"Success in any organization is quite simple. Find out how they keep score, and score." -Peter Drucker
In order to "score," pastors must be proactive, take initiative, and do the things that will provide a return on the investment of time and energy. With over 30 years in the pastorate, I have had an opportunity to observe many pastors at work. Many have been quite successful, many have not been. Here are nine final ways pastors can reach success.
- Be open and approachable. The Biblical term is "easy to be entreated." Jesus, the classic role model for all pastors, was approached on numerous occasions by needy people. In fact, Scripture records no instances when Jesus said He was too busy, not interested, or simply unavailable. There was a time when Jesus asked, "Who made me a judge over you?" There were times when Jesus avoided certain places because of threats. He heard people out unless He knew they were working off an agenda that was contrary to His mission. He never saw Himself as too important for common people.
- Learn to delegate. They know that they cannot do everything, so they do the things that only they can do and delegate the rest to faithful people. In their delegation, they communicate clearly what needs to be done, set parameters, allocate sufficient resources, and agree to a time table. They give those on their team latitude to fail, but not to fail massively. They do screen carefully those to whom they delegate. Proverbs says "Confidence in an unfaithful man in times of trouble is like a broken tooth or a foot out of joint." Recall how Paul taught this principle in 2 Timothy 2:2, "The things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also." And when you delegate remember that these three concepts go together. Delegate responsibility for the task, give authority to accomplish the task, and establish accountability to ensure that the task is accomplished in the correct manner and in the appropriate time-frame.
- Be a builder. Building takes multiple forms. We build people, we build teams, we build movements, we build organizations, we build ideas, and we build facilities to house the organization with its activities. Building requires the pastor to identify needs, understand God's intention, equip leadership, motivate people, cast vision, communicate and ask for sacrificial buy-in. An old pastor known as a seasoned veteran was once asked, "How do you know if your ministry was successful?" He responded, "Did you leave the wood pile larger than when you found it?" When you finally walk away from where you are serving, can you look back and see a difference that God has made through you?
- Know when to listen and when to ignore. Not every person or cause is worth giving time to. This is a bit different from the concept of being approachable. When Nehemiah was rebuilding the wall at Jerusalem, three detractors appealed to him to come down and discuss the matter. Their motive was to stop Nehemiah. He simply responds that he does not have time to meet with them. So how do you know when to give someone time and when to say "no?" This is where discernment comes in. Does this person (or persons) have a need, or an agenda? In most instances, if a salesman called, I would say send me information and I will get back with you if I am interested. You are under no obligation to meet with someone who has your worst interest or only their own interest as their agenda. Pray for discernment and refuse to waste your time.
- Touch lives. Who are you impacting and influencing? Who are you touching? When I hear of pastors who don't do weddings, funerals, or hospital visits, I am amazed at how they have truncated their ministry. These are times when we can most effectively minister to people. Make it your ambition to touch people. The old adage about "managing by wandering around" is actually great ministry advice. A call, email, card, letter, or personal word can make an incredible difference. Touching lives is something that is intentional and deliberate. It is something that you decide to do and then follow through on by actually doing something.
- Follow through on promises. Whenever you make a promise, keep it! When you make it, write it down so you do not forget. When you make a promise to someone, great or small, the person to whom the promise is made will not forget. So, you better not either. Scripture contains a little phrase, "swear to your own hurt." That means if you make a promise, keep it, even if it costs you personally. Follow through on promises. If you tell someone you will do something, do it. And if you forget to do it, ask for forgiveness, and then do it. Follow through on promises that you make!
- Seek wisdom. Wisdom is the ability to see life from God's perspective and then speak or act accordingly. The book of James tells us that if we lack wisdom, ask God for it and he will give it. Wisdom is a hallmark of successful pastors. At times the wisest thing we can do is keep quiet. At other times it comes from asking the right questions to the right people. Sometimes it comes from pure discernment where after waiting on God He says, "this is what I want you to do." Sometimes it comes from insight found in your Scripture reading or from a passage that you have memorized. Sometimes it comes as we pray. There are multiple ways that God can give you wisdom.
- Carry a sense of expectation. Another word for this is "faith" or "belief." Successful pastors expect God to move, to speak, to convict, and to lead. They are not surprised when God moves in big and unexpected ways. They pray fully believing that God has heard and that He will act on their behalf. They expect God to be actively involved in the ministry to which He has called them. So, are you living and laboring under a sense of of expectation? What are you asking for and expecting God to do?
- Make much of Jesus. They understand that their work is first and foremost the task of presenting Jesus to the world. They preach Jesus, talk about Jesus, write about Jesus, and constantly see Him as the center of their world and worldview. Their preoccupation is to be pleasing to Him. Their heart's desire is to be like Him in what they say and what they do. Their passion is to be conformed to His image. Christ-likeness is the great motivation of their lives. Successful pastors make much of Who Jesus is and what He can do in anyone's and everyone's life!
My prayer for you is that you will be successful in what really matters when it comes to ministry. May God honor and bless your work. May you someday hear from The Lord, "Well done good and faithful servant."