The Pastor and the Kingdom Path
In The Choice: The Christ-Centered Pursuit of Kingdom Outcomes, Scott Rodin, Wes Willmer, and I announce that we are praying for a great awakening today in the church and the parachurch. Specifically related to pastors, we are exhorting them to abandon cultural definitions of success. These are often reported in terms such as bucks (How big is your budget?), butts (What is your church attendance?), buildings (How large are your facilities?), and perhaps we should add blog hits (How many followers do you have?).
Though they are widely used, do these measures really reflect what Christ expects of pastors? We think not.
Readers of The Choice have asked for suggestions of new metrics rooted in Scripture. Having served in a pastoral capacity on the mission field years ago, I determined to take a crack at this request in this blog post. Also, as my doctoral research centered on Paul’s correspondence with Timothy, I am passionate about what pastors should be found faithfully doing “in season and out of season” (2 Timothy 4:2).
Before you read this list, I want you to understand the qualitative rather than quantitative nature of these metrics. In Matthew 28:19-20, Jesus does not say, “Go and make one hundred disciples.” That would be a quantitative metric. Instead, He says, “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” See the difference? He clarifies the work expected of us by qualifying it, not quantifying it. He’s told us what to focus on, and there is no shortcut to fruitful ministry. It requires faithfulness to a set of biblical metrics such as these.
- Fast and pray for those you serve, the suffering, and lost souls (Matthew 6:5-18; Acts 6:4; 1 Timothy 2:1-6; Hebrews 13:3).
- Train yourself in godliness and set an example for others in word and deed (1 Timothy 4:6-10; 6:11-16).
- Fan to flame your spiritual gifts and urge God’s people to exercise theirs (1 Timothy 4:14; 2 Timothy 1:6; 1 Peter 4:10).
- Read God’s Word publically, preach, and teach it to those you serve (1 Timothy 4:13; Acts 20:27).
- Rejoice with those who rejoice and comfort those who mourn (Romans 12:15; 2 Corinthians 1:3-4).
- Attend to the needs of widows and orphans (1 Timothy 5:3-16; James 1:27).
- Visit and care for the sick, the hungry, the destitute, and prisoners (Matthew 25:31-46; Luke 10:25-37; Acts 6:1-7).
- Share generously with God’s people who are in need and practice hospitality (Acts 20:35; Romans 12:13).
- Shine light on sin, confront it, and simultaneously show love to sinners (John 8:1-11; Acts 20:28-31; 1 Corinthians 5).
- Guard your life and your doctrine through diligent study and personal accountability (1 Timothy 4:16; 2 Timothy 2:15).
- Equip God’s people for works of service, and encourage them not to grow weary (Ephesians 4:11-13; Galatians 6:9-10).
- Make disciples of all nations, baptize them, and teach them everything Jesus commanded (Matthew 28:19-20).
What if more pastors focused on these measures? Revival may break out like it has at other times in church history.
Billy Graham writes: “Before three thousand people were brought into the Church on the day of Pentecost, the disciples had spent 50 days in prayer, fasting, and spiritual travail … John Knox travailed in prayer, and the Church in Scotland expanded into new life. John Wesley travailed in prayer, and the Methodist movement was born. Martin Luther travailed in prayer, and the Reformation was underway” (The Secret of Happiness, 36-37).
Why offer a dozen metrics when we could likely come up with more? Often pastors like to preach a different series monthly. Perhaps they could adopt or adapt this list and focus on these areas in their own lives over the next year and share what they are learning with their congregations. The Apostle Paul would probably concur (cf. 1 Timothy 4:15).
How do we get off track? Many pastors today are encouraged to focus on stuff that matters to the culture rather than to Christ. In trying to “attract people” or “make the gospel relevant” we actually aim at the wrong set of targets. We don’t need to try to make the gospel attractive and relevant. When lived out, the gospel is attractive and relevant!
You will notice that we chose Van Gogh’s famous Starry Night for our cover image for The Choice. While the heavens declare the glory of God and a few homes flicker with light, the church positioned in the center is dark. We think that is a picture of many churches today. They need the power restored. Along with my co-authors, I pray that will happen as pastors make the choice to take the kingdom path and measure success accordingly.
-- Gary G. Hoag, Ph.D.