Many people promise to provide the secret to a successful pastoral ministry. Conferences, curricula, and consultants like to offer products for discouraged pastors. Attend this conference and you will come away with a ministry-changing model. Purchase this curriculum (with video of guy with fashionable glasses or foreign accent!) and you will regain interest (and keep purchasing so you will maintain interest). Listen to this expert who can diagnose your problem and lead you to renewal. Pastors soon feel as if they cannot possibly lead a ministry with only the Word and the Spirit’s gifts.
In quite another manner, Paul encourages Timothy in 2 Timothy 4, verses 2 and 5, with the not-so-secret “secret to successful ministry.” He renews our focus even when people will not endure sound doctrine and seem to want novelty. Though his instructions may not fill a conference schedule or provide an eight-session video series, it is expert advice from God the Spirit through Paul.
1. Preach the Word — In verse 2, Paul emphasizes that a steady diet of preaching the Scriptures will keep your flock on course. The preaching is not just explaining the text, but our preaching is also characterized by timeliness, correction, rebuking, exhorting, encouragement, patience, and careful instruction in how to handle life’s circumstances.
2. Be serious about the ministry — the Scripture calls us to a relatively simple ministry even though performing it is not always easy. In contrast to the drunkard, who is unpredictable and unstable and tries to escape real life, we as pastors should be sober, diligent, consistent, and focused on the ministry of the Word and prayer both publicly and privately. Our responsibility for souls warrants a serious and sober mindset in ministry.
3. Endure hardship — there will be tough times and difficult people that will bring hardship in ministry. We are to endure it—not react to it or run from it—endure it. Trust the ministry of the Word and the power of the Spirit to change the wrong attitudes of those causing the hardship. We really cannot speed the process of endurance, but we can appreciate what endurance produces even while enduring.
4. Work hard to share the gospel — in the area of evangelism like no other, we tend to look for a silver bullet—a new program, event, or emphasis that will reach people. Our desires our honorable, but Paul tells us that sharing the gospel is going to take work. Someone once said, “Without hard work, nothing grows but weeds.” I fear it is the same in some of our ministries—we need to do the work of proclaiming the gospel to those in our community to see the church grow. Otherwise, weeds of discord, selfishness, pride, and distraction will grow in our church.
5. Keep a well-balanced ministry — Paul rounds out his instruction with this little phrase—“fulfill your ministry.” In essence, maintain a well-balanced approach to the various aspects of your ministry. Balance public ministry with personal relationships. Reach the world, but also the neighborhood. Work for outreach, but also for edification. Exhort, but also encourage. Consider the proportion of your ministry in light of what we are called to do here.
Pastor, if you are discouraged, perhaps you are really going through a time of endurance. Keep working hard using your gifts while trusting the Spirit. This is the secret to a successful pastoral ministry!