Pastoral MinistryRead completely
«Jesus is the role model for all ministry. He introduced and demonstrated a leadership style that sometimes shocked His contemporaries, but forever set the standard for the Christian church. He also knew that the future church could only man-age if it had devoted and qualified leaders. He therefore spent much of His earthly ministry transferring His leadership principles to His disciples. This emphasis on leadership training is an example that the church should always follow. To train new generations of competent and devoted leaders is perhaps the single most important factor for the survival and growth of the church. Every generation of Christians needs leaders who have learned the same leadership lessons that the twelve men whom Jesus trained had to learn, and have the same heart and affection for God's kingdom as they had. Society changes every day, but the leadership principles Jesus taught remain forever…»
© Published in English language by Golden Pages Private Institution Publishing Centre
To every follower of Christ, who dared to say, «Here I am, send me».
Jesus is the role model for all ministry. He introduced and demonstrated a leadership style that sometimes shocked His contemporaries, but forever set the standard for the Christian church. He also knew that the future church could only manage if it had devoted and qualified leaders. He therefore spent much of His earthly ministry transferring His leadership principles to His disciples. This emphasis on leadership training is an example that the church should always follow. To train new generations of competent and devoted leaders is perhaps the single most important factor for the survival and growth of the church. Every generation of Christians needs leaders who have learned the same leadership lessons that the twelve men whom Jesus trained had to learn, and have the same heart and affection for God’s kingdom as they had. Society changes every day, but the leadership principles Jesus taught remain forever.
This book is about the ministry that we usually call pastor. The New Testament mentions different leadership ministries in the church. For example, in Ephesians 4:13 Paul speaks about apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. All of these represent different functions in the body of Christ. In other places we find other terms that also describe leadership positions; for example, bishops (1 Timothy 3:1–2), elders (Acts 14:23) and deacons (1 Timothy 3:8). The way these terms are used and the purposes they serve will today differ from denomination to denomination. There are many ways churches are organized, depending on their theology, culture and history.
Though these biblical terms are used with different meaning, there is broad consensus that when we today use the word “pastor” we are talking about the leader of a local congregation. This is the person who leads, feeds, guards and cares for the church members. This is how I use the word “pastor” in this book. There can however be many different pastoral functions inside a local church. Besides the senior pastor, we also use terms like second pastor, associate pastor, youth pastor and children’s pastor, describing different areas of ministry. In addition, there can be many church leaders who function in a pastoral responsibility, without having been installed as pastors. Everyone who helps in children’s ministry, every youth leader and home group leader, shares in the pastoral care of the church. It is my aim that this book will have something to say to all these levels of leaders.
It is however impossible to cover all aspects of pastoral ministry in one book. The work of a pastor varies from preaching and teaching to personal counselling, planning and administration. My aim has been to write as concise as possible, focusing on the main issues of pastoral ministry and trying to avoid getting lost in details. The book is divided into four parts, emphasizing four different areas of the pastoral calling. The first part is about preparation for ministry. The second part deals with the motives of the pastor and his relationship with the people he serves. The third is the most practical, speaking about how to lead and develop a local church on a daily basis. The fourth brings up the dynamic aspect of ministry, focusing on creativity, courage and boldness.
I assume that since you have decided to read this book, you feel called to be a leader. Let me tell you, the need for leaders has never been greater than it is today. Challenges of liberalism and secularisation surround the church in many places in the world, while at the same time new and amazing doors are opening up for the Gospel. The church needs to recruit and train leaders who are not only zealous for a cause, but well trained to handle the various challenges of today’s society.
Both as a youth pastor in Norway, and as a pastor in Russia for over 20 years, I have seen churches started and churches closed down. I have seen growth and decline, unity and church splits. I have seen revival movements springing up with great enthusiasm, but leaving little lasting results behind. But I have also seen churches that seem to have the ability to overcome all kind of challenges, and continue to influence their society and win souls for God’s kingdom.
This has made me reflect a lot on what seems to be good leadership, and what seems not to be. To begin is good, but as ministers we need to go all the way. To preach well is great gain, but without good organization and leadership training, all the good fruit can be lost very quickly. Zeal has great reward, but can also vanish fast without strong character. Faithfulness is important, but without the ability to adapt to an ever-changing culture, you can quickly find yourself faithful but very alone in your church.
Ministry has many different sides, and with God’s help we must learn to manage all of them.
Whether you are a bishop or a pastor, a youth leader or a home group leader, it is my prayer that this book will lead to a deeper understanding of the pastoral ministry and serve as a practical guide in performing your daily duties.
May God bless you in all you do for Him. Your willingness to serve God is the hope of the world.
This book can be used as study material either individually or in a group of leaders. My recommendation is to read the chapters one by one and take time to reflect over the content. After every chapter there will be some questions for meditation and discussion. It may be beneficial to share thoughts and experiences with others as you go through the material.
Andrew, John and Peter. These are some of the most common names not only in Russia, but more or less all over the world. These famous names go back to a group of men who 2,000 years ago decided to follow Jesus wherever He would lead them. Today we know them as the twelve apostles of the Christian church. They became the first leaders in Jerusalem, and later all the way to Rome. They wrote books in the Bible and guaranteed that the gospel was correctly established and handed over to new generations of believers. The wall around the heavenly Jerusalem will have twelve foundations; each foundation will be named after one of these men.
They are the giants of church history.
But they all began as disciples.
A book about the ministry of a pastor has to begin with God’s calling and the times of preparation that follow. Nobody steps straight into ministry. We begin by being disciples, by learning and practicing, guided by the Holy Spirit. When Jesus called His twelve disciples, He knew the future of each of them. They would be shepherds and pioneers in His kingdom and they would be examples and heroes for all generations of Christians who would follow. That is why He spent most of His earthly ministry training them.
They followed Him, watched Him, listened to Him and imitated Him. From Him they learned everything about being a spiritual leader. They wrote down His speeches and recorded His miracles. When they became too eager, He had to calm them down and make them understand that they had more to learn before He could send them into the world. But finally the day came when He returned to the Father and could say to them “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15) and “Tend My sheep” (John 21:16). Because they had followed Him all this time, they were now ready to fully be what He had intended them to be from the first moment He called them.
This must also be our story. The pastoral ministry begins with following Jesus. Only he who is willing to humble himself and be formed by the Holy Spirit can one day serve as a useful vessel. To be a disciple is never wasted time. Every day Peter and John spent with Jesus gave them something significant for the future, and He still works like that with us today.
The calling of God
“God… who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began.”
2 Timothy 1:9
When I was a child and people asked me what I was going to be as an adult, I only had one answer: “I’m going to be a pastor.” The conviction I had inside was both strong and personal. I just knew that this would be my future.
Many children have thoughts and dreams about their future professions and carriers, and quite often the dreams never come true. If every child’s dream about the future would become reality, half of the male population of Russia would be either astronauts or professional football players. But somehow I understood that my assurance was of another kind. To be a pastor was not just something I wanted to do; I would certainly not mind being a football player myself. My conviction went deeper. I was convinced that this was neither an idea I had made up myself or something someone had told me. I simply felt that this was God’s will for my life.
Growing up, I did not speak much about this with others. But I remember how I sometimes envied my classmates who could choose their profession freely. Regarding myself, I felt that my course was set. And even though there were times when it seemed that this would never happen, and I actually turned 29 before I accepted my first pastoral position, the belief never left me that becoming a pastor was God’s destiny for my life.
Can God speak to a child?
But can God really speak to a child? And if He does, how can we know what is the difference between imagination and God’s voice?
God can speak to any human being at any time of life. He is sovereign in all that He does, and we must never belittle spiritual experiences that children have. A child is just as much a spiritual being as someone who is older, and sometimes it can even be easier for children than for grown-ups to experience God. Children have an innocence and simplicity we grownups sometimes lack. Remember the words of Jesus:
“Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.”
It is easy for me to recall the strong sense of destiny I felt as an 8 or 9-year-old boy. When God calls, we never immediately understand the full width and consequences of what the calling means. God’s election often comes as a desire to serve Him, and as days and years go by, God will add more and more insight about tasks, times and places
God is the beginning
The pastoral ministry never begins with us. As all other things in God’s kingdom, it begins with Him. Being a pastor is not just an occupation you choose, it is much more than that. God calls people into ministry. He challenges us, speaks to us and reveals to us that we are needed in His church. It is however important for me to state that not all will have the same specific experience of calling that I had. God can speak in innumerable ways. A calling can come with thunder and lightning like it did for Isiah and Paul, or like a quiet growing sense that this is God’s plan for my life. We must never try to turn our own experiences into doctrines, but leave it to the Lord to speak to each person in the way He chooses. What is important for us, is to understand that the ministry never begins with us. God is the origin of all things in His kingdom, including your ministry. John the Baptist said:
“A man can receive nothing unless it has been given to him from heaven.”
And the apostle Paul raises this question:
“…what do you have that you did not receive?”
1 Corinthians 4:7
Only by understanding that God, and not you, brings you into ministry, can you develop the right attitudes of a spiritual leader.
Paul had a very strong awareness ofhis calling. He several times referred to the fact that he had not sought this, but God had elected him to be an apostle and a missionary. Like in this passage in the letter to the Galatians:
“But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb and called me through Hisgrace…”
Even though not all of us will be blessed with the same assurance of our calling as Paul had, what he says is true for all. God’s calling is simply there – from the beginning of our lives the election for ministry is a part of us. The Bible gives very few explanations about why God calls somebody. I guess Paul’s explanation is the best. God called him through His grace. It was not Paul’s merits or education that made way for him, it was God’s grace. He calls whomever He wants, and He does not need to explain why.
IT WAS NOT PAUL'S MERITS OR EDUCATION THAT MADE WAY FOR HIM, IT WAS GOD'S GRACE. HE CALLS WHOMEVER HE WANTS, AND HE DOES NOT NEED TO EXPLAIN WHY
If you and I try to find out why God called us to be leaders in His church, we will end up with the same answers. I cannot see any reason at all why God would ask me to be a pastor, except His grace. He does what He wants, and for some unexplained reason He called me to be a youth pastor in Norway and then an assistant and a senior pastor in Moscow. If a person thinks he is called because of his personal qualities, he gets a very wrong start. God is the One who gives abilities to people as He chooses. He gives the skill to preach and He gives the ability to love and be compassionate. There is nothing we can boast about; all good things come from Him.
That acknowledgment is a correct starting point for ministry. Never try to understand why God calls you specifically. His elections are a mystery to us. He does what He wants. Our task is to continuously focus upon His grace, praising Him for His salvation and thanking Him that He counted us worthy to serve Him.
To see God’s grace in your calling does not in any way make you vanish. God elects, equips and calls, but it is you who must answer yes and faithfully stay where He places you. God said about Paul that “…he is a chosen vessel of Mine” (Acts 9:15). Paul was the vessel that God needed to bring the gospel to the nations. There cannot be any greater honour than that!
The power of a calling
A calling is not first of all a blessing, it is first of all a responsibility. When you have said yes to serve God, you cannot just walk out when it suits you. You are responsible for someone and that responsibility must be taken seriously.
To accept a calling is therefore also to accept the price that has to be paid. The leadership responsibility can sometimes be a heavy burden to carry. Main characters of the Bible like Moses, Jeremiah and Paul had very troublesome days in their calling, and there were days some of them were ready to quit. But one of the reasons they did not was their deep personal conviction that they had to remain faithful to the mission God had given, no matter how difficult it was.
When Paul testified to the elders in Ephesus about how he endured heavy persecution, he referred to his calling:
“…nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.”
This profound commitment is the genuine proof of the power of a calling. Paul knew that God had trusted him with a task, and nothing was more important to him than fulfilling that task. People who are called by God will often have a sense of responsibility that is hard for others to understand, because it is a very deep and individual work of the Holy Spirit.
Though the workload will sometimes be intense and the responsibility a burden, there is a deep, God-given satisfaction in fulfilling what you know God has asked you to do. For a spiritual leader there is nothing more precious than this.
1. What has God spoken to you regarding your life and future? How did His calling appear to you?
2. And how do you respond to that calling?
3. What strength can you detect in your own life as a result of God’s calling?
A time of preparation
“A wise man will hear and increase learning, and a man of understanding will attain wise counsel.”
Preparation and ministry are inseparable. Preparation is a part of ministry and will continue as long as we live. We serve God today and at the same time we prepare for tomorrow. We should learn and grow as long as we live. But it is also true that there is a special time of preparation before he who is called to ministry can enter into the fullness of his calling. God says that a church leader should not be a novice, “…lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil” (1 Timothy 3:6). You must be a disciple before you become a minister. To be a disciple means that you understand your need for growth and learning, and that you are willing to be trained by someone more experienced than you.
According to the Gospel of Mark, the very first thing Jesus said to Peter and Andrew was: “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men” (Mark 1:17). This sentence contains a lot about what discipleship is. It is to follow somebody, to take on a humble attitude and be willing to change and gain new skills. This attitude is the beginning of ministry.
The more a person values preparation and is willing to learn from others, the more he will do for God. The apostles began their walk with Jesus knowing very little about God’s kingdom or what it means to be a fisher of men. But Jesus day by day and week by week taught them all they needed to know. Because they started as devoted disciples, they could one day become apostles.
When Jesus first met them, the disciples were not ready to take on any kind of leadership role. They lacked knowledge about God and His will, they did not have the compassion a spiritual leader must have, and their character was far from ready to be an example for others. And this is where we all begin. We need to mature spiritually before we can be leaders in the church.
In this chapter I will point out three important areas of spiritual growth: spending time with God, serving in the church and studying. I will speak more about character in the next chapter when we talk about what it is to have a personal ethical code.
1. Time with God
Some parts of preparation occur among other people, but there are other sides that can only take place when you are alone. The foundation of any minister’s life is his personal relationship with God. And that relationship needs to grow not only while you are in church, but also in solitude together with the Holy Spirit.
I was fortunate to fall in love with the Bible when I was a child. When I was around ten years old, I collected my savings, went to the local book shop and bought my first Bible. And without any pressure from my parents, I started to read it daily. I remember the peace and comfort I felt as I made my way through the biblical stories, even though I did not always understand what I was reading. As the years went by, the Bible became more and more understandable and more and more precious to me, and the daily reading became a permanent part of my life.
THE FOUNDATION OF ANY MINISTER'S LIFE IS HIS PERSONAL RELATIONSHIP TO GOD. AND THAT RELATIONSHIP NEEDS TO GROW NOT ONLY WHILE YOU ARE IN CHURCH, BUT ALSO IN SOLITUDE TOGETHER WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT.
This habit might not seem significant, but to me it has been an immense strength. Good routines take time to develop, but they provide strength and stability that is very much needed in ministry. This is especially true of how you spend your time when you are alone. If a person can only worship and pray when he is in church, how can he help others grow spiritually?
When Jesus taught His disciples about prayer, He said that it is not the number of words that is important, but the faith and sincerity of the heart. He said that God is a Father “who is in the secret place” (Matthew 6:6). He wants you to come to Him in secret, when nobody else knows about it. There – in worship, prayer and meditation, He will meet you and fellowship with you.
To find time alone with God is therefore a battle every minister must fight and win. Every one of us knows the power of distraction. Busy schedules and annoying telephone calls are a part of our everyday life. But only you can set the standard for your daily schedule, and only you can set the priorities of your time. In all the noise of the 21
century God is still the God who is in the secret place.
IN ALL THE NOISE OF THE 21
CENTURY GOD IS STILL THE GOD WHO IS IN THE SECRET PLACE
This is the very center of leadership preparation. Ministry flows out of your relationship with God. You give to others what you possess yourself. If you want to serve God, you cannot make any better investment than spending time with Him in secret. Commitment and confidence will grow when you learn to listen to His voice and trust His word.
When we speak about things like this, it is so important to emphasize that you don’t compete with anyone. There is nobody you need to impress. Fellowship with God must be natural and personal, as with a close friend. Never compare yourself with others. If you read books about prayer, let them inspire you, but the authors of these books don’t know your realities. You must find joy in the daily rhythm that works for you.
Discipline is always a part of the picture. You were saved by grace, but you will never grow spiritually strong without personal discipline. Good habits will allow the Holy Spirit to shape you, and those habits demand daily commitment. Everything good in life is more difficult in the beginning than it is after a while. The first time I decided to pray for an hour I lasted 45 minutes. I had prayed for every need I could possibly think of, and I was totally exhausted. But it is not like that today. As you spend time in God’s presence, you gradually grow in spiritual discipline and willpower.
2. Being a servant
There is nothing greater than being a servant, and Jesus came to earth to teach us that. He demonstrated a life of servanthood that is a pattern for all believers to follow. Even as leaders, we will always be servants, and we learn these lessons by actively taking part in what goes on in the local church.
True servanthood begins with a willing and faithful attitude. Jesus several times spoke about the importance of being trustworthy in what is small before God will trust you with more.
“He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much”
“Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things.”
This principle runs through the whole Bible. Responsibility grows with our level of faithfulness. Joshua served Moses for many years before he could lead the people. David served his father and king Saul. Elisha served Elijah. Serving is the main lesson of discipleship.
I have so many fond memories from the churches I was a part of as a child and youth. Church was the place where I found my friends and spent a lot of my spare time. I very seldom spoke with anybody about my calling to ministry, because it was hard for me to see how that could take place. It remained in my heart as a thing between God and me. I simply had to trust that He would make it happen; someday, somehow.
But I always loved being in the church. I loved the songs, the fellowship and the strong sense of belonging to the body of Christ. It was therefore natural to me to engage myself in any place I could be useful. As the years passed by I believe I was active in more or less every possible church department. I remember being both usher and head usher, singing in the choir, leading a home group, and being a youth leader, driver and night guard. I did not think so much about it at that time, but later I realized that all those years God was preparing me for future ministry.
It is important to learn to be flexible and to be willing to do not first and foremost what you want, but what is needed in the church. Ministry is not picking what you prefer to do, it is saying to Jesus, “Here I am – send me”. To willingly do what you are neither fond of doing nor qualified to do, is a good and useful experience.
MINISTRY IS NOT PICKING WHAT YOU PREFER TO DO, IT IS SAYING TO JESUS, “HERE I AM – SEND ME'. TO WILLINGLY DO WHAT YOU ARE NEITHER FOND OF DOING NOR QUALIFIED TO DO, IS A GOOD AND USEFUL EXPERIENCE.
My church volunteer career brought me into many awkward situations. I remember when we rented the local sports arena to arrange a conference in the early days of the Charismatic revival in Norway. A famous female American preacher was head speaker and people from all over Scandinavia came to listen to her.
We had learned from America that those who kept order in the meetings were called “ushers”. This was a very cool expression, and though I didn’t know much about it, the pastor appointed me as “head usher”. I was placed on the corner at the front row wearing jeans and a pink T-shirt. Then the nightmare started.
After the sermon at an evening meeting, the American preacher invited people who wanted to be filled with the Holy Spirit to come forward. Scores of people responded. When they all stood at the front, she asked “Where is the head usher?” I had some very dire suspicions why she asked for me, and they were soon confirmed when she looked at me and said that I should bring all these people to another room in the building and pray for them.
I had never done anything like this before! She was the preacher; she was the one who was supposed to pray for people! How could she put this on me! I was terrified, but what could I do? The group left the hall slowly with me in front, and the only available room we could find was the bomb shelter. In the big hall there had been a wonderful atmosphere of joy, music and people worshiping God. In the bomb shelter it was dark and quiet. Zero atmosphere. Those poor souls who wanted prayer gathered in a crescent around me and looked at me. Nobody said anything. I thought my last moment on Earth had come. I went up to the person on the far left, a big Norwegian guy, and did what I had seen preachers do: put my hand on his head, closed my eyes and hoped that something would happen.
I wish I could tell you that it ended in a mighty breakthrough, but that wouldn’t be true. To this present day, I don’t know how I made it through that evening, but I did. We prayed together, and I am sure that God in His goodness did something good in the lives of those people.
This is how I started. No firecrackers or mighty miracles; just doing what I was appointed to do. And this is the school of the Holy Spirit. He not only wants to train our abilities, He wants to train our character and attitudes. A person who will only do what he enjoys doing cannot do much in God’s kingdom.
A PERSON WHO WILL ONLY DO WHAT HE ENJOYS DOING CANNOT DO MUCH IN GOD'S KINGDOM
I remember another incident when I was in Bible School in Uppsala, Sweden. Ulf Ekman, the founder of the Bible School, had been preaching in my home town in Norway over the weekend. During the following week in Uppsala we had meetings with a Bible teacher from USA, and the church was packed every night. The first evening Ulf Ekman told everyone what a great time he had had when he was in my home town, and that he had heard a song there that he wanted everyone to sing. The problem however was that he couldn’t recall the melody, and the Swedish worship team had no idea what song he was talking about. A couple of seconds of confusing silence followed, but then he suddenly spotted me and said: “There we have a brother from Norway.” My blood froze immediately, as he continued: “Do you know this song?” Well, I knew the song. But I can’t sing. I was very tempted to lie and say that I had never heard of such a song. But I am a Christian! Lying is forbidden!
So I nodded and admitted that I maybe, kind of, in a way knew the song, and then he said what I really, really didn’t want to hear: “Wonderful! Please sing it to us.”
I don’t think you can understand the panic level I was in. I was in an overcrowded church, and I was not only asked to sing this song once, but keep on singing until everyone learned it. But again, what could I do? There was nowhere to run, and obviously, I was the only one in the building who knew the song! I grabbed the chair in front of me, cleared my throat, hoped to survive and started to sing. And as I sang, the worship team caught up with me, and gradually everyone else joined in, and we sang the song!
Experiences like this are stuck in my memory. I have lots of stories to tell, and they all play some part in the road God lead me down. I am not a singer, but if nobody else knows the song, then I’ll sing. We do not serve ourselves or our own image. “Likes” on Facebook or Instagram are not the goal – the goal is to be available whenever the Lord needs you. There is only one way to learn this, and that is by being an active and willing helper in the church you belong to. Find out where you can be useful today, and serve God with gladness!
If you are a pastor or a leader today, you must teach this lesson to all who want to serve God. There is a spiritual law in 1 Peter, chapter 5, that applies to all:
“Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time”
1 Peter 5:5-6
Lack of respect for leaders will always be a hindrance for spiritual growth, while a willing and submissive attitude brings God’s grace over your life.
Before we leave the subject, I have to admit there is a final point of the story about the song. Some years later when this song was sung during a conference in Uppsala, I heard a Norwegian worship leader saying: “It is so strange. We sing this song in Norway also, but here in Uppsala the melody is different.” I didn’t say anything. I just smiled to her and looked surprised. I know I did my best, and who can prove that my melody was worse? Maybe it was an improvement! Whatever is right, just remember that ministry begins with saying: “I’ll do anything for You, Jesus.”
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