this world can control other’s emotions, choices and feelings. Certainly power can be used to urge outward conformity. But, even when one commanded to sit against their will, inside their mind they are still standing up.
Words are all we have in relationships. And God’s Word is all we have in our ministries. The power of the Word is awesome. It is “dynamite.” But, whatever one says about it, it’s not our Word, nor is it our power. It’s God’s. It is, in a profound way, “all we have.” There is nothing else. Nothing. Just God’s Word reenergized by His Spirit.
14) Learn To Let Go
Grieving is especially hard to do. It’s especially hard, however, when one has not developed a “blueprint” for grief.
15) Confront Your Weakness
16) Don’t Resist The Spiritual Journey
17) Listen To Your Body
Stresses, chemistries, your rushes, etc.
18) Deal With Temptation
19) Be Disciplined
20) Understand Your Addictions
What is it that gives you your “rush’?
21) Understand Your Relationship Energies
22) To whom are you attracted?
To what personalities are you drawn? Are these attractions healthy? Or are you satisfying unmet childhood and or adult needs?
Thomas F. Fischer