Friday, April 17, 2015

The pastor's life must be a disciplined life

At one point in my life I was serving as the bivocational pastor of a small church, working a full-time job in a factory 50 miles north of my home, and attending a Bible school 50 miles south of my home. In addition I was a husband and a father to two active children. It is safe to say that my life was interesting.

In one of the classes I took at the Bible school we were required to write down everything we did in half-hour increments for a week. It's a great exercise if you want to see how you spend your time. When the professor read my chart he remarked that he found it difficult to believe anyone's life was as structured as mine. I explained my situation to him and told him I had no choice but to live a very structured life.

Pastoral ministry is one that requires a certain amount of discipline and structure if one wishes to be effective and productive. Sundays come every seven days, and most pastors are expected to be prepared to share at least one message on that day. No matter what else may happen, your congregation expects a sermon from their pastor. That means time must be spent each week in sermon preparation.

I pastored one church for twenty years. Planning and preparing sermons was one of the things I enjoyed most about the ministry. Usually. I must be honest and admit that there were some weeks I didn't want to study and prepare a sermon. There were some weeks that I had so many demands on my time that it was hard to find the time to prepare. There were other weeks I just didn't want to. I wanted to do other things.

There is a trend among some younger pastors today to not visit the people in their churches. I think that is a mistake. It is in those visits that relationships are built, and in smaller churches those relationships are vital to effective ministry. I tried to visit our members and guests on a regular basis and almost always if they were in the hospital or facing some difficulty in their lives. However, I must admit that sometimes I didn't want to.

There were numerous times in my pastoral ministry when I did things I really didn't want to do, but I knew they were necessary if I wanted to serve my people well.  John Maxwell shares a quote in his book The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth: Live Them and Reach Your Potential, "The successful person has the habit of doing the things that failures don't like to do. The successful person doesn't like doing them either, but his dislike is subordinated to the strength of his purpose."

Effective pastors will spend the time studying and preparing messages that challenge and encourage their congregations because that is what God has called them to do. They will take time to be with people in their churches and communities to develop the kind of relationships that give them the right to speak words of hope and comfort into their lives. It requires discipline on the part of the pastor to do these things when he or she would rather be doing something else.

Every pastor will have times when his or her motives or actions are misunderstood and people begin to question those motives or actions. It takes great discipline to know when to speak up and when to remain quiet. Sometimes, for reasons known only to us, we are not able to defend ourselves and must remain quiet in the midst of accusations. In such times we must be disciplined enough to share our thoughts with God alone.

Pastoral ministry is not an easy calling. We will often be required to do some things we would prefer not to do. We must be disciplined enough to do them anyway if we want to be true to our calling and to the people we serve.

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