The Gospel Coalition LA Chapter holds quarterly equipping meetings throughout the year. These meetings are a blessing for pastors who are looking for encouragement and have practical ministry questions as they fight on the front lines. On April 19, we met at Sovereign Grace Pasadena and Jared Wilson came to talk to us about The Pastor’s Vindication and The Church’s Validation.
His talks were a combo of excerpts from his books and his blog. So I wanted to share some content from that day in a couple posts.
Jared uses 1 Peter 5:1-4 as a springboard for principles about shepherding and how to fight burnout. This is my summary of some of what was said.
Pastors Wanting Pity: Sometimes pastors feel the need to be pitied because of the weight and burden of their job. Those outside pastoral ministry cannot understand the weight of ministry. They don’t realize that you cannot just turn off the burden of people’s souls that is on your heart. Even Paul showed this in 2 Corinthians 11:28. Paul’s daily pressure and anxiety was for all the church. There is a spiritual weight that pastors carry around. And they set a high bar for themselves because they see the high bar set for them in Scripture. So they have this biblical burden that is there and follows them. As true as this is, the goal is not to desire more pity from people, but it is to cling closer to the Gospel of Jesus.
Shepherd the Flock Among You: Shepherds need to shepherd the flock that God has given to them. We’re not to shepherd the flock that you want your flock to be. You’re not shepherding the church of your imagination. Shepherd the church God has given you. In His infinite wisdom, these are the people God decided for you to have (shortcomings and all). Sometimes we’re always discouraged and depressed by them because they don’t fulfill the “Wish Dream” (mentioned by Bonhoeffer). We even do this with our kids, family, spouses (we have this ideal and picture of who they should be and we’re upset when they don’t meet that fantasy). This wish dream prevents you from loving the church that God has given you.
Don’t Be and Accuser: A pastor should not be complaining about his church to other people. People will pick up the disappointment quickly. “I would love a better version of you.”
Be with the People: If you’re pastor, and you have no wool on your jacket, then maybe your’e not a real pastor. Our big task is to be shepherds of the people. You’ll have this temptation to remove yourself from the mess of ministry. But you need to be there. Good pastors try their best to remain “among” the flock of God. You’re not really a pastor if you’re not present.
Show Compassion: How would Jesus look at these people? He would genuinely love them. We see difficult people and think, “Not this person again.” or “I don’t want to deal with him.” But Jesus was heartbroken and caring for these people. What if Christ saw me the same way I incorrectly see other people? That would be terrible for us.
Don’t Minister under Compulsion: Sometimes we minister because “we have to” instead of being driven by compassion. Jesus doesn’t sulk or sigh when He ministers to us. And we can extend that compassionate ministry to others. Look at all the men in the church as little lambs. They need to be fed, raised, and loved. There is intimacy and care (1 Thess 2:7).
Don’t Minister for Shameful Gain, but with Eagerness: Sometimes you’re doing it just for the paycheck. Some say, “I don’t know what else to do.” And this is the wrong attitude. However, sometimes it isn’t always about the money. Another shameful gain is the gain of numbers, approval, or validation. The grace of God is oxygen for the pastor and he gets pure joy out of sharing the Gospel. This is why we are eager to pastor and shepherd.
Don’t Lord over People: Jared gives 5 Signs You’ve Gone from Shepherding to Domineering:
1. You Insulate from criticism or interpret any criticism as an attack or insubordination.
2. You have a paranoia about who is and who isn’t in line.
3. You have a need to micromanage or to hold others back from leadership opportunities or responsibilities.
4. You have an impulse to hoard credit and to shift blame (Good leaders share credit, and will take the hits that they need to take).
5. Progression has become reaction.
“Whatever you are, your church will become” Make sure that you don’t just have people who are just clones of you, but they reflect the diversity.
We Will Receive an Unfading Crown: We spend a lot of time storing up personal glories. We’re going to be judged with a greater judgment. Judgment will begin with the elders. And it should make us nervous since the bad side of our pastoral scale will outweigh the good side. But this is also where the vindication will come. God will not forget the work we’ve done. Ministry will eventually end and we will receive our reward.