Like many of you, I am quick to find my flaws. The first flaw I find in myself is that I really don't find most of my flaws. There are myriad of shortcomings in my life that I have yet to recognize! But I try, for the most part, to be honest about my failings and limits.
For over twenty years now, I have loved being a pastor. But there have been days when the weight of my flaws has made it difficult to keep going. In those moments I've asked God, "Who am I to be in this role?" There were times when I had no clue how to help someone. There were times when my best attempt was the worst approach. Yes, there have been over the years innumerable wonderful moments of victory and joy and worship and enthusiasm. But there have been those other times, in all honesty, where I've just plain blown it.
So this morning, I've been asking God what might make me a better pastor. And perhaps, I thought, this rough list might encourage you in your role in life too, whatever God has called you to be and practice. So here is my first attempt at creating a list, I pray in response to God's leading, of 10 things that would make me a better pastor. Here we go:
10. Seek out more coaches to speak into my life and encourage me in what I am able to do. The key here is to seek out and then to listen to constructive criticism from people who believe in God's hand on my life.
9. Never make a questionable joke or derogatory comment about anyone. This one has bitten me more than I feel good about. Oh, it might mean I don't get to be as funny or cool as I'd like to be… (but just think about how stupid that sounds).
8. Emphasize discipleship over decisions. All too often I succumbed to the desire for a quick fix in the difficult and long formation process in a person's life. "Just say this" or "If you don't do this now then…" In my impatience to actually walk through growing journeys with others, I often made little ultimatums that were more for my benefit than theirs. Certainly, there are strategic times in anyone's life where a decision is the necessary step in discipleship process. But discernment of discipleship is what indicates whether this is true.
7. Let others lead, especially young people. All too often I have done the work of ministry. I have been the one to pray at the meal. I have been the one to listen to someone in distress. I have been the one to pray with someone to receive Jesus. I have been the one to deliver food to a poor person. I have been the one to preach. All of these things are good things! But there were usually other Christians who in those moments could have (and should have been encouraged to) do those things. Just becauase I might be better at doing something in a particular moment does not necessarily mean that I should be the one to do it. Not until the last few years has Ephesians 4:11-12 started to sink in. Pastors are supposed to equip the people of God to do the work of ministry. And if pastors keep doing all the work of ministry, how can we do our job as a pastor? (more on this in another post soon I hope!)
6. Be unconcerned about notariety. Part of the reason I am a pastor is because I love people. Another part of the reason I am a pastor is because I love being loved by people. My strength is my weakness. And in my weakness I have too often sought affirmation and recognition. Not very pastoral of me at all— especially when considering that the Good Shepherd (Pastor) became a sheep who was neglected and despised and rejected. The personal outcomes of my life (good and bad) are not up to me… and therefore I should not try to control or gain the affirmation of others.
5. Continually seek partners in ministry. I'm not sure there is a more important emphasis for Christians in North America today than to embrace and trust one another in mission. For too many years I did my own thing as a ministry director or local church pastor. I'd occassionaly get together with other ministry leaders and call that partnership, but it wasn't truly. How many opportunities for community impact have I missed because I was too self-absorbed?
4. Remember my original passion. Oh man, when I was 16 I was fully lit for Jesus (despite many inconsistencies of course). When I was focused on God, I was passionate. I shared Jesus with anyone, anywhere. I wrote scripture all over the walls of my bedroom (seriously, an entire wall was marked with Bible verses). And the fruit of this time in my life was unmatched. As I've aged and become more "mature" in the ways of the world, I have missed that unbridled and pure passion for God. I need to find activities in my life to continually remember and rekindle this passion.
3. Delight in my family. By this I don't mean to delight in them only in my mind and heart, but actually delight in them with my time. This point is related to #6 above. Pastors often feel a tension between the demands of their own family and the demands of the families of others. I have struggled with this regularly. In one role I found myself working over 12 hours on Sundays because ministry was going so well! This was unhealthy (see #7!)… especially considering it was the one day when my family was readily available for my attention. It was the one day when my children and my wife had no other commitments… and I was absent to them. I've worked hard to re-arrange my life… but I need a constant reminder to delight, actually delight, in my family. My wife and kids are priority #1, not just on paper, but in my actions.
2. Pray, and pray continually. Non stop, through the day, converse with God. In everything I should seek his voice. In every circumstance I should acknowlege him. In every decision, I should first consult God, then walk with God, and then keep the conversation going. Too often I have treated prayer as if it was an appointment. Prayer should be a life.
1. Time focused upon God. Stupid to not spend gobs of time with my Savior. This is related to #2, but the focus should not be me. I should spend more time just plain worshipping and discovering God and His presence. Enough said.