I’m glad to welcome Cliff Pace as a guest contributor at Lifeway Pastors. Cliff is the Senior Pastor of Hernando Baptist in Hernando, MS. He is a graduate of Leavell College and received a Master of Divinity from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. He is currently pursuing a DMin in expository preaching from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Cliff and his wife Tracy have three children.
Admit it. Some of you don’t like your congregations. You may love them, because you have a biblical command to do so, but you don’t like them. You don’t like the way they worship or perhaps they don’t share their faith enough, or…. I could go on but you get the picture.
Tenure is not the issue. It doesn’t matter if you have been their pastor for ten months or ten years. They are just not the people you want them to be. The question is, what do you do about it. How do you lead your congregation to be a people that reflect the Gospel? The answer is simple: be a person that reflects the Gospel. Be the person you want your congregation to become. Here are a few steps to get you started.
- Look at yourself. You have heard the statement, “I took a long hard look in the mirror.” It is imperative that we as pastors do that daily. But the mirror is not our bathroom mirror, it is the mirror of God’s Word. James wrote,
But the one who looks intently into the perfect law of freedom and perseveres in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer who acts-this person will be blessed in what he does. (James 1:25 CSB)
When we see a command to obey or a pattern to follow, we should immediately bring our lives into line with it. And when we do, we will be “blessed” for it.
- Pray about it. Thank God for revealing His truth to you. Ask Him for the desire and strength to obey His truth. Stay dependent on Him. Andrew Murray wrote,
During the life of Jesus on earth, the word He chiefly used when speaking of the relations of the disciples to Himself was: Follow me. When about to leave for heaven, He gave them a new word, in which their more intimate and spiritual union with Himself in glory should be expressed. That chosen word was: Abide in me. (Abide in Christ)
We nor our people can do anything apart from the power of Christ that comes as we abide in Him. Praying demonstrates this dependence on Christ.
- Be a worshipper. I mean this in a corporate sense. Before I stand on the platform every Sunday I worship in the congregation. Even as I think about my message, I sing, I smile, I raise my hands. I let my people see me worship. It’s not for them, it’s for my King. But I keep in mind they are watching me. In my congregation, I have a lot of engineers and educators. Have you ever tried to get an engineer to sing or raise his hands? Typically, it’s not happening—trust me. But that doesn’t mean they are not worshipping. They smile and nod their head and stand, they worship and they have joy but they worship differently than I do. I don’t try to change that nor should I, but they know I am a worshipper.
- Be a servant. I say repeatedly that “You are never more like our Heavenly Father than when you are giving. You are never more like the Holy Spirit than when you are encouraging. And you are never more like Jesus then when you are serving.” If you want to have a congregation that serves others. Serve them. Model what you want it to look like and let the Holy Spirit work in their hearts to make them genuine servants who put others before themselves.
- Share your faith. More than enough research has been done by Thom Rainer and others to prove personal evangelism among Southern Baptist churches is declining. This is not because of a lack of resources, and good ones at that. The reasons are many but don’t let one be because you are not sharing your faith. If you will personally communicate the Gospel to others and celebrate those wins, many of your people will follow your example.
- Demonstrate grace. It is going to happen. Today, tomorrow, or next week someone in your congregation will sin and that sin will become public. Repentance should happen and often does, but people still talk, gossip, and condemn. They also will watch how you treat the ones who have fallen. Don’t misunderstand me. Sin is serious, but when repentance has been expressed the process of restoration should begin. It should be long and thorough, but filled with grace and understanding. Your example will go far in determining how your congregation responds.
- Remember your call. Being a pastor is hard. It’s hard for you, your family, and your church. Demands on your time, dealing with troubled people and broken relationships, managing facilities and finances is burdensome. But it is a calling. A calling that has its own reward and that is eternally worth every earthly trouble. So, every time you look at your congregation, remember your call and hopefully you will see a little of yourself. But more importantly, you’ll see a group of people slowly looking more like Jesus.