20 Reflections from 20 Years as a Pastor
With God’s help, in 2001 I graduated from The Center for Biblical Studies Institute and Seminary in the Philippines. That same year I received a call to pastor the congregation, where I previously did my internship. The year 2021 therefore marks my 20th year in the ministry. Throughout my life as a pastor, I have collected reflections that I would like to share with my fellow ministers and with those who desire to be pastors someday. Here are twenty of those reflections:
1. Pastoring is a calling from God. Having a degree from a seminary is not a guarantee that you have this ministerial calling. Some graduate from the seminary but are not in the ministry, or do not stay long in the ministry, because they do not have the pastoral calling.
2. The God who has called you to the ministry will also provide for you. He will prepare you for the ministry. He will give you a congregation to serve and will sustain you throughout your life in the ministry.
3. Don’t accept a call to pastor a congregation unless you are really convinced the Lord is calling you to serve that church. Why? Because when problems arise from that church, your strong conviction of God’s calling will encourage you to continue serving your congregation amid difficulties. You can say, “Lord, You have called me to serve You in this church and I know You will sustain me.”
4. God resists the proud in the ministry. Thus, expect God to humble you. Sometimes He humbles His servants through infirmity. All accomplished pastors I know have a form of affliction that keeps them humble before God. At the end of the day, God will use the ministry to sanctify you. God’s main goal in your life is to conform you to the image of His Son Jesus Christ.
5. Your wife can be a great help to you in the ministry. If you are a pastor and not yet married and desire to get married, look prayerfully for a godly woman who will serve with you, not hinder you. If you were already married when you became a minister, help your wife understand the nature of the ministry and thank God for giving you a help mate.
6. Your family is your priority over your ministry. As Paul indicates in 1 Timothy 3:4–5, “He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church?” If you neglect your family, your congregation will suffer eventually.
7. Despite your busy schedule in the ministry, don’t forget to spend quality time with your wife. Yes, you can see each other every day but still have a sense of missing each other. That’s because you do not really spend quality time with her. Take her out. Do things together you both enjoy. Encourage and compliment her. Pray with her. Love her, as Christ loves the church.
8. Equally important is to spend quality time with your children. Pray and play with them. Sadly, sometimes pastor’s children grow to resent the church and the ministry because their father simply was not there for them. I remember one pastor’s kid telling me how he would never want to become a pastor. I asked him why. He said, “When a member of our congregation needed my dad, he was there right away. But when I needed my dad, he barely had time to even listen to me.”
9. God has called you primarily to preach His Word and pray. Therefore, learn to delegate your other responsibilities to others, so that you can devote yourself to prayer and to the ministry of the word (Acts 6:2–4). Don’t think that you have to do everything. The truth is you can’t!
10. Because we now live in a distracted world, it becomes difficult for us to remain focused on our primary work. To find an extended period of uninterrupted time for sermon preparation and prayer is now challenging because of the social media. And a time frequently interrupted results in shallowness. Consequently, the kind of sermon prepared in a distracted environment can be shallow. Therefore, we need to learn to guard our time from these electronic distractions. Our best energy should be used to pray and prepare sermons.
11. Don’t stop learning about your vocation. In the midst of your busy schedule, set aside time regularly to read books or articles that will help you become a better servant of the Lord. Attend pastors’ conferences where you can fellowship with and learn from like-minded ministers about the ministry.
12. Don’t underestimate the wisdom of experienced ministers. Seek their advice and listen to them. They can save you from committing mistakes or making wrong decisions. Find an older pastor who can mentor and encourage you in the ministry. A young pastor has the tendency to think he knows a lot, but the longer you stay in the ministry, the more you will realize how little your knowledge is.
13. While not every pastor is called to writing ministry, some are. And if you sense God has given you the gift of writing, use and cultivate it for the church’s edification and God’s exaltation.
14. No matter how hard you try to serve your congregation, you will always have a member who will complain about your service. Remember you cannot please everyone in the church, and you are not to please people but God. Don’t let your critics stop you from doing the Lord’s work. Fix your eyes on Jesus.
15. When necessary, don’t be afraid to confront a member of your congregation who has offended you (Matt. 18:15). When the offense is not dealt with, it can become worse. Keeping your resentment to yourself is not good for your heart both physically and spiritually. So don’t avoid confrontation, but deal with it in a Christlike manner, trusting that God will bring reconciliation.
16. Don’t think God needs you in the ministry. The truth is you need Him more than He needs you. His work can continue without your help. So be thankful to God if He is using you in the building up of His church. To be a minister is a great privilege from the Lord. Think about this: you are serving the Maker of heaven and earth.
17. While God has called you primarily to serve your local church, don’t lose sight of the universal church. Don’t be too focused on your congregation that you don’t care for other congregations. Pray for other churches. Occasionally, guest preach for other churches. It’s actually good both for you and your congregation that once in a while you preach for other churches and that other pastors preach for your congregation.
18. The condition of your body can affect the life of your congregation. If you are not healthy, you cannot function well in the ministry. Thus, don’t neglect your body. Eat well. Exercise regularly. Get enough sleep. At times ministry can be very stressful. Learn to rest and relax, or else you will burnout and cannot continue in the ministry.
19. Use your vacation wisely, not to work but to recharge. Remember your energy is limited and will eventually become depleted. Hence, use your vacation to revitalize. Don’t feel guilty to be away from your congregation for two weeks. In fact, your congregation will also benefit from your vacation, because when you return to them rejuvenated, you’ll be able to serve them better with freshness.
20. Pay careful attention to yourself. Realize your tendency to commit sins that can disqualify you from the ministry. “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor. 10:12). As you shepherd your congregation, shepherd your own soul. Don’t be too busy about the ministry that you neglect the One who has called you to the ministry. Spend regular time with God in prayer and in His Word.
Brian G. Najapfour is currently pursuing a PhD degree at the Theological University of Apeldoorn under Dr. Herman Selderhuis. He also serves as Pastor of Congregational Life at Eastmanville United Reformed Church in Michigan. He has authored and coedited numerous books and has contributed several articles to journals, periodicals, and encyclopedia. He is founder and president of Biblical Spirituality Press and cofounder and vice president of God Is Our Help Ministry.
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