8 Vital Instructions for Every Pastor and Church Leader

by | Nov 30, 2023 | Articles About Church, Articles About Leadership, Articles About Preaching

If you’re a pastor or ministry leader, you can’t help but be drawn to the pastoral epistles to Timothy. Every time I read through them, my heart burns within me and I’m taken back to those moments when I first began to serve and fulfill the calling God placed on my life to ministry.

I’ve had the privilege of preaching a couple of “charges” in the ordination of young leaders into vocational ministry, and there is so much I want to say each time – things I learned early on, things I learned the hard way over the last twenty-six years of pastoral ministry, and things I’ve had to unlearn and relearn, framed with a better understanding of both truth and grace.

As I read again the pastoral letters to Timothy, I discover eight vital, unforgettable truths contained in a single passage in 2 Timothy 1:5-14 that I would share with any young leader interested in pursuing vocational Christian ministry.

2 Timothy 1:5-14 NRSV

[5] I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that lived first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, lives in you. [6] For this reason I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands; [7] for God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline. [8] Do not be ashamed, then, of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel, relying on the power of God, [9] who saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works but according to his own purpose and grace. This grace was given to us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, [10] but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. [11] For this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher, [12] and for this reason I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know the one in whom I have put my trust, and I am sure that he is able to guard until that day what I have entrusted to him. [13] Hold to the standard of sound teaching that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. [14] Guard the good treasure entrusted to you, with the help of the Holy Spirit living in us.

If you’re a pastor or ministry leader, never forget these eight vital words of instruction…

1. Lean into your calling and gifts.

Paul told Timothy to “fan into flames the spiritual gift” (v. 6, NLT) given to him from God. This stirring, this fanning, is an intentional and active process. It isn’t passive. It’s a matter of self-encouragement, like King David in the cave country when all were ready to forsake him.

Leaning into your calling and gifts means you must develop yourself, practicing, exercising, and learning daily. It means choosing to refocus on the sovereignty of the One who called you and the One whose gifts you must steward well.

2. Choose to keep growing bolder.

There will be many moments when you find yourself in the tug-of-war between boldness and timidity. Always err on the side of boldness, especially when it comes to representing God’s truth and grace.

3. Be ready to suffer.

If you’re going to become the man or woman God wants you to be, you will have to walk through a fire. You’ll have to be broken.

Education is great. Experience is helpful, too. But when it comes to growing mature leaders, suffering is the pathway God has chosen to grow and mature us.

Samuel Chand says,

Making friends with your pain is part of leadership. Our pains tell us we’re moving in the right direction. New pains will always be a part of your life as you continue climbing the ladder to your destiny.

~ Samuel Chand, Leadership Pain: The Classroom for Growth

4. Live under grace.

Performance-based perfectionism is the typical pathway of a leader, but it’s an absolutely exhausting way to live. Paul says that God’s plan has always been to show grace to undeserving sinners through the cross on which Jesus died.

The problem is we are often saved by grace to a life of striving to keep God and others happy with our performance. But if it’s grace that saves us, then it’s grace that will sustain us.

5. Keep it about the gospel.

Sometimes Christians will complain that their church isn’t very “deep” because it’s so focused on repeating the redemptive message of the good news about Jesus. It’s “just the gospel all the time.” But here’s the truth – it doesn’t get any deeper than the gospel!

When you look back to the good news about the redemptive and victorious story of King Jesus, dying, rising, and reigning for eternity, you get all that you will ever really need for life and leadership.

6. Commit it all to Jesus.

It’s a rather familiar verse in which Paul says, “I know the one in whom I trust, and I am sure that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until the day of his return.”

I remember hearing Dr. Laverne Butler speak on that verse and outlining it in this way…

  1. We know whom to confess – Jesus.
  2. We know what to commit – everything.
  3. We know when to collect – at his return.

7. Trust the Message.

When I was wrestling with the call to ministry, my father-in-law and pastor, Danny Kirk, gave me a book to read, and it would shape the course of my ministry to come. It was the autobiography of Dr. W. A. Criswell called Standing on the Promises.

That book, about a man who devoted his entire life to preaching the Word, would create in me an insatiable appetite to preach the gospel and shepherd the church.

8. Walk in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Ministry is exhausting. Preaching the Word is a delicate and tedious task when approached correctly. And Paul often talked about bearing the heavy burden of the care of the church.

Without the power of the Holy Spirit, you’re already headed for burnout and exhaustion. But with his power comes the energy to keep going, to keep preaching, to keep serving, to keep building and organizing the church and raising up leaders.

The pathway to the power of the Spirit isn’t trying harder. It’s trusting more. It’s yielding. It’s surrender and submission.

This is “ministry 101.”

Lean into your calling. Keep growing bolder. Be ready to suffer. Live under grace. Keep it about the gospel and commit it all to Jesus. Trust the Word and walk in the power of the Holy Spirit.


Photo by Ben White on Unsplash.

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The Pastor's Book: A Comprehensive and Practical Guide to Pastoral Ministry
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