How can a leader truly shape the life of a follower of Jesus? Here are five things we all need that God will use to holistically transform us.
- Be real.
You are a child of God going through your own growth process in this fallen world. Your strengths are a part of you but so also are your weaknesses. Be secure in God and know that we will give you space to grow as you lead and serve. Be real in your preaching and in your relationships with us. You don’t have to have all the answers and you don’t have to be “on” every day. Your example, though flawed, will have a profound influence on us when you are in real friendships with us, not because you have all the answers but because you are honestly pursuing a life of knowing God.
- Teach us what God has said.
The one priority in teaching is not to come up with new, cool, brilliant messages; it is to faithfully present what God has already revealed in His Word. Teach us the entire content of the books. Let this be your bread and butter. And as you see the needs of our people, teach on those topics that we need to grow in. Teach us theology. Give us the difficult passages. Help us struggle to understand what God has said. Trust that God’s Word is sufficient for our lives. In a week there are 7 x 24 hours and just one half-hour is given to expositing the Bible. It is a holy moment. So, give us God’s Word first and foremost and use your stories for appropriate illustrations.
To do this, please simply do four things:
- Read the Word of God to us in its context.
- Explain the passage to us and tell us what God has said.
- Illustrate it with biblical, historical and personal illustrations.
- Apply it to our lives and challenge us to live out what God is saying to us.
If you do this, you will help us both to know what God has said in the past and what God is saying to us in our lives today. Take us into the biblical world and help us see what is going on there. But don’t stay there. Come back to our world and help us see the issue from that perspective. Go back and forth as many times as needed to lead us on that bridge that connects both worlds. In this way we will not get lost in our own contemporary biases nor get bogged down in details of a society from two thousand years ago. The point is to find out what God is saying to us today through studying what He spoke in the past.
Go before God and ask Him what He wants to say to the church. Study the passage personally. Put it before God for some days and let Him speak to you. Whatever word of life He has given to you, thus speak.
John Wesley said, “Far from the busy ways of men. I sit down alone: only God is here. In His presence I open, I read His book … I lift up my heart to the Father of Lights … I then search after and consider parallel passages of Scripture, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. I meditate thereon with all the attention and earnestness of which my mind is capable. And what I thus learn, that I teach.” (Preface to Sermons)
After you have done that, do not forget the more important thing: ask us how to apply it. Don’t let us get away with merely hearing the Word. Help us to become doers of the Word. The pastor’s commission from Jesus is to make disciples, teaching us to obey all that Jesus taught, not just to know it. Spend plenty of time on application in your messages – this is where you will hit pay dirt in our lives. Take away our excuses, challenge our wrong thinking, and put the question to the center of our soul.
Make every sermon sing with great exposition, but make every message sting with great application.
- Heal our hearts by the Holy Spirit.
All the best church programs in the world will not touch us unless we encounter the Holy Spirit’s power to heal our wounds and empower our lives. Many of us are locked in bitterness, broken relationships, damaged emotions, fear, shame, and anger. We need your ministry to be one in and through the Holy Spirit. Give us teaching, counseling, books, seminars, and prayer ministries that will break the patterns that hold us back from becoming fully devoted disciples.
When you see conflicts in our homes or disunity in our church ministry teams, view it as a chance to let the Holy Spirit bring healing and reconciliation. You will have to guide us into that because we are often blind to our need.
Your Sunday messages and the home-group fellowships will not impact us much without this healing. The Holy Spirit is the one who changed the church in the Book of Acts and He can heal and empower us today. Make this one of your core ministries as a pastor.
- Equip our hands.
Turn us from spectators into doers of ministry. Give us opportunities to do it and to fail. Make our church a ministry learning center and a missions training center. Unleash us for the work of outreach, discipline, caring, counseling, teaching, administration, and communication. Help us communicate well in our marriages, influence others in our work places, study and teach the Bible to others, organize and lead mission trips, mentor and coach others – we were made for action.
If God gives us an idea for a new way of ministry, set up a way we can be released to try it without first needing to jump through many hoops. We need a culture where ministry dreams and attempts can flourish.
A wise pastor will build men and women into leaders – a co-working team that will replicate the pastor’s ministry in many spheres of the church. This is the most challenging thing you will do as a pastor. Perhaps half of all your energies should be devoted to it. Jesus’ training of His own disciples is the road map for how to do this.
- Challenge our lives.
John Piper’s brief book Don’t Waste Your Life issues a call to a life of significance to the younger generation, but one highly respected seminary professor told me it was one of the most influential books in his life. A pastor who has worked in two large well-known churches in the United States added an honest critique of those churches, “Two things adults really need that we are not giving them are: help in finding their life purpose; and mentors to walk them down that road.”
People who come to worship every Sunday for decades have not found their life purpose? There is no coach to challenge them down that road? How can we say we are shepherding people if we are missing one of their primary needs in life?
We all need to be challenged deeply, holistically and directly in order to walk out lives of significance. The areas of life in which we all need these challenges are: God, family, church and society. Once we hear and understand God’s Word, we will need to be challenged to pursue changes in these areas.
Set up many discipleship groups in our church led by life coaches that you have mentored so that many more in our church will have an opportunity to be discipled into a life of significance.
Teacher, Equipper, Healer, and Challenger – a pastor who flourishes in these four roles will shepherd people to love Jesus Christ with all their heart, soul, mind and strength. Whole person ministry is critical to building people because every believer has a need to know, a need to be equipped, a need to be healed, and a need to be challenged.