Tuesday, April 16, 2024
Tuesday, April 16, 2024
HomeAll The NewsHEALTHY CHURCH: Fruitful, Lasting Ministry

HEALTHY CHURCH: Fruitful, Lasting Ministry

The facts are in — the longer the tenure of the pastor the greater the potential for a more fruitful lasting impact. The enemy knows it and will throw up every obstacle he can to make sure it does not happen. There will be disappointments, discouragement and even some depression at times. In the tenure of a pastor, years 6-10 have been referred to as “the time of fruit and harvest.” Studies and research point to this time period as when a church is “likely to experience some of its best years, by almost any metrics.” The sad reality is that the majority of pastors never make it to year five, much less year seven.

In The Solo Pastor, Gary McIntosh stressed that it takes six to seven years of faithful preaching, teaching and modeling to have a congregation who shares your perspective on the future of the church. He stated, “There may be less formal power than they wish (the solo pastor), but they have more influence than they realize.” There are two important elements here:

• People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care, and

• You can never accomplish as much as you would like in one year but you can almost always accomplish more than you thought in five years.

It struck me as not coincidental the importance of year six and beyond in a ministry and the biblical principle of sabbaths and sabbaticals. God knew that man needed rest and, because of that, developed regular rhythms of rest where even the land was to rest after year six. Sabbath is mentioned in the Scriptures more than 100 times. Sabbaticals are meant to refresh and restore the soul spiritually, physically, emotionally, intellectually and relationally. Consider developing rhythms in your life that will promote spiritual vitality, such as your daily disciplines and practicing a weekly sabbath. The small consistent habits make a big impact.

In our culture, sabbaticals began as an idea in our universities that were a part of the church. Charles Dickson, in an article for Lifeway, stated, “The idea was that the university professors needed one year in every seven to become students again and to refresh their spiritual calling.” He continued, “Too often, church leaders are reluctant to arrange periodic times when the pastor or staff member can become a student and worshiper for the purpose of refining and updating professional skills and refreshing the spiritual life and calling.” Yet, it is in year six that many pastors become restless and begin to look for a different ministry.

Here are some guidelines to keeping your soul fresh, vibrant and alive:

• Abide in Christ. (This must be first and foremost.) If your soul is not healthy then those around you will most likely not be healthy either. Protecting your daily quiet time is crucial and must be non-negotiable. You cannot allow this time of silence and solitude to escape you and you must dogmatically protect this daily rhythm. In Secrets of the Secret Place, Bob Sorge stated, “I’m persuaded the power of Heaven is unlocked when we devote ourselves to the secret place of the Most High.” The busyness of this present day will do everything it can to keep you from this.

• Love your people well and lead by building strong relationships, realizing it takes time. The values in many churches are love, care and acceptance. They see their church as one big happy family where they are all looking for safety, security and peace. In Solo Pastor, Gary clarifies that by quoting an unsuspecting pastor, “What you’re saying is the people in my church honestly didn’t call me to be their visionary leader but to be their caregiver and protector?” If they see a family and you see an army, there is bound to be tension and even friction moving forward with the vision God has given you as their pastor.

• Preach and teach the Word consistently, correctly and compassionately while focusing on building upon the core values of the people God led you to lead. Remember, it is a God-given role, with God-given responsibilities that requires God-given resources. If you see the position of pastor as the visionary leader, that is only the tip of the iceberg. Lead by example as you serve your people and serve your community. The people you serve desire to see your heart for Jesus and your love for them far more than your knowledge, skill and education. Love God well, then love them well in your affections, attitudes and actions.

• Develop a prayer culture in your church. Be prepared for spontaneous outbreaks of prayer when asked to pray for an individual or a situation, and schedule intentional times of prayer. Choose three individuals to pray with regularly. If possible, schedule two or three additional groups that meet every other week to pray for one another, the church body and the community. Set up a prayer room for people to come and go as they please where their prayer requests can be displayed on a whiteboard. Incorporate more prayer into your services and ask God to give you, outside the church, a prayer partner to meet with you weekly.

• You must learn to say, “no.” Regardless of what you believe, you are human and only have so much bandwidth. Everyone has limitations, and churches are guilty, at times, of placing unrealistic expectations on their pastor and pastors doing the same to themselves. It is far too easy to not only be the pastor but run the men’s group, lead the worship, direct the children’s ministry, oversee outreach, be the business administrator and take care of the building and grounds; not to mention counseling, visiting the hospitals and sermon preparation. You must equip and empower others to take over these ministries as quickly as possible.

Make sure that every step is God-initiated. Jesus said, in John 5, that He could do nothing on His own, and neither can you. Seek the Lord, seek the Lord and seek Him again.