Ministry—even good ministry—can be built on a shaky foundation. When Jesus gave the word picture of a house built on the sand or on a rock, He wasn’t only speaking to the Pharisees. He was speaking to you and me.
Of course, His promise to those who build their lives on truth is also for you and me.
Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock:And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock.—Matthew 25:24–25
Years ago, I recognized that even godly leaders can have faulty ministry philosophy. In a painful and prayerful season, I outlined ten foundational pillars that I want to be the basic keystones of my life and ministry. (Incidentally, these are also the core values we have chosen for West Coast Baptist College.)
Occasionally, I review these pillars to remind myself of the aspects of ministry that are truly vital.
1. Uplift Sound Doctrine
True doctrine is essential to the faith, and it is the glue that binds a church together. Not only that, but teaching and preaching it is one of my primary responsibilities as a pastor. Titus 2:1 instructs, “Speak thou the things which become sound doctrine.” And 2 Timothy 4:2 charges, “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine.”
Because our culture is so adverse to sound doctrine (2 Timothy 4:3), this pillar will never be erected unless it is done on purpose. Any pastor can preach his opinion or teach popular psychology with verses attached to it, but a spiritual leader will thoroughly and systematically both study and teach solid doctrine.
2. Emphasize Servant Leadership
Like Jesus’ disciples, we are quick to slip into worldly philosophies of leadership. We want to be recognized, respected, honored, and allowed exceptions. Because of our strong core of inner pride, we easily emulate the carnal leadership tendencies of others. (Even godly Christians have some carnal tendencies!)
Yes, a pastor is to be an overseer, but he should also follow the example of Christ by humbling himself to touch the lives of people. We can only develop servant leaders in the church as we choose to take up a towel and serve (John 13:14).
3. Model Christian Teamwork
The church is a team, and Christians are the players. In God’s design, we will commit to a common focus and coordinated efforts—“striving together for the faith of the gospel” (Philippians 1:27).
4. Strive for Biblical Balance
If we are to avoid the tragedies of imbalanced lives or ministry, it will only be by God’s grace and with commitment to centering our focus on Christ.
Aside from the common dangers of temptation, a spiritual leader must beware of becoming issue-orientated—focusing his ministry on any topic or issue that is only a part of the message we preach. We must all remember that our main purpose is to preach Christ and Him crucified (1 Corinthians 1:23)!
Jesus Christ must be at the center of all Christian ministry. He is to have, not just prominence, but preeminence (Colossians 1:18).
5. Maintain Approachability
The qualifications for pastoral ministry specify that the man must not be “selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre” (Titus 1:7). Self-willed, angry leaders are unapproachable.
In developing young Christians in a post-Christian culture, it is vital that we maintain the approachability of Christ. Our spirit should communicate openness, warmth, and a heart for others. Those in our ministry should sense that we welcome their questions and input, rather than that we simply tolerate them as an inconvenience or a challenge to our leadership.
6. Model Soulwinning and Discipleship
People do what people see. Thus, we cannot effectively carry out the Great Commission without personal and passionate involvement in it. Jesus commanded us, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen”(Matthew 28:19–20).
If we desire to bear fruit that remains for Christ, we must model the compassion and faithful tenacity to go after the lost. Reaching people with the gospel and discipling them in the faith should be taught, but it is only caught when it is modeled.
7. Cultivate Hearts for God
One of the greatest mistakes we make as leaders is believing that outward conformity leads to a spiritual heart. Sometimes we even deceive ourselves into thinking that our own standards are a measure of godliness.
Only the Holy Spirit of God can create a hunger for God and a tender responsiveness to the Word of God. We must fully yield our own hearts to the Holy Spirit and work to create an atmosphere that encourages heart-level growth.
8. Model Christian Living
Paul’s life was so consistent with his message that he was able to instruct young Christians, “Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do” (Philippians 4:9).
As spiritual leaders, we must practice what we preach. Consistency in our lives gives us the ability to mentor young Christians in Christian living.
9. Lovingly Lead Our Families
Christian families should be healthy and spiritually vibrant. For this to happen, spiritual leaders must see their own families as a major life priority and invest significant time in strengthening their families. A spiritual leader must love his wife and work to build his marriage (Ephesians 5:25). He must teach and nurture his children, gaining their confidence and directing their hearts toward the Lord (Ephesians 6:4).
The spiritual leader’s family is so important that it is included in qualifications for the pastorate (1 Timothy 3:4–5). It’s all too easy for a spiritual leader to neglect his family in pursuit of “God’s work.” Truly, leading and loving his family is God’s work.
10. Walk in the Spirit
This pillar of spiritual leadership is truly foundational. No lasting work for God will take place without the work of the Spirit of God.
No wonder we are commanded to “walk in the Spirit” (Galatians 5:16). We will only find true success in the power and leadership of the Holy Spirit. May we consistently die to self and yield to the Holy Spirit that we might unleash the power of God in our lives and ministries!
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