Preparing for our Pastoral Lives with the Right Mindset Part I
How is your Ministry Going?
How is your Ministry Going?
For the next two articles, we are going to explore what are the key ingredients that make a good healthy Pastor. Thus, these are written to pastors, whose call is to shepherd their flock. However, these curriculums can also be used to hone anyone in Christian service and leadership. It is my prayer that we can carryout our pastoral and leadership lives with the right mindset of what is really important in life and ministry that pleases and glorifies our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. In so doing, we will not end up in loneliness and regret, or get so burned out and angry we become a mess and perhaps even destroy our family, church and ministry that we once loved and sought to shepherd and lead to the love and precepts of Christ.
And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God. Colossians 1:10
When I first started out in ministry I was young-very young. I was still in high school, leading a Junior High group in my church, and teaching a Young Life Campaigners group. I was both a hit and a failure. I had a lot of youth coming and some great men (one of whom was a famous author and theologian) were mentoring me. At the same time, I had two big problems. One, I was suffering from learning disabilities that affected my social skills; and two, I was too smart, or so I thought. I thought I knew it all and, as a result, lived in "pride city" fed by my own arrogance. In addition, my past hurts and fears consumed me. I was way over my head at church, and at school I was socially awkward. I also rested in my status and comfort as my family was also fairly well off and connected.
Then God humbled me! I suffered a loss of everything that was important to me. My stepfather took off with my trust fund, so I could not go to any of the colleges I worked so hard to get into. Thus, no MIT, no
I was conflicted, in trouble, and needed help; however, at the same time, I did not think I needed help and fought those who patiently and lovingly tried to do so. Thus, my personal life suffered as well as my professional life. I made a lot of mistakes out of fear, anger, arrogance, and ignorance. So, I know what it is like to have pride and think I can do it all. I also know how to fail; in over twenty-five years of pastoral ministry, I have made all the mistakes and perhaps even invented some-and seem to continue to do so at times. I suffered the wrath of people who did not want to be led closer to Christ or in a way that confronted or challenged their way. I made hasty decisions that were not thought through. I suffered the stress, factions, gossip, manipulations, and all of the evils a congregation can bestow upon a pastor, and still do at times. I also had my own personal struggles. I would compare myself with others. I lived for respect from others and feared when I did not receive it. I sometimes exaggerated to get respect and even sought to manipulate others to get my way. I felt inadequate, yet suffered from pride. I got angry when I did not succeed; in so doing, at times I was inauthentic and incapable that led me to be incompetent for effectual ministry. In some way I can't fathom now I still had a heart for ministry and wanted to preach Christ and lead others to Him. A testimony how the Holy Spirit was still at work, His grace was still in action!
In so doing, I knew how to destroy a ministry and even a church, and how to alienate people and be consumed in anger and arrogance. Even though I wanted them to be in Him, at times I became my own worst enemy and the stumbling block to Him as Christ and Lord. But, through my pastoral journey, having good people mentor and believe in me, and most importantly, Christ having patience and still growing me, I also know what it means to be humbled and Spirit-filled and to succeed in Him. But, before I could glorify Christ and succeed in ministry, I had to learn (the hard way) the importance of a right mindset in ministry, and that it was not possible by knowledge, position, natural ability, mentorship, situation, or conceit; it solely depended on who I was In Christ. I had to surrender to His Way and precepts and not my way, or new trends and ideas. I had to learn that it is about His Kingdom, and not mine. It is about His fullness, not mine and it is about confessing sin; I had to learn about myself, face my fears, and get over them. To pastor effectively, I had to learn not to be consumed with my circumstances, but instead, be infused and filled with Christ, to live a life above my circumstances and hurt, solely in Him.
It is my prayer that we can carry out our pastoral lives with the right mindset of what is really important in life, what is really important to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. In so doing, we will not end up in loneliness and regret, or get so burned out and angry we become a mess and perhaps even destroy our family and church that we once loved and sought to shepherd.
Being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. Colossians 1:11-12
I knew how to destroy a church and how to alienate people and be consumed with fear and hurt as well as anger and arrogance. Perhaps, you do too. Most young pastors do not look up to see what is really important; I know I did not. Those of us who been around the block have sometimes forgotten about the importance of our own walk. Therefore, we come to grips with confusion and dysfunction from negating our own faith development rather than being in His grip, and learning the importance of comprehending the right mindset Christ has for us.
Building Your Pastoral Foundation with the Right Biblical Mindset
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20
The primary goal-from building an exceptional marriage to building a "purpose driven "church-is to live in undivided surrender and devotion to the Lord Jesus Christ. That means His purpose not yours! He is Lord, meaning that He is in charge of all areas of our lives. He is in charge of your church, too. In fact, it is not your church, it is His, and we are the stewards of it! He is our first and primary love! That means your life must reflect the supremacy, centrality and glory of God, and serve as an example in a world of temptation and evil. Since He represented us in life and death and imparts to us His grace, this is our driving force, our number one reason in life and in eternity to come. Because of what He has done for us, we should have the desire to assemble our lives to glorify Him. That means to also strive toward our best in fullness of relationships with church and family. We have to be willing to take to heart that His will supercedes ours; His is the best, whereas our will and desires are limited in understanding and knowledge. By surrendering our will to His will, we can build a foundation of trust, reliance, and obedience. These actions become the foundation upon which to build the rest of the house of character, values, and fortitude, and where a Christ-centered church can live and grow.
You will then be able to lead others and make healthy and wise decisions because the Lord, through His Word and the Spirit, is your Guide, as opposed to what the media, friends, trends, your passions, and emotions may dictate. Because you are seeking His truth, you will be able to discern how to see to your church and family life, your direction and plan. Following these timeless, biblical precepts will help you make the right decisions, and avoid making the wrong ones. If for some reason you decide God's ways are not for you, be forewarned; as you lose yourself in the harsh world of wrong decisions, you may never receive what He has and what is best for you or your family and definitely not in "your" church. Thus, you may face the unpleasant prospect of venturing into a life of misery and strife, a disease-ridden church, and a broken family! So, why do that?
Four primary attitudes need to be learned that form the foundation for building effective pastoral relationships, which, in turn, help build an effectual church. These are like the footers to a skyscraper-massive, concrete platforms where the steel girders that hold up the entire building are placed. Just like the crossbeams that are bolted and welded on those girders, each of these aspects needs to be bolted onto the other. Each one produces the next one and is dependent on the previous one; thus, they all interlock collectively to work synergistically tighter together to form us into the person God has called us to be. These will be the groundwork upon which the character, maturity, and the willingness to make right decisions and glorify our Lord are constructed. They will continue to assemble those relationships in the right direction, as they become the foundation for understanding God's will for our lives and church. The remainder of the precepts we investigate will build the skyscraper of relationships.
First: Understanding the
Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near! Matthew 3:2
Three penetrating questions that have been pondered by humanity since the dawn of time include, Who are you? What do you want? And where are you going? These form the foundation of the disciplines of philosophy and religious studies, affecting the humanities, sociology, and of course, psychology. These questions fuel what directs us, who motivates us to do what we do, and who motivates us to be who we are. This is the meaning of life stuff. Through understanding Christ and who we are in Him, these three ageless questions come alive to help sustain us and direct us, as Christians and as pastors, in the right direction; and in turn, we can direct His Church in the right direction. As a result, we will center our motivations and directions on Him, on what is perfect and pleasing, and not only on what we think. Our answers will only serve to get us lost. However, the key is to understand the answers to these questions that Jesus asks us in His Word. If we get the answers wrong, we get lost in that jungle of church life; if we get them right, we stay on the right path. Are you thinking, hey, that is not fair, or, is life just a big test? Take this to heart; you have the answer sheet-His Word. He has written the answers in creation, in our hearts, and revealed them in His Word. We have no excuse not to know, but because of the Fall, the fog of our will and desires obscures them from view.
Take comfort in the awareness that God is not hidden, nor is His will so mysterious that we cannot find it. God's influence, glory, and presence are all around us; this is called "Mediated Revelation." This is not pantheism, which teaches that everything is God, that creation itself is God. Rather, God is all present, "omnipresent," and we have no escape from Him. He reveals His presence to us in countless ways.
These meaning of life questions also mean that we as humans are spiritual by nature and seek a higher purpose and order. God uses that nature to make Himself known. "Mediated Revelation" means that God plants an innate sense of who He is in each of us, even without the Bible or missions (However, remember that missions and evangelism are still a mandate from our Lord!) Coupled to God's revelation in nature and in our hearts, we have "special revelation," which is the Bible that God directly inspired, and is the ultimate source and superintendent of the original manuscripts, without any error. He used humans as the authors, and a word processor as a tool. Thus, we receive His will for our faith, and the practice of life, duty, law, grace, His plan, and our purpose.
Why the theology lesson? Because, we have to know from whence our direction in life comes before we can direct others. This is foundational for all aspects of who we are and what we do for Him. What motivates us and creates in us our actions and behaviors will translate into our relationship with God and how we lead and manage His Church. If you do not get this, that God has a plan for you, you will have tremendous issues and obstacles that you may never climb over in becoming the person and pastor that God desires and calls you to be. The best plans, the best adventures, contentment, and joys we can ever have in life (church life included can easily be missed if we become stubborn and refuse to look up at Him. And yes, from my experiences and research, this includes us pastors too!
Here comes some more theology-essential theology to know if you are to get yourself on the right path to know God better and to receive His direction. Consider that every culture and people group since the beginning of time has had religion and some form of a civil government at the core of its society. Throughout recorded human history, humanity has gathered for trade and protection as well as for organizing the gathering of food, hunting, and for forming relationships within a structure, which translates into control and government. The word Kingdom, in the
For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. Ephesians 2:18
This theme, the
John the Baptist announced the Kingdom to us, with a sense of urgency, at the inauguration of Jesus' ministry on earth. It is now in it's beginning, and will be fulfilled, as Jesus said, in the future. Thus, it is already running, and there is more to come with Christ's second coming. Exactly what, we do not know; we only have a glimpse. What we do know is that it will be consummated.
Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. Matthew 4:23
Jesus preached the
But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness. So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him. 2 Peter 3:13-14
What does this boil down to? Our task in the church is to proclaim Christ-His Lordship as well as His character, righteousness, peace, and joy, all by the Holy Spirit. This will effectively be the catalyst for building a quality, lasting, and effective church. The purpose of the Church is not to serve us; rather, we serve Christ, and through this service the church is collectively built. The "coming of the Kingdom" in the Old Testament meant that a new stage in God's redemptive plan was coming-CHRIST. For us, it means declaring our personal identification and relationship to our Lord and Savior before we dare communicate it to others! Our need is to bow to His Lordship for our betterment and growth! This will keep us going on the right path through that dark, foreboding jungle of the pandemonium of church life!
Second: Applying the Mind-Set of Fullness
Be very careful, then, how you live--not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is. Ephesians 5:15-17
Fullness equals knowing who you are in Christ and realizing what He did for you on the cross. This is paramount, because everything you do as a Christian-as a pastor-is a response to what He has first done in you. With this knowledge, you will have the proper attitude and discernment to lead and manage His church and make correct decisions based on God's will. With this knowledge, you will seek Christ as you seek your ministerial direction, ask the right questions, and look for fullness-not merely fulfillment! The difference is that fullness comes by seeking Christ as Lord; fulfillment comes through seeking someone or something else such as trends, and the feeding of our pride and other things in an attempt to meet our needs and wishes, or seeking to fill our own desires and agendas! Fulfillment is seeking what we want; often, that is not the best for us and certainly not best for His Church! It is filling our emptiness with the wrong filler. It is much like putting gasoline in a diesel-fueled truck; it is fuel, but it will not work, and will damage the engine. These passages testify to such as this. Sin and the desires of our lust can, and will consume us, taking us far away from God and His goodness. So, this pursuit of fulfillment will end up bringing us nothing but emptiness and a dysfunctional church, the very thing we are trying to avoid. Sin will dig at us, causing our thinking to be skewed, and our decisions flawed.
Fullness is the filling we have. It is like we are "Twinkies" and He is the filling; Twinkies are not much without the filling! It is the realization that we are missing our "filling" and we are indeed poor in spirit. Being poor may conjure up ideas of physical and social poverty, but it actually means total dependence on God, and realizing our sinfulness! This is paramount if one is to be a good pastor! It is the realization that we are sinners without any righteousness of our own. We are saved by the grace and mercy of God alone! Poor in spirit applies to our daily lives as we strive to be humble and surrendered, where we do not look to ourselves, but to God. It is where we have a Christ-centered drive and not a self-centered drive to life and relationships; this is the "letting go and letting God" concept. So, we are able to see through our poverty and discover it is much better to be in Christ and His fullness and not in ourselves. It is letting go of our ways to surrender to His Way! The preface to the Matthew passage is the word blessed or happy, which means we are fortunate to realize who we are in Christ. We are overjoyed because of what Christ has done for us and this gives us our fullness; He is our fullness (John ). We rejoice because we are a part of His Kingdom. See how this all fits together? The cure for our preaching ills, our inadequacies, our pride, and our physical and spiritual poverty is the realization of what really is important to our church and us, which is who we are in Christ!
The key to building and leading a healthy church is to be a good and healthy pastor!
Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Romans 6:12
The opposite of this concept is being prideful and self reliant, to the exclusion of allowing Christ to work in you, or allowing Him to use you to help others. In so doing, you as the pastor are keeping yourself and others in spiritual and physical poverty, and oppression (Luke 18:9-14; Rev. 3:17-19)!
Galatians, chapter five, gives us two sets of fruit that we can choose to produce-what is in our arsenal as we lead people to His pasture. There is the one found in verses 19 to 21 that is the rotten scum of life and that creates division and strife, or the one found in verses 22-23 which will produce goodness as we build one another up and, in turn, build up His Church. In addition, verses 24-25 give us the reason for our motivation and pursuit in pastoral ministry and in life. God's Word tells us that we choose the ways of adultery, fornication, and impure thoughts that make us eager for destructive behaviors, and pronounce them to be pleasure. These are what the Bible calls uncleanness. These are what create relationships filled with hostility, quarreling, jealousy, anger, selfish ambitions, and divisions between people and God. These create the strife, factions, and dysfunction in any given church! The focus is on envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and all kinds of sin. We may not have actual parties and drinking, but we will have "parties" with our will and agendas. This attitude conveys the idea that everyone else is wrong, and those who will agree with you become desired allies! The Bible conveys to us a harsh warning that if we pursue these things, then workable relationships cannot be built, nor can His church. Nor can a relationship with God be built because you will impede His presence with you. You will not inherit the
Fullness is first seeking Christ and His work in you, so you are pursuing righteousness and all that is good as a way to glorify Christ as Lord. This is how a healthy church is built; it starts with a healthy pastor-regardless of who is doing what to him. We all need to be applying fullness into our relationships-from our friendships, to our families, to church members-all for His glory so we can live above our feelings and circumstances! And, this is to be the same in church life as it is in family life. This is real, authentic fullness that is essential-not only in our faith development, but also in how we are to prepare ourselves to build His church and link it up with others.
But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Matthew 6:33
This is serious business, as the "
For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves. Colossians 1:13
When we are just self-seeking, we are selfish and unconcerned with eternal values or with serving our Lord. By being so, we fall into a trap-not because of God's vengeance, but because we are not doing as we should. As a result, natural consequences will take over. God's precepts are for our benefit and protection and are what is best, something that loving parents would do for their child. Fullness makes relationships real, fuels our pastoral effectiveness, and is centered upon godly directions. Fullness will seek the love of 1 Corinthians 13, and will compel us with the desire to share that fullness and our self with others. So, out of our fullness in Christ, we build ourselves up in Him, casting away what is wrong and replacing it with biblical character and values. This will be the foundation for creating lasting bonds with others as we serve Him and His church to the glory of our Lord.
Be very careful, then, how you live-not as unwise but as wise. Ephesians 5:15
Ephesians 5:15-21 gives us a picture of walking in that fullness, as people who are wise in the ways of the Lord are also on their guard against the ways of the world. We are to be careful how we live so we treat our lives and the lives of others with dignity and respect. We ought not to be careless with what is precious. We are to make the most of our lives and the opportunities He gives us. To waste it away is what a fool would do; so, let us not be fools! When we understand what the Lord wants us to do-and, by the way, this is not difficult-we will do well in life. It is not difficult because God is concerned with our character. We form our character from understanding and putting into practice this fullness.
Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. Ephesians 5:18
Verse 18 tells us that we need to be filled with the Spirit, which means having great joy from our commitment to God (Nehemiah ). It also means we are to seek His power with joy for the overcoming of our sins, and for the courage to witness and do ministry, even to people we do not like. This will flow into attitude number three. This joy means radiant joy that fills us up with the joy that flows among the Persons of the Holy Trinity. That very love which God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit have for one another will be in us. And, it will overflow from us to others around us! If we follow the first part of verse eighteen, we will miss out on what Christ has, because our purpose and direction will become cemented in sin, and not in Him.
This joy spoken of in Ephesians will become sealed in us as we mature in the faith and are filled with His Word so we can communicate it to others effectively, passionately, and in Truth. It is the power to enjoy Him in worship and as a lifestyle that affects all aspects of our life and the lives of others around us. It then empowers us for His service and for His glory. It literally means "music flowing from our hearts!"
This fullness creates joy. This is what fuels our friendships, our search to know Him more, our desire to help others know Him more, and in the making of right decisions. This is what we are to seek so it can be repeated; we are not to seek it for our betterment or for attention for ourselves, but rather, for Christ's sake! It is a fullness with which we are to be completely filled. This translates into joy that comes from being in His Word, and because we are in Christ! This is the extra power He gives us to glorify and serve Him, and the extra power that we need to make sure we are on the right track!
Will you be controlled by selfish agendas, lust, faulty trends, pride and sin, which is any kind of failing that takes you away from God, or will you allow yourself to be controlled by the Spirit?
Remember, He does not force you; the choice is yours-and so are the consequences and rewards. We can ruin our lives and church or we can grow in fullness. Also, remember that what you do does not affect just you, but will touch all those around you, and for many years to come.
Just like love, being an effectual and effective pastor is our choice. It does not need to depend on our circumstances, but it must depend on our Lord!
Principle Scriptures to Preparing our Pastoral Lives with the Right Mindset These Biblical principles are where our focus is to be: Proverbs 12:4; 28:20; 31:10; 2 Corinthians 5:11-21; Colossians 1
1 Right Biblical Mindset: John 3:30; Galatians 2:20-21; Philippians 3:1-21; Colossians 1:3-6, 15-29
2 Kingdom of God: Isaiah 9:1-7; 24:14-25; 29:18; 31:1-32; 35:4-6; 40:1-11; 42:1f; 61; Matthew 3:2; 4:23; 5:3,10,19-20; 6:10; 33; 7:21; 10:7; 13:24-47; 23:13; Mark 9:42-47; Luke 4:14-21; 16:1-12; Romans 1:21; 13:1-7
3 Immediate Revelation: Psalm 19; Isaiah 44:9-20; Acts 14:8-19; 17: 16:34; Romans 1:18-23; 2:14-15; Colossians 3:5
4 Special Revelation: Psalm 119; John 17:17; 1 Thessalonians 2:13; 2 Timothy 3:15-17; 2 Peter 1:20-21
5 More Kingdom of God: Psalm 10:16-18; Daniel 2:44; 4:34; Isaiah 9:6-7; Matthew 3:1-12; 4:23; 5:6, 17-20; 24:14; 28:18-20; Luke 9:1-12; 11:14-20; 16:1-12, 16; 17:21; 22:16-30; John 18:36; Acts 20:25; 28:23-31; Colossians 1:13; 28-29; Galatians 3:16; 26-29; Ephesians 2:11-18; 3:6-15; Hebrews 1:8-14; 2 Peter 3:13-14; Revelation 5:9-10; 7:9; 17:14; 19:16; chaps. 21-22
6 Fullness: Psalm 9:18; 37:4; 40:17; 86:1; 107:9; 109:22; Jeremiah 22:15-16; 31:14; Joel 2:26; Mark 7:1-13; Matthew 5:3, 6; 6:33-34; 7:13-14; 13:40-43; 16:24-27; 25:31-34; 28:18; John 4:13-14; 6:35; Romans 6: 12, 19-23; 8:32; 9:30-31; Galatians 2:20-21; 5:19-21; Ephesians 5: 15-21; Colossians 1:1-23; 15:23-28; 2 Timothy 1: 12,18; 4:8; 2 Peter 1:10-11; 3:10-13; James 1:22-25; Revelation 1:9; 21:1-22:5
This article is taken in part and modified from Chapter one of the Book, The Field Guide to Healthy Relationships, and new content added.
© 1999, 2004, 2007 R. J. Krejcir Ph.D. Into Thy Word Ministries www.intothyword.org
Richard Joseph Krejcir is the Founder and Director of Into Thy Word Ministries, a missions and discipling ministry. He is the author of several books including Into Thy Word, A Field Guide to Healthy Relationships and Net-Work. He is also a pastor, teacher, and speaker. He is a graduate of Fuller Theological Seminary in