Six months ago, I began serving as the Lead Pastor of Northwood Baptist in North Charleston. New beginnings are filled with excitement and anticipation, and the truth is, I couldn’t be more excited about the opportunity God has given me to pastor this great church. I am full of optimism and hope as I dream of all that God can accomplish through the ministry of Northwood. There are a million things I want to see accomplished, and if it were up to me, I would have accomplished it all in my first six months of ministry. Thankfully, after serving as a pastor for about fifteen years, I’ve learned a little bit of patience.
As I was making the transition to Northwood, I determined I was going to be deliberate in the way I lead the church. I want to be at Northwood for many years to come, so I know that I need to be wise in my first year of leadership as I lay a foundation for years of fruitful ministry. So, in my first year of ministry, here’s what I have determined to do:
1. Pray and preach.
I know there are a million books on church growth and strategy. I also know there are a million conferences I can attend to learn to become a more successful leader. As helpful as those books and conferences might be, the primary task of the pastor isn’t learned in a church growth book or a conference. Rather, it’s learned in the Bible. According to Acts 6:4, the best way a pastor can spend his time is praying and ministering the Word. In these first few months, I have tried to focus on being an Acts 6:4 pastor. I’ve been praying for my people, for vision, for wisdom, and for a passion for the new community that God has placed me in.
In these first few months I’ve also strived to be very intentional in my preaching. Knowing the pastor primarily leads and casts vision from the pulpit, I have tried to make sure that each of my messages in some way points to the kind of church God wants us to be: a church on a mission to make disciples of all nations. As I craft my sermon series for this first year, I’m selecting passages and books of the Bible that will help my congregation see where God is taking us.
If you’re beginning a new season of ministry, especially as a lead pastor, don’t underestimate the importance of prayer and preaching. Make prayer and preaching your primary responsibility as you start your new beginning.
2. Listen and learn.
On the Saturday evening before I preached in view of a call six months ago, the church gathered to get to know me and my family for a few brief moments. On that evening, I addressed the congregation, shared my testimony, and shared with them the passions of my heart. In my first address to my new congregation I told them that one of my priorities in the first year of my ministry was to listen and learn.
I’ve tried to spend these past few months getting to know as many people as possible. Since Northwood is a larger church, it’s a difficult task. However, I’ve tried to focus on getting to know my staff, key leaders, small group leaders, ministry volunteers, and as many other people as possible. I’ve tried to listen to their stories, and I’ve tried to learn as much as I can about what God has done in the lives of the people of Northwood. The investment of time in listening and learning is invaluable, and I believe the more I listen and learn the more it fosters trust in my leadership.
If you’re starting a new season of ministry, it’s very tempting to come in fast and furious. I’ve done that in past ministries, and it cost me. Let me challenge you to take time to get to know your people. Schedule lunch appointments. Have people in your home. No matter the size of your church, be involved in the lives of your people. Let them know you care.
3. Celebrate and encourage.
Like any new pastor, I am constantly evaluating the current ministries of our church, and I have lots of ideas and plans that I want to implement. But, I don’t have to get it all done today. If I am committing to be at Northwood for the long haul, I have plenty of time to cast vision, implement change, and lead us to be the church God wants us to be.
Right now, I want to be Northwood’s biggest cheerleader. I was preceded by great pastors, and those faithful men led Northwood to have a significant influence on the community. Our church has been faithful to be a Gospel witness. As we look to our future, I want to celebrate what God has already done through his people at Northwood. I also want to encourage the people of Northwood to continue to live out the calling God has placed on their lives. I want to encourage them to love the Lord and seek spiritual growth. I want to encourage them to use the spiritual gifts God has given them for the glory of God.
If you’re beginning a new season of ministry, there will be plenty of time to cast vision, implement change, and lead your church to a season of fruitfulness. Why not be your church’s biggest cheerleader? Celebrate the past and encourage your people in their present ministry. Use social media to publically encourage various ministries in your church that are making an impact for the Kingdom.
4. Dream and plan.
While I am taking my time to get to know people and focusing on preaching well, I am also enjoying this season of dreaming about what God has in store for Northwood. I’m enjoying asking people what they see in Northwood’s future. I’m enjoying long conversations with my staff about the future of their ministries. A new season of ministry is an optimistic and hopeful time. Use your new season to dream about what God could do in your church as you faithfully serve Him. As you dream, also plan. Begin putting together a strategy to reach your community with the Gospel. Begin organizing systems for growth. Begin to connect with international missionaries that you may lead your church to partner with.
While it is wise to be patient as I start my new season of ministry, I am convinced that God has called me to lead my church to accomplish His mission. I want to lead well from the start of my ministry, and seeking God’s direction for the future and laying the foundation for years of fruitful ministry is wise leadership.
New beginnings are exciting times. I know this new beginning has been exciting for me and my family. If God is giving you a new beginning, begin well. Be wise so that your new beginning may grow into a long season of faithfulness to the ministry God has called you to.