In this issue’s lead article, fellow editor Willie E. Hucks II addresses the work of congregational pastors. These individuals are not given an opportunity to be specialists, for they need to address all aspects of their congregations.
The work of pastors is complex. They are expected to preach, teach, evangelize, lead, visit, train, etc. Thus, they have a multitude of responsibilities. And unlike ministers (administrators, specialists, professors, etc.) who visit various congregations, pastors live with their congregations. Once the visiting minister leaves, the congregational pastor stays with the church. The responsibilities can be overwhelming— goals, budget issues, training, conflicts, expectations, family, and so forth.
What about the resources?
How do pastors fulfill their responsibilities? The fact is that many congregational pastors lack resources available to ministers serving in various organizational units, such as conferences. The challenge is even greater in parts of the world where resources are scarce. While some pastors have to decide which computer program to buy, others have no access to any computer programs. Some pastors must occasionally decide what books they will discard, while others do not even have shelves to hold books.
What can we do to be effective in our ministry? May I suggest that it’s not so much the resources, as helpful as they are, that make us effective ministers. I share with you a list—a list that could be even longer—of what every minister can do for both the congregation and the community.
Present the Word.We can present the Scriptures to congregations or to individuals who have little or no exposure to it. Most individuals find the biblical message challenging, appealing, inviting—something that intrigues them.
I like evangelism. In fact, I am writing this editorial a day after completing a follow-up evangelism series. Once again I have found that many individuals who have had minimal or no exposure to the Bible enjoy spending time with it. What a great privilege we have—either introducing individuals to the Word or encouraging those who are familiar with it to stay focused on the Word. The Word brings a new life experience to these individuals. “For the word of God is living and active” (Heb. 4:12, NIV). The Holy Spirit will make it a living and active Word.
Words of hope. Who needs words of hope? It may be the young person in your neighborhood whose mother is an alcoholic. Or it may be a man in your congregation whose wife just died. Perhaps it is a fellow minister under great stress in the present congregation because he believes that there is very little hope for a successful ministry there.
Listening to individuals who have lost hope has great value. More than that, we can help them focus on the God of hope. A psalmist asks life questions and gives direction:
Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God (Ps. 42:5, NIV).
While God is the ultimate source of hope, we have the opportunity of helping those around us focus on God’s hope.
Focused prayer. Ministers are often asked to pray—for members, visitors, people in the community, business enterprises. The list is almost endless. At times when there is no activity at the church, I have made it a practice to go to the sanctuary and pray. Quiet moments are a blessing. During such occasions I visualize where members sit (that’s easy because members usually sit in the same place) and focus my prayers for particular people.
Jesus, in His demanding schedule, focused on His people. After praying for Himself, He prayed for His disciples and focused on His followers who would come after them (John 17).
That which we all have
The above list is not long, but it is powerful. No matter where we serve, no matter how little we possess, we have access to the Word, hope, and prayer. You and I have the privilege of sharing these God-given resources with those we are called to shepherd.