12 Marks of Excellent Pastoral Ministry

Tim Challies: John MacArthur has had a long, faithful, fruitful ministry unblemished by great scandal. For decades he has maintained a tight focus on teaching the Bible verse by verse and book by book. In 2006 he taught through 1 Timothy 4 and there he saw Paul providing his young protégé with “a rich summary of all of the apostle’s inspired instruction for those who serve the church as ministers, as pastors. And it all begins with the statement, a noble minister, an excellent minister, a good servant of Christ Jesus.” What are the marks of such a man? MacArthur reveals twelve of them. An excellent minister warns people of error. Paul urges Timothy to “instruct certain men not to teach strange doctrines… rather than furthering the administration and stewardship of God” (verse 3). The same instructions are given two chapters later and in 2 John, 3 John, Jude, and 1 Thessalonians 5. An excellent minister “understands the devastating potential of

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Why Gentleness in Ministry Matters More Than You Think

Michael J. Kruger: Well it’s that time of year. This Friday we will graduate another class of seminary students at RTS Charlotte, sending them off to serve the Lord in a variety of ways.  And during each of these graduations, I have an opportunity to give a final “charge” as the president of the campus. This year, I have been reflecting on RTS’s motto: “A mind for truth, and a heart for God.”  At RTS, we care very much about the mind—we value rigorous scholarship combined with a commitment to the historic truths of Reformed theology. But that is not all that matters to us. We also care about our students’ hearts; what kind of person they are, and where their affections lie. In other words, preparation for ministry involves more than intellectual-doctrinal development. It also involves the development of one’s character. Now, there’s lots that can be said about what should mark a person’s heart, but I think we can

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What Is the Job of the Pastor?

Jonathan Leeman: A Crucial Role Leaders play a crucial role in any church, and we’ll refer to them as pastors and elders interchangeably because that’s what the Bible does (see Acts 20:17, 28; Titus 1:5, 7; 1 Pet. 5:1–2). Your ability to do your job as a church member depends on pastors or elders doing their jobs. Your job is to be a priest-king. Jesus tasked you with watching over the what and the who of the gospel, as well as extending the gospel’s dominion throughout the earth by making disciples. But what is a pastor’s job? As churches emerge from COVID-19, it’s as important as ever before that we know the answer to that question because of the impact the COVID-19 quarantines had on trust inside of churches—trust among members and trust toward leaders. We’ll think about this more in a moment, but part of building trust back up is knowing exactly what a pastor’s job is. The short description of a pastor’s job is that

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4 Ways to Care for Fearful Church Members

Jonathan Rourke: The familiar voice of a pastor can bring peace in times of trouble. Your consistent ministry of the Word and love for your people create a strong bond. It’s often easily overlooked in the good times, but when circumstances suddenly change, so does our people’s appreciation for sound words of grace and truth. Though we can be tempted to judge people gripped by fear, this is a stewardship not to be squandered. After all, these members have been entrusted to you, and you will give an account for those souls. Below are lessons I’ve learned from sometimes failing to properly care for fearful members. First, acknowledge that fear is real.  Regardless of the actual threat level, you’re ministering to a person with a real need, and for that reason alone, it must be taken seriously. The fact that you’re not afraid, hurt, discouraged, confused, or suffering from any kind of distress does not discharge you from the duty

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The Pastor’s Job Isn’t To Fix Things

Tim Challies: You don’t have to look far to find articles about how and why the pastor’s job is uniquely difficult. Having been a pastor for a number of years now (in both paid, full-time and unpaid, part-time capacities) I can attest there are ways in which it is unlike any other vocation. It really does come with unique challenges, though it certainly provides unique blessings as well. There is one realization about pastoring that came to me slowly but which finally arrived like a breath of fresh, cool air on a hot summer’s day. I found it freeing because it counters an expectation church members can have toward their pastors and, even more so, an expectation pastors can have toward themselves. Here is what I realized: The pastor’s job isn’t to fix things. Many people first begin to attend church when they are hoping to find a solution to a troubling circumstance. They want to have an easy and

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You’re Insignificant for God’s Glory

  John MacArthur: Convinced of His Own Unworthiness Alongside Paul’s confidence in God’s sovereignty, he was kept faithful by a powerful conviction that he himself was nothing (1 Cor. 3:7; 2 Cor. 12:11). Paul did not have an exalted view of himself. He spoke of himself as the foremost of sinners (1 Tim. 1:15); “the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle” (1 Cor. 15:9); and “the very least of all the saints” (Eph. 3:8). Here in 2 Corinthians he writes, “We have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us” (2 Cor. 4:7). Paul pictures himself as a cheap container holding a priceless treasure. What is the treasure? It is “the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (v. 6). That’s a reference to the gospel. Paul was entrusted with it and called to proclaim it, and he saw it as

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Pastors Are Special

Jared Wilson: 4 REASONS PASTORAL WORK IS DIFFERENT (AND WHAT YOU AND I SHOULD DO ABOUT IT) I’ve been a pastor and I’ve not been a pastor, and I have to tell you, pastors are special. There is nothing quite like pastoral work, and I’ve discovered it is sometimes difficult to communicate that effectively to congregations. If you’ve never been a pastor, you may even suspect all the anxious, recent talk about pastoral stress and burnout and the like is overblown. We’ve all heard the jokes about how pastors only work one day a week. There are also plenty of us who have served under or otherwise been led by manipulative, lazy, or even abusive pastors, giving us even more cause to raise an eyebrow about any posture toward ministers other than “keeping them honest.” There are certainly too many unqualified men in the pastoral ranks. But I’m convinced the vast majority of pastors are good and faithful men doing their imperfect

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10 reasons pastors need pastors

Jeff Robinson: I hadn’t been in pastoral ministry but a few weeks until the thought occurred to me, “I need to get in touch with Brian Croft.” I was facing a set of circumstances I was certain would wreck my ministry and would leave me wanting to find another vocation. Turns out, I wasn’t wrong. And I was a pastor who needed a pastor. I’ve been friends with Brian since the early days of Practical Shepherding, and I’ve watched the ministry grow exponentially. I’ve been instructed, convicted, and helped in too many ways to count by the ministry of Practical Shepherding. For me, the most delightful aspect of PS is this: It serves as a strong, balanced, gracious, biblical pastor to pastors. Brothers, pastors need pastors and here are 10 reasons—all of them represent valuable insights Brian Croft personally and Practical Shepherding overall have taught me through the years. We need pastors: 1. Because our hearts need shepherding just like

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Pastoral Bullies

Erik Raymond: It was a bad day at church. What was supposed to be a blessed and meaningful worship experience felt like a punch in the gut. What happened? Those in authority were selfish bullies. We read about these leaders in 1 Samuel. Eli’s sons aptly described by the author as “worthless men” (v. 12), were serving at the temple. It pains us to read that these leaders “did not know the Lord” (v. 12). In verses 13-17 we read about their shameless exploitation of their position and the people. As a worshiper was preparing the post-sacrificial portion of the peace offering for his family, a servant of the priests would pop over. These henchmen walked around with a three-pronged fork in their hands. They would walk up to the family and fish around in the pot with their fork; whatever they were able to “catch” they would keep and bring to the leaders (vv. 13-14). The priests were not

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The Gospel-Shaped Pastor

Jared Wilson: Pastors are a motley bunch of souls. We represent different personalities and tribes, different methodologies and styles, not to mention denominations, traditions, and theologies. But I’ve learned over the years that there is something many of us all have in common—a profound sense of insecurity for which the only antidote is the gospel. It’s easy to succumb to the temptation to compare one’s ministry to that of another pastor, or give in to the need to impress others and be liked. The only remedy for these ministry idolatries and all others is the gospel because it announces, among many things, we are justified, accepted, loved, and satisfied by God in Christ. Until pastors discover and embrace their identity in Christ—which is accomplished by Christ and received by faith, not works—they will keep trying to find their identity in their position, their preaching, their persona, and their programs. While every pastor would affirm the gospel’s centrality to their ministry,

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What’s the Purpose of Pastors?

Tim Challies: The Bible knows nothing of lone Christians, of believers who are willfully independent from a local church. Rather, Christians gather in communities to worship together and serve one another. And as God commands his people to gather in community, he also commands them to be led—led by men called and qualified as pastors or elders (terms the Bible uses interchangeably). As we progress through a series of questions  about things we as Christians often take for granted, we now come to the question of church leadership and ask, “What’s the purpose of pastors?” Common Views of Pastors In the church today we find a number of common views of the role and purpose of pastors. Unfortunately, some of these, though perhaps well-intentioned, are unbiblical. Here are two prominent views that both fall short of what the Bible teaches. The first is the pastor as CEO. According to this view, the pastor’s primary purpose is to keep his organization (i.e.,

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12 Pastoral Commitments

Kevin DeYoung: I love Paul’s description of pastoral ministry in 1 Thessalonians 2:1-12. I find in these verses 12 commitments I need to make as a pastor. 1. I will not shrink back from suffering for the gospel (v. 2). We will carry a cross, just as we call others to do the same. 2. I will preach boldly (v. 2). We will be clear in the face of fear. 3. I will not deceive (v. 3). No ulterior motives, no tricks, no gimmicks. Just plain old truth. 4. I will work to please God, not men (v. 4). The most important audience is up there, not out there. 5. I will not flatter (v. 5). Encourage, yes. Point out evidences of grace, I hope so. But no backslapping to get what we want. 6. I will not be greedy for selfish gain (v. 6). We are not in this for the money. 7. I will not seek my own glory (v. 6). It’s not about me. 8. I will be gentle like a mother (v.

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Getting to the Very Core of Pastoral Ministry

Dave Harvey: Imagine that you want to purchase a new, sturdy, handcrafted kitchen table, assembled from the finest pieces of oak. You happen to live near an Amish community, and you know that the Amish have a well-earned reputation for fine furniture that endures the test of time. So you find an Amish carpenter – we’ll call him “Ezekiel” – and you arrange to meet Ezekiel at his shop. But when you arrive, you notice something very strange: there is not a single scrap of wood in the entire shop. There are tools scattered everywhere but not a single piece of wood to be seen. Ezekiel emerges from the back of the shop and greets you with a firm handshake. “This may be a silly question,” you say, “but where is the wood?” “Oh, I don’t use wood. I’m a wood-less carpenter,” he says. You leave the shop, confused. What kind of carpenter doesn’t use wood? Wood is at the

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How to tell a wolf or hireling from a shepherd of the sheep

By Mike Ratliff 15 “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? 17 So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. Matthew 7:15-18 (NASB)  Since God put me into this ministry back in 2006 the tragedy of the growing apostasy in the visible church seems to have only gotten worse. In discussions with friends about this some have lamented that at times it seems that there is no one who can be trusted anymore. My own perspective is that, yes, it is becoming increasingly more difficult to trust the fruit of those who minister for money or whose livelihood depended upon popularity. This is really nothing new. Our Lord, in

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What Constitutes a Pastoral Approach?

Kevin DeYoung: What does it mean to be “pastoral”? I’m a pastor. Have been for almost 15 years. I love my job. I get to serve the God I love and work with the things our God loves most deeply: his word and his church. As a local church pastor, I am 100% in favor of being “pastoral.” So long as the word means what the Bible means for it to mean. When I see the adjective “pastoral” placed in front of a noun it seems to me the word is almost always meant to convey, in contemporary parlance, a truncated set of virtues. A “pastoral approach” implies gentleness, patience, and a lot of listening. If someone is “pastoral” he is good with people, sensitive, and a calming influence. “Pastoral care” means comforting the sick, visiting widows, and lending a shoulder to cry on. These are all good examples of being a good pastor. Seriously. I am all for all

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3 Ways Pastors Fail to Be Jesus-Full

Jared Wilson: I’ve been and always will be doggedly suspicious of pastors who rarely (or never) mention Jesus. John Piper says, “What we desperately need is help to enlarge our capacities to be moved by the immeasurable glories of Christ.” We ministers of the gospel—and Christians at large—can fumble this commission in three main ways. 1. We speak in vague spiritual generalities.  Love. Hope. Peace. Joy. Harmony. Blessings. All disembodied from the specific atoning work of the incarnate Jesus and exalted Lord. It all sounds nice. It’s all very inspirational. And it’s rubbish. He himself is our peace. He himself is love. He himself is life. He does not make life better. He is life. Any pastor who talks about the virtues of faith, hope, and love, with Jesus as some implied tangential source, is not feeding his flock well. 2. We present Christ mainly as moral exemplar.  We tell people to be nice because Jesus was nice. We tell them

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Only One Perfect Pastor

Taelor Gray: The more I walk with Jesus, the more I’m intrigued with the apostle Paul. Beyond the great demonstrations of the Holy Spirit’s power and the vast territories influenced by his evangelistic voice, I find myself drawn to his humanity. He is one of the most revolutionary people noted in Scripture, yet he is also one of the most accessibly transparent. His conversion displays one of the most fascinating contrasts of a before/after transformation, but many of his character traits remain intact. In his letters, Paul does not mince words in sharing his insecurities, his frustrations, and his sufferings. He virtually shames the church in Corinth regarding his right to receive financial support from the churches although he doesn’t ask for it (1 Corinthians 9). He later points to his own deficiencies while also doubling down in a classic tirade about his rightful place as an apostle, making a robust argument full of shallow comparisons and thick sarcasm (1

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Kevin Vanhoozer’s 55 Theses on Pastors as Public Theologians

Kevin Vanhoozer: Why does the church need pastor-theologians? What are pastor-theologians for? Our answer, in brief, is that pastor-theologians are gifts from the risen Christ, helps in building Christ’s church, especially by leading people to confess, comprehend, celebrate, communicate, commend to others, and conform themselves to what is in Christ. As suits a vision statement, in particular a book about reclaiming a vision, we conclude by summarizing our main theses, chapter by chapter. We believe these theses have implications for what ought to be happening today in churches and seminaries alike. The church is in danger of exchanging its birthright for a mess of secular pottage in the place where one might least expect it: the pastorate (from the introduction). Pastors, together with the churches they serve, are too often held captive by pictures of leadership (e.g., managers, therapists) drawn from contemporary culture rather than Scripture. The location of theology in the academy, together with the disciplinary separation between biblical

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5 Ugly Qualities of the Anti-Elder

  Tim Challies: It is tragic but undeniable: There are many, many people in positions of church leadership who should not be in positions of church leadership. There are many pastors who should not be pastors, many elders who have no business being elders. This is not a new problem. In the pages of the New Testament both Paul and Peter labor to describe the man who is qualified to the office of elder. It is noteworthy that almost all of these qualifications are related to character. Where we are drawn to outward skill, God cares far more for inward character. There are millions of men who are great teachers and great leaders and great C.E.O.’s, but still completely unsuited to leadership in the church. God’s standards are very, very different. In the book of Titus, Paul writes to a young man and charges him to appoint elders in every church in Crete. He tells him what kind of man to look

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What a Pastor Does

  It is to feed sheep on the truth that men are called to churches and congregations, whatever they may think they are called to do. If you think that you are called to keep a largely worldly organisation, miscalled a church, going, with infinitesimal doses of innocuous sub-Christian drugs or stimulants, then the only help I can give you is to advise you to give up the hope of the ministry and go and be a street scavenger; a far healthier and more godly job, keeping the streets tidy, than cluttering the church with a lot of worldly claptrap in the delusion that you are doing a job for God. The pastor is called to feed the sheep, even if the sheep do not want to be fed. He is certainly not to become an entertainer of goats. Let goats entertain goats, and let them do it out in goatland. William Still, The Work of the Pastor (rev. ed.;

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