Even if you’ve been in ministry for years, this counsel serves as a good reminder of a pastor’s high calling.
Call of the ministry
Be satisfied in your heart that your desire for ministry has been confirmed by a personal calling from God. “If a man desires the position of a bishop, he desires a good work” (1 Timothy 3:1).
Reason for a call
Inform a lost humanity that they may be saved through the finished work of Christ on Calvary’s cross, and communicate to believers that they may grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ through the church. May your sermons always glorify the Son of God.
Choose quality schools to attend. Churches often decide whom to call as pastor based on the candidate’s academic background. Proverbs 24:27 infers that one should pursue his education before establishing a family.
Consider applying for a position as an assistant pastor upon graduation from college or seminary. After experiencing firsthand how a church works, you will be a better pastor and a wiser administrator.
Work at developing a large library. Learn to be a reader, as good reading habits are vital to a successful pulpit ministry. Build your own commentary series (besides sets) by buying select books on the different books of the Bible. Obtain as many volumes as possible on given topics so you will have a wide variety of views on such topics. Also, do plenty of reading in the secular field and keep up with current events.
Always remember that the final authority is in the church majority. As their chosen leader, you lead by virtue of example, not by force. Make sure you have the board’s support in all important church decisions. Going above the board and directly to the church is “political” suicide.
Pulpit ministry voice
Develop a strong pulpit voice, neither shouting nor whispering. If you rely on a public-address system, remember that it can reproduce only what it receives. Teach your sound engineers to reproduce your voice loud and clear.
Learn early to live within your income. Poor money management can result in the loss of your job, your reputation, and even your home and marriage. Gifts may be accepted with care. If you receive money for the church, be sure to leave a paper trail for your protection. Never borrow from church funds.
Always answer your correspondence. Possess quality stationery for personal use. Often reputations are made or hurt simply by answering or not answering correspondence.
Guard yourself from the “three Gs”—gold, glory, and girls. By doing so, you will likely have a successful ministry. Especially guard against touching the opposite sex, regardless of the reason.
Listen attentively to others’ heartaches and secret sins. Lead those who have sinned to 1 John 1:9 and Philippians 3:14 for private confessions and forgiveness. Do not reveal to others—your wife, secretary, fellow pastors, friends, or anyone else—the confidentialities of the one who has come to you for private counsel and help.
Schedules and sermon preparation
Be accountable for your daily program. Everyone needs a boss; a pastor’s boss should be his schedule. Be at work by a specified time, and designate study periods and prayer times. Carve out time to relax by having sermons for Sunday services prepared by Friday evening. When planning your days, place the most important items first on your “to do” list.
Teach the Word of God by explaining the teachings of the Old Testament and the New Testament, but never point fingers at your flock. It is easy to exercise grace toward oneself but law toward others. Instead, exercise law toward yourself but grace toward your congregation. Preach vicariously—let the Holy Spirit convict the congregation regarding the teachings of a message. Most Christians attend church on Sundays because they feel they have to be there, not because they want to be there. Only a few are there to serve the Lord. Do not become frustrated because of the majority. Love the majority for who they are, and be grateful for the few faithful ones who carry the load.
Love your wife, and sacrifice yourself for her. It is not your job to see that your wife is submissive; that is her job. Do not tell her all that goes on in the office or in board meetings. Your wife should avoid holding offices such as the president of women’s ministries but should rather mentor ladies who hold such offices. Remember, you are the one who is called to be the shepherd of the flock, not your wife. Her ministry may best be served by modeling the lifestyle of a godly wife and mother.
The size of your church
Realize that the average-size church in America has a morning attendance of 120. Resolve to do the best work you can where God has called you. That is all that He asks of you, so be faithful.
A balanced life
Do not spend so much time in your work that you neglect your wife and family. The work of the Lord seems endless; your wife and children deserve a fair portion of your time. Conversely, guard your work time for the ministry by not spending too much time playing golf, fishing, or being with your family. Keep things in balance. Also, remember that board and church members can fulfill “secular” responsibilities of the church to enable you to fulfill your “spiritual” responsibility of study and prayer.
The meaning of life
Enjoy going to your God-called work in the morning and coming home to your wife and family at night. You will gain all that life has to offer.
Frank M. Kisner, Retired Pastor
Member of Grace Baptist Church