I’ve been in ministry for a long time, and I’ve seen faithful pastors of 80 people and 10,000 people. No matter the size of the church, there’s the temptation to become a popular pastor.
We constantly fight the urge to buy our Super Pastor outfit and to stand boldly on tops of buildings overlooking the admiration of thousands. But a pastor’s job is to be deleted so our congregation and community only sees Jesus.
How can we turn from being puffed up and resist being a popular pastor? Here are three practices.
1. Don’t imitate others.
Focus on improving your own ministry instead of mirroring someone else’s. This is the hardest step, so I decided to give it to you right off the bat.
We are so prone to ministry envy, aren’t we? We see pastors on mainstream television, writing bestsellers and speaking at conferences, and we wonder, “Why not me?”
Jesus’ call to us is to be faithful with the talents, abilities and surroundings he has given us (Matthew 25:14-30). We don’t have to be known to the world, but we should be real with our congregation.
Ask yourself: Am I being faithful with the talents, abilities and surroundings Jesus has given me? Am I wishing for more, while the flock and community I am called to is being neglected?
2. Prepare your fields.
As ministers, we easily can sit in our offices and counsel people about their faithfulness and future, while neglecting our own. We never should assume a superior status to our churches or communities.
How can we minister if we don’t have things in common with our church and community? Eventually, our congregation will see right through us.
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We must spend time in the word of God. We must pray diligently that our churches would be at the center of the Holy Spirit’s work. We should read often from people with whom we agree and disagree.
In a post-church society, in which some oppose Jesus and his ways and others know him but have abandoned gathering with a local church, we cannot fall into the lie the church must change so the world will accept it. We must align ourselves radically with the truth of the word of God and show the world the difference.
To prepare a West Texas field, a tractor with a multi-disc plow is run over the surface, flipping the soil on itself to make the ground receptive to seed, fertilizer and water. After the soil is flipped, the wind often blows it into a dust storm. Everything around is brown.
As ministers, we must lead and prepare our churches to affect our communities by continuously stirring up dust—turning the spiritual soil of our people. We must encourage them to spend time in God’s word, prayer and reaching their community.
3. Discover how you’re put together.
I love to discover how things are put together. I love to find something I won’t need to use again, take it apart and put it back together. I love to see how inventors and engineers thought through the processes—why a gear is here instead of there, why the latch isn’t this kind but that kind. It’s mesmerizing.
As a minister, I often am lost in the “how I’ve always done it before” patterns of life. You may be, too. We need to review our strengths and weaknesses. For example, I am not a detail-oriented person. I live in the big pictures, which is OK as long as I have a detail-oriented person with me.
Young ministers often wonder, not if they are called, but what exactly they are called to. Young and old, we need to discern, not only the calling Jesus has given us, but what our call looks like.
I believe the Lord calls people to write books, to be on national TV or to preach at conferences. I also believe Jesus calls people never to do those things.
He may call you to serve a rural church of 80 people all your life or a megachurch, because Jesus loves both and needs someone in each place.
Be faithful to where you are
You might write the next bestseller. If so, send me a copy. You might be the next onstage voice at a conference. Backstage passes, please.
Whatever you and I do, let us discover, pray and serve faithfully where we are, not looking for something bigger and better.
When we find ourselves headed down the rabbit hole of comparing ourselves to those releasing books, selling their next study, inviting us to their next conference, or talking about their next campus opening, just remember: What you do for the kingdom of God is important.
We need you. Keep going. Remember: you get the privilege of the greatest job on Earth—rightly dividing the word of God to a people you love.
Kyle Clayton is the senior pastor of the Church at Quail Creek in Amarillo. He is husband to a wonderful wife April, and two amazing kids. The views expressed are those solely of the author.