Pastoring a church tests your perseverance. Before I began pastoring my first church, friends and mentors encouraged me to love the people and take it slow. At the time the advice seemed reasonable and easily followed. Of course, that was until I actually became a pastor. It took all of one week to realize that patience does not flow naturally for me. Committees, deacons, traditions, and constant “we’ve always done it that way’s” weighed on me quite early. Yet, I put my hands to the plow and got to work.
Now, a couple of years later I find myself enjoying ministry like I never thought possible when I left collegiate ministry for the pastorate. Honestly, I don’t know what advice I would give a brand new pastor, but I can offer a few principles I have learned from my first years as a Lead Pastor:
- Preach Christ.
Christ-centered preaching advocates, like myself, love Paul’s words to the Colossians. “Him we proclaim” (Col 1:28). Today it seems that most pastors feel pressure to come up with edgy preaching series. Many hope to present moral truths week in and week out that will shape the moral landscape of the country. But in the end, churches do not need “edgy.” Churches do not need more moral lessons. Full House reruns will suffice. What our people need, and what we need as their pastors, is more of Christ. Proclaim him and watch the Spirit work.
- Be hospitable.
Interestingly enough, no pastor-search team has ever asked what it looks like for my family to be hospitable. Yet, the NT qualifications for elders include hospitality (1 Tim 3:2; Tit 1:8). When my wife and I got married, we lived in the basement of the house of a sweet older couple from our church. Since we were ministering to college students and young singles, our late evenings were leveraged to spend time with those in our ministry. We would pack our little basement apartment with young people, and we loved it.
Every time I travel to work alongside believers in overseas contexts, I’m always shocked at how hospitable they are to outsiders, even when they often have very few material possessions. As a young pastor and family, we open our home to others…a lot. There’s no secret sauce to hospitality, but if you truly want to “shepherd the flock of God among you” (1 Pet 5:2) you will need to open your home. Open your home to your church, and model evangelism by opening your home to those outside the faith.
- Lead with patience and determination.
Leadership gurus have written myriads of books on leading, and some pastors find joy in reading them all. I am not one of those pastors. Leadership in the church comes naturally to some, but for most of us we have to learn from experience what it means to lead. On one hand, it is wise to lead patiently. The Spirit of God works at a different pace than many pastors would like, but we must trust him to change the hearts of people. On the other hand, slow leadership often means no leadership. Leading with patience means resting in God’s sovereignty and allowing him to work, but it does not mean leading with zero determination. There are some changes in our churches that should have been made yesterday, and though the pain of change is often intense, the pain of staying the same is so much worse. Lead with wisdom by knowing what hills to die on, but remember that dying on no hills probably means you are not leading.
Again, I would never claim to be the world’s expert in pastoral ministry. I would hope that my thoughts on pastoring would continue to develop in the days and years ahead. These three principles will not suffice to make a good pastor, but I would argue that there is no good pastor who does not, at the very least, follow these three.
Peyton Hill serves as the Lead Pastor of Highland Baptist Church in in Grove City, OH, a suburb of Columbus.