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3 Things Every Pastor Must Do

February 17, 2011

Well another former colleague, a pastor I have known for 20 years, was fired recently. I wish I could tell a tale of harsh Elders, or demanding congregants, but based upon first-hand accounts, he hung himself. Not literally, but literally figuratively. :) As I often say, the crises of life are a way of revealing something that has been happening for a long time. The details are not important and I don’t want to betray his identity to him or those in the pulpit/church he has now left without a Senior Pastor. Let’s focus on the principles. In my experience, if a pastor does these three things faithfully he will have the support of the vast majority of his people in almost any church anywhere.

1) Feed the People:

Jesus was fairly explicit about this in the closing sentences of John’s gospel. Feed my sheep, feed my sheep, feed my sheep. If he only said it twice, we might have wiggle room, but the three-peat kind of negates any plans to say “we didn’t know it mattered.” What are you feeding the sheep? Of course the entire circus of felt need, therapeutic preaching is like pita bread at a Super Bowl party, but beyond the obvious, what really does feed sheep? Scripture, and only Scripture, feeds the sheep, but even among those who claim biblical fidelity and ‘preach the Word’ as appropriate descriptors of their pulpit ministry, are your sheep really fed? Reading a text and then waxing eloquent about it’s theme does not feed sheep. Raising a contemporary subject of interest to the masses and unfolding it with biblical ‘post it notes’ at every turn does not feed sheep. Simply explaining the meaning of a text in a formulaic, classroom kind of ‘what it says, what it means’ detachment, definitely does not feed sheep. In my experience, the best feeding which produces the most satisfied sheep comes from a message formed in, saturated with, and continually connected to an extended portion of a single passage of God’s Word. Where the main point comes from a paragraph and the supporting points come from it’s verses, and the content of those points is the content of the individual verses.

Like this:


2) Love the People:

The guy who got canned was actually pretty strong in this category. The Bible says that love covers and that certainly applies to the way a congregation views the faults of their pastor. If he loves them and takes the time and energy to make that affection obvious, it goes along way in motivating them to love and look beyond his short comings. I am amazed at the number of well-known ministers today who give no obvious signs that they truly love the people they serve. They don’t comfort in a crisis, others do that. They don’t meet personally even with leaders in the church, ‘we have staff to handle that.’ They don’t express love from the pulpit or exhibit love in the lobby. If the your sheep had to prove that their shepherd loved them, would they have experience with you to produce as evidence? In a larger church the pastoral care they experience from you may not be actual, but perceived pastoral care matters, too. What do your people believe would be their personal experience with you based upon their observation of your conduct? Bottom line: this is something you can’t fake. Regardless of the size of your congregation, if you are there for people in ‘prime time’ and do what you can to express love and support for those you lead they will know that you love them and that will cover a multitude of sins.

3) Admit when you are wrong:

This is where most pastors go down and this was the demise of the man whose firing prompted this blog. Pastors can believe grace, exegete grace, and preach grace with little sense of their own need for it. Pastors are frequently wrong. Our opinion is flawed, our conduct is imperfect, our leadership is lacking, and even our best intentions can come up short. Where a pastor believes that admission of error is a diminishment of his capacity to lead, the clock is winding down upon his demise. In a board meeting, at the front of the church, in correspondence, and in personal interaction the pastor must continuously reach for the mea culpa. Failure to do so elevates self, undermines credibility and isolates dissenters. Simply admit it when you are wrong. If you can’t see it accept it by faith and you will lengthen your tenure with any even mildly mature gathering of God’s people.

Just those three things, do them consistently and you will do better as a pastor and last longer in any church for the glory of God’s great Son.

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Read comments:

  • LoriFeb.17.2011

    You do them well James! We are well fed, well loved sheep of a humble pastor!

  • Just MeFeb.17.2011

    Harvest offers absolutely delicious eternal gourmet. I go to church hungry every weekend! :-)

  • JasonFeb.17.2011

    Thank you

  • LaurenceFeb.18.2011

    Outstanding article as a new minister great points to chew on. Thanks

  • wlfldyFeb.18.2011

    I am so grateful to the Lord that I am able to listen to your message every morning through your radio program on KQCV-FM Bott Radio. I attend a local church, but I get spiritually fed through you. Thank you for what you do and God bless you.

  • Jackie NelsonFeb.18.2011

    Love the wisdom that flows from your blog! As an assistant I love what this offers as an aid to support my awesome pastor!

  • RasdayFeb.18.2011

    Cant tell how utterly true those three points are. Started at Harvest Oakville this January and all i can say is…im more than fed, feel more than loved and can see Pastor Robbie’s humble heart! What a difference from where ive been attending the past 12 plus years!

  • NateFeb.19.2011

    As a missionary, I live in a place where there isn’t good feeding…but what you describe applies really well to how we should feed ourselves through the Word as well. And loving others and humbly admitting where we’re wrong? Dude, that needs to mark all of us as followers of Jesus–thanks for the clear reminders!

  • TonyFeb.20.2011

    With all due respect, and understanding of the scope of your responsiblities, and demand, I wonder about accessability, and time. The Lord is faithful. He provides. Nothing replaces this, but in our human nature, we move towards the people that move us. As I sat across the pastor I was being questioned about my baptism, I felt the urge to leave. I was insignificant. I know I am, but this is a big moment for me. Am I being selfish. Yes, but in the moment, he was only mindful of his young son being baptsized. I understand but, I hope you understand, am I in a Chrisitan factory? Punch the forms. I’m crushed, I have a pastor who guided me to this point, and the church I wonder if I can belong to. I’m sorry for the negative, but I’m on the fringe. I’ll keep listening, reading the Bible, and praying. Thank you for what you do. A man can only reach as far as his arms allow. Praise God, His arms extend forever.

    James MacDonald Reply:

    I feel your pain, that experience is not that different from the pastoral side. Saturday p.m. a 13 year old girl I have known since birth ran up and asked me to baptize her. I was thrilled and reminded of how seldom that happens in a church our size. A large church has many advantages and disadvantages and is certainly not for everyone. We see God working, many coming to Christ, high impact services, many ministries smaller churches cannot offer etc. But we pastors also feel the pain of not knowing everyone by name etc. What is important in this is that we never judge motives or question a persons heart simply because logistics create an experience that does not represent our true affection. Thanks for your honesty.

  • KarenFeb.21.2011

    the video of Acts 12 was EXCELLENT. I work in prison ministry and cannot wait to share this with my girls. Thank you for maling it available for us. God bless you. I prayed today that God would keep you healthy and strong and in the pulpit for our generation until you are 99.

  • CharlesFeb.24.2011

    Hi James, great wisdom shared here, simple yet powerful. I serve as an assistant to a pastor who does a fair job in sharing the word, is very dedicated to show love to the new people that come to church, but more often than seldom forgets about his old colaborers, and does not admit he’s worng, I mean, it takes a major earthquake for him to say, “forgive me”. I have discussed this with him and exhorted him, not once but a few times. Others have done the same, yet he maintains a very firm position in these matters.
    Is it time to leave?, it is very hard to trust his leadership anymore.

    Love you brother and praise our Lord for His power shown through you.

    James MacDonald Reply:

    Dear Charles:
    Please refer to the comment guidelines and rule #6 for an understanding of how comments are handled on this blog.

    Thanks for stopping by.
    Vertical Staff

  • JoeMar.08.2011

    The statement below by WLFLDY could be repeated thousands of times…Do you see something wrong with this picture?
    I think it speaks to what should the “appropiate aim” of any given national ministry be? I don’t think it should be to replace the feeding that ought to come from the local church.

    “I am so grateful to the Lord that I am able to listen to your message every morning through your radio program on KQCV-FM Bott Radio. I attend a local church, but I get spiritually fed through you. Thank you for what you do and God bless you.”

  • Kenneth BascomApr.02.2011

    James , God Bless you brother , I did not have any knowledge of you until the Preach the Word conference 2008 . I was ordained in April of that year and purchased the dvds the following spring. I can Hear your words shouting in my head PREACH THE WORD !!!!! DO IT DO YOUR JOB !!!! Thank you for that .
    Our current location is about 10 miles west of the original ’69 Woodstock site in Bethel NY . The demographics are that of left over wana be hippies (no cut intended to Greg Laurie), a 125,000 person influx of Hasidic Jews every summer, to a resident population of only 35,000. The only teachings that I have had ,have been through the online ministries of DR Chuck Misler ,DR MacArthur, Chuck smith, Yourself and many other Calvary Chapel ministers .It was through those connections that I have been the fortunate recipient of solid foundational teachings.
    The three things you post here I completely agree with. We have found in our evangelistic ministry that all of those points ring true .However I have not found any of your teaching on the small rural church settings where finances and demographics play a larger role. All of the churches have closed down and the moral atmosphere is that of Sodom and Gomorrah. We have felt led to move from this area. What are your recommendations on church planting or finding church employment? All of your teachings and those of other quality ministers comment on the need for Biblical preachers. What does the biblical preacher do when the area does not want to hear the truth? Should I find tutelage under a pastor such as yourself and how would I go about that? This next chapter is wide open to the Lords will; any suggestions would be very helpful.
    I want to personal thank you for being a steadfast and devoted teacher of Gods truth, the long range Light of Truth has been a beacon to those farther away then you know. Thank you for that.
    God Bless you brother and My God continue to Bless your ministry.
    Pastor Kenny Bascom

  • Moses RedaSep.21.2011

    I am really impressed with your writing skills and also with the layout on your blog. Is this a paid theme or did you modify it yourself? Anyway keep up the nice quality writing, it¡¦s rare to see a great blog like this one these days..


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