Friday, February 28, 2014

What Successful Pastors Desire: Part 2

In my last blog post, I began to detail what successful pastors desire. Today I’m continuing that train of thought. 

So, what do successful pastors desire?

1. A successful pastor desires for his flock to be healthy and grow. He understands that when he was called to the congregation as its pastor, he was called to be its shepherd. God looks at him and says, "I am holding you responsible to provide leadership and oversight to My people." Just as a shepherd cares for his flock of sheep, a pastor cares for his flock of believers.
So, what kind of growth is the mark of a healthy church? First, it should be growing spiritually. This is a direct result of sound biblical preaching and discipleship. It should also be growing numerically. Until every community is totally saturated with the Gospel and every person has been reached, churches should be growing numerically. Successful pastors prioritize reaching lost people. What gets prioritized gets done. If no one is coming to faith in Christ, it is because it is not a priority. A church should also be growing relationally. Jesus said, "by this will all men know you are my disciples, if you love one another" (John 13:35). Every successful pastor desires for his people to love and be loved. He also wants his congregation to grow in its influence. We are told that we are salt and light. Successful pastors want their church to make a difference in the world!

2. A successful pastor desires to build a high impact staff and leadership team. He wants to equip believers to be effective in ministry. He works to make each one maximize their strengths and minimize their weaknesses. He works to make sure that each person is working in their areas of passion and giftedness. He works to ensure that each person understands his or her job, has the resources to fulfill his or her job, and has the freedom to pursue his or her goals. He gives them the freedom to fail, but not the freedom to fail massively. He is constantly pointing his leadership to the things that are of first importance. As a leader of leaders, he is responsible for defining reality and making sure everyone understands their part in the big picture.

3. A successful pastor desires to expand his influence and his impact. He understands the importance of reproducing himself. He knows that what he does is a direct result of who he is. He works at his relationship with the Lord. He works at his ministry responsibilities. He understands the biblical principles of sowing and reaping, and walking by faith. He prays that God would provide open doors of opportunity. He prays that God would give him insight into what the needs of his flock and community are. He looks to see where people are hurting and expends the effort to minister to the hearts of the people. He works to share with others what God has taught him. He networks with others to make a collective difference.

4. A successful pastor desires to fulfill the Great Commission in his generation. It is true that God's workmen die, but His work continues. Because of this the successful pastor lives in light of the truth that his opportunity is brief. So, he does all he can while he can. He constantly reflects Moses' admonition, "Lord, teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom" (Psalm 90:12). He understands that because everyone dies, everyone needs to hear the Gospel. Everyone needs the opportunity to respond to the invitation of Christ. Everyone needs the opportunity to hear the claims of Christ and have their sins forgiven. He is passionate about taking the Gospel to the lost world.

5. Finally, a successful pastor desires to receive his Master's reward for faithful service. It is amazing to me how often Jesus spoke of rewards. Repeatedly in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, "and He who sees in secret will reward you openly." The Bible promises a reward for those who have been faithful. Paul noted that "it is required of stewards that one be found faithful." In several parables, the point is that the servant (or steward) be faithful, and upon the Master's return hears the commendation, "well done good and faithful servant." Every successful pastor desires to hear that same commendation when he steps into the presence of The Lord. "Well done good and faithful servant."

These are some of the things that I believe successful pastors desire. What do you think?

If you missed them, take a look at my other posts on successful pastors:

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

What Successful Pastors Desire: Part 1

David wrote in Psalm 37:4, "Delight yourself also in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart." Complementing that promise are the words of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount, "But seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these other things (the necessities of life) will be given to you" (Matthew 6:33). Both of these verses address issues of what we desire and what we need. When it comes to successful pastors, certain common aspirations mark their lives. Here are some of the most important.

1. A successful pastor desires to please God in all things. It is not enough to work for God or serve God. God looks past the externals and examines the motives, drives, and aspirations of our hearts. Recall how Scripture informs us that on specific occasions the Father said of the Son, "This is my beloved Son in whom I am well-pleased" (Matthew 3:17, 17:5, Luke 3:22). Paul provides insight for the pastor when he writes in 2 Corinthians 5:9, "Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him." At different times pleasing God can include what we do as well as what we refuse to do. Sometimes it is work and sometimes it is rest. It pleases God when we depend upon Him for guidance in daily decisions.

2. A successful pastor desires to fulfill his calling. The call of God is a sobering and mysterious reality. Scripture is filled with passage after passage about how God calls people. He calls to salvation, calls to ministry, and calls to specific responsibilities in His kingdom. Every successful pastor has experienced these calls and is passionate about fulfilling them. Every successful pastor knows that God has given him certain gifts, experiences, and opportunities. And it is the desire of the pastor to accomplish all he can with what he has been entrusted. His desire is ultimately to hear, "Well-done good and faithful servant." Of course the key to fulfilling one’s calling is to be faithful over the long haul of ministry.

3. A successful pastor desires to grow constantly toward spiritual maturity. Like Jesus, the role model, we should constantly "be increasing in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man" ( Luke 2:52). This short summary of Jesus' progress reflects our Lord's well-rounded development. Should we not aspire to be like Him in all our ways? Paul expressed his own desire when he wrote, "We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ" (Colossians 1:28). Please understand that maturity is a process and a journey that is never complete this side of Heaven.

4. A successful pastor desires to make a difference for eternity. I believe that a serious question deserving serious consideration is this: "What have we done and what are we doing that will make a difference for eternity?" What in our efforts will bear fruit in eternity? What in our efforts will help populate Heaven? What in our efforts will demonstrate overcoming evil with good? What in our efforts will display the power and glory of God when everything hidden is revealed? What in our efforts will be the demonstration of over-coming faith? More specifically, whose life is different for the better because of your efforts?

5. A successful pastor desires for his family to be blessed. He is one who honors his parents, loves his spouse unconditionally, and nurtures his children and grand-children. He prays for his family. He provides for his family. He encourages his family. He protects his family. One of his great desires is that his family would know and experience the blessing of God. He wants the hand of God to be upon his own life, and also upon the lives of those he loves. He wants each person in his family to experience the presence of God and the fruitfulness that He produces. He wants to love and be loved. Each member of his family is viewed as a cherished gift from God.

6. A successful pastor desires to be healthy. He understands that whatever he accomplishes will be done in the body God has given him. He gets one body for life and has the responsibility to take care of it. So, he exercises, eats healthy, gets enough rest, and gets his yearly check-up. He avoids the kinds of behaviors and habits that are detrimental to his health. He understands that taking care of himself is a stewardship from God to which he will give an account. He takes seriously the admonition to "glorify God in your body" (1 Corinthians 6:20).

7. Finally, a successful pastor desires to be financially secure. Because of this, he trusts God with his finances, considers all he has as a stewardship entrusted to him by God, and is disciplined in how he manages his resources. He knows the Scripture that teaches that a "workman is worthy of his hire," yet he is not in the ministry for the sake of money. He is not a hireling but a shepherd. His needs are not a motive to worry but to pray. In the end, he is trusting God to provide for his needs.

Next time I'll delve further into the desires of a successful pastor's heart.

Friday, February 14, 2014

7 Pillars of a Successful Pastor's Attitude

In my last blog post, I began sharing a list of qualities that successful pastors have. I want to continue that list today. You may want to ask yourself, "Do I have what it takes to be a successful pastor?" Or you may ask, "does my pastor have what it takes?" I believe these qualities can be developed as we pray, walk in obedience to the Word of God, and cultivate our skills through determined effort.

1. A successful pastor has God-confidence. If he knows that God called him and equipped him, and he knows that God is empowering him, why should he not expect the Lord to work in him and through him? Often times I find the key to God-confidence to be a tenacious holding on to the promises of God found in the Word of God. Coupled with this is a continuous disposition of prayer that refuses to concede unfruitfulness as normal. David Jeremiah put it this way: "Problems are situations engineered by God to help us recognize our weakness so that we will learn to depend on His strength."

2. A successful pastor has self-confidence. Before you start taking shots about pride and parading the flesh, let me explain. If God has called a man, and equipped a man, and that man has worked through adversity and been faithful, and has worked to hone his skills, why should he not be confident? One of the surest ways to walk in defeat is to constantly entertain notions of self-doubt. When I look at David facing Goliath, I see a man who was tested. He had great confidence because of what The Lord had already done in and through his life. In short, he has the courage of his convictions.

3. A successful pastor has a moral-compass. His morality is anchored in Scripture and he is not affected or influenced by the culture's shifting mores'. He is no respecter of popularity, political posturing, or moneyed interest. His only concern is that he be faithful to Biblical authority. His understanding of right and wrong, wisdom and foolishness is formed from his educated understanding of Scripture. Be reminded of George Orwell's words, "The further a society drifts from the truth, the more it will hate those that speak it." Refuse to deviate from truth! Bonhoeffer was right when he said, "Silence in the face of evil is itself evil. God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act."

4. A successful pastor has an overwhelming sense of accountability to God. He knows that what has been entrusted to his charge will be reviewed by his Master. He is very much aware of the mandate communicated in Hebrews 13:17 which reminds him that he will give an account. Jesus taught much about accountability and compensation, rewards and loss. The successful pastor takes every word addressing these issues with a determined and deadly seriousness.

5. A successful pastor has focus. He knows what God has called him to do, and he does it. He is not distracted. He lives by his priorities. He constantly sees the big picture and knows his role in it. He invests the time, effort, mental energy, and intensity to impact his world with the Gospel. He is not constantly looking over his shoulder to see what others are thinking or saying, neither is he preoccupied with being somewhere else, or doing something else. He has focus!

6. A successful pastor has resiliency. Whenever there is a set back, resistance, or a defeat, he gets back up and keeps on going. When he gets knocked down, he gets back up. He is much aware of the maxim, "if you give up, you'll never know if you quit too soon." Heed the words of Bill Hybels, "We only have between this day and our final day to make a play for God." It is the courage to continue that counts! Or recall the words of Vince Lombardi, "It does not matter how many times you get knocked down, but how many times you get up."

7. Finally, a successful pastor has faith. By this, I mean that he has an expectancy that God will do what He says. He expects God to move in the lives of people. He expects God to supernaturally intervene in circumstances. He expects God to be God, and he refuses to accept or live with the status quo. Every successful pastor is identified by his faith!

These are some characteristics that mark what successful pastors have. These are what they have embraced and have become by so doing. What have you seen?

Friday, February 7, 2014

6 Traits of a Successful Pastor

In recent weeks I have been writing on successful pastors--what they are and what they know. Today, I’m commenting on what they have. These are the germinal ideas of the manuscript I am writing on the successful pastor. 

What you are and what you possess are two different issues altogether. Here are the traits that I believe a successful pastor must possess. These are the qualities that are built upon what a person is.

1. A successful pastor has determination. He knows the call of God on his life and the arena of his ministry, and seeks with all his heart and might to fulfill the will of God in that local. Bill Cosby once said, "in order to succeed, your desire for success should be greater than your fear of failure." The successful pastor is consumed with a determination to accomplish the will of God. In 2 Chronicles 2:1, "Solomon decided to build a house for the name of The Lord." He let nothing stop him. In Daniel 1:8, we are told that "Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself." Here are two of many examples in Scripture of men with determination. They would succeed or die trying!

2. A successful pastor has compassion. This means he cares about the people he is called to shepherd and called to reach. Repeatedly, Scripture tells us that Jesus had compassion on the multitudes, on the hurting, on the hungry, on the poor, on the neglected, on the afflicted, and on the abused. He saw people as "sheep without a shepherd" (Matthew 9:36). His cared about those whom the world wrote off. The successful pastor has that same heart!

3. A successful pastor has discernment. Besides being sensitive to the Spirit's leading, he brings a biblical perspective (wisdom) to bear on every situation. He has learned to ask appropriate questions. Moreover, he has learned to make critical distinctions. For example, he understands the difference between means and ends,  principles and methods, and the temporal and the eternal. He looks at every situation with a discerning eye.

4. A successful pastor has vision. I am not writing about the distorted explanation of Proverbs 29:18, "where there is no vision the people perish" which in fact means "where there is no word from God, the people go unrestrained." I am addressing the simple skill where the pastor walks into a situation, assesses it, and knows what needs to be done. He sees with a set of spiritual eyes, he knows what God wants to accomplish and he communicates it clearly. 

5. A successful pastor has composure. In Paul's magnificent explanation of how love expresses itself, he states that, "love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered..." If I can provide one summary word covering all of this, I would argue that with respect to the way he deals with uncomfortable circumstances, the pastor maintains his composure. In short, he is not easily rattled and he guards his words carefully. In the words of one of my heroes, Adrian Rogers, "you don't have to take back what you do not say."

6. A successful pastor has "grasp." This is a term popularized by General of the Armies John Pershing, who commanded the US Expeditionary Forces in World War One. He sought officers with "grasp," men who saw clearly the reality of a situation, who knew what needed to be done, and who did it. In popular terminology, they "got it." A successful pastor has grasp. He sees the reality of a situation, knows what needs to be done, and does it. He does not ask anyone's permission to do the will of God.

What do you see in successful pastors you observe?