This past Sunday I celebrated my first anniversary as the pastor of New Vision Fellowship. It has been a true privilege to serve this body of Christ and watch God move in a powerful way. I am excited about our future even as we voted two weeks ago on some major proposals that will greatly impact our ministry here in Dublin and around the world. As I head into my second year as pastor, I thought it would be helpful to offer 10 reflections on the first year.
1. Jesus is the point. My name and fame is not the point. My church and its fame is not the point. I never want people to walk away from my sermon or my church impressed with anyone or anything but Jesus and his amazing grace. Too often, in our celebrity church culture, we celebrate certain pastors and churches more than we celebrate Jesus and his amazing grace.
2. Watching God transform lives never gets old. Pastoral ministry is hard work but one of the greatest joys I have experienced over the past year is watching God work in people’s lives. We have seen several salvations, a number of baptisms, and over 20 people joined our faith family over the past year. God is moving and it is fun to be a part of what he is doing!
3. It is easy to get busy and lose sight of what’s important. Acts 6 gives pastors some insight into our primary responsibility: prayer and the ministry of the Word. There are numerous demands on a pastor’s time and many of these demands are good. I have learned that I must carefully guard my time so that I do what is most important. Otherwise, I will spend my days doing good things that are not of primary importance.
4. You can never pray too much. Over the past year, God has burdened me with a heart for prayer. I am amazed at how often Jesus retreated from daily ministry to find a place to pray alone. Prayer needs to be one of the most important aspects of my life and ministry. I plan to spend a good bit of time over the next couple of years studying Scripture and reading books that highlight prayer and revival.
5. My primary ministry is to my own family. It is easy for pastors to sacrifice their family on the altar of ministry. There are numerous demands. There are always more sermons to write and more people to visit. New books are coming out daily and people are blogging and tweeting constantly. However, before God calls me to shepherd the church, he calls me to shepherd my family. This must be a priority.
6. People need to know you care. A mentor of mine shared something with me that his mentor shared with him a number of years ago: Many times the two greatest words in pastoral ministry are “show up.” I can attest to this piece of wisdom. You may be the church’s pastor when you are called but it takes time to become the pastor of every member in your church.
7. Rest and exercise are essential. This has been something that I have grown to learn over the past year. The truth is that I need 8 hours of sleep every night and 5 days of exercise each week to be at my best. This may not be the same for other pastors but I know this is what I need. My goal is not to flame out in ministry but to burn long and strong until the Lord takes me home.
8. Pastor’s meetings are beneficial. This may sound crazy but I have thoroughly enjoyed meeting with local pastors in my area. We usually meet on a weekly basis and these have been times of encouragement and growth. Several weeks ago a couple of local pastors in my area and myself went to a prayer conference at a church about an hour away. We had a blast! It is common to view other local pastors as threats but I have grown to view these guys as comrades in the gospel ministry.
9. Patience is key. I am not a very patient person (this is one of the fruits of the Spirit that God is consistently cultivating within me)! Being a pastor is an exercise in patience. I want to see God do things immediately but that is not how He always works. I have had to learn patience over the past year and I am thankful for the godly elders who have walked with me through this learning experience.
10. Be a constant learner. One of the greatest benefits I derived from seminary was the discipline of being a lifelong learner. This has helped me tremendously over the past year as I grow into the role of pastor. I have been blessed by reading a number of different books on pastoral ministry and the church. I have also enjoyed listening to a number of podcasts on ministry and preaching. As pastors, we need to make sure that we are growing. We should minister out of the overflow of what God is doing in us.