Pastor, you are blessed. Sure, ministry is full of struggles and hardships, but every day God gives you the opportunity to serve His people in a variety of ways. You’ve undoubtedly found much joy in pastoring a local church. As you approach the Christmas season and look toward 2018, let me challenge you to commit to begin to give your congregation several gifts this Christmas, and let me challenge you to commit to give your congregation these gifts throughout 2018.
1. The gift of specific prayer.
Let’s face it, ministry is busy. If you are like me, you are embarrassed to admit that sometimes your prayer life is lacking. Yet, we serve people who desperately need us to lift them before the Father. E.M. Bounds’ famous quote from his book Power Through Prayer has always been convicting for me: “What the Church needs today is not more machinery or better, not new organizations or more and novel methods, but men whom the Holy Ghost can use – men of prayer, men mighty in prayer. The Holy Ghost does not flow through methods, but through men. He does not come on machinery, but on men. He does not anoint plans, but men – men of prayer.”
As a staff, we have committed to pray together each week for our congregation. Every Tuesday morning, as we end our staff meeting, we pull out the membership directory, and we pray for specific families by name. Obviously, we don’t know all of their needs, and honestly, we don’t even know all of the families on our membership directory. However, we are trying to be faithful to pray for the people God has entrusted to our care. When I am faithful to pray for the people in my congregation, God is quick to remind me that ministry isn’t about building an organization. Rather, ministry is about people, and my people need me to pray for them regularly.
2. The gift of diligent study.
Every pastor has different habits when it comes to study and sermon preparation, and every pastor fights the temptation to look for shortcuts to finish his sermon quickly. However, my congregation does not need me to take shortcuts in the study. Rather, my congregation needs me to labor in the study. They need me to pray through the text I’m preaching. They need me to wrestle with its meaning and how it applies to their lives. Each week, my congregation desires to hear me preach a message that reveals a careful study of a biblical text that calls them to see God for His glory and challenges them to walk by faith. While there are a thousand other things that call for your attention as a pastor, you cannot forget that your primary calling is to feed the congregation God has entrusted to you. Maybe as you look toward the next year, you need a renewal in your commitment to study faithfully so that you might feed your congregation well.
3. The gift of genuine forgiveness.
Let’s be honest, a pastor and his family can experience a lot of hurt at the hands of his congregation. Some people criticize, make false accusations, and gossip about you and your family. If you’ve been in ministry very long, you have probably been hurt deeply by people you have tried to love and minister to. Maybe as a result of the hurt, your heart has become bitter and cold toward the people who hurt you. I understand your pain, but why not give the gift of forgiveness? Why not let go of the resentment and choose to extend grace to that church member who has wronged you? Pastor, if you are going to preach forgiveness to your people, you need to practice it yourself.
4. The gift of intentional investment.
In Ephesians 4, Paul reminds the church that God has given pastors to the church to equip the body of Christ for the work of the ministry (Ephesians 4:11-12). One of the ways a pastor equips the church is through the preaching of the Word, but another way a pastor equips the church is through intentional investment in the lives of a few. This was the model of Jesus. He preached to the masses, but He also focused His attention on a few men who He would use to spread the message of the Kingdom to the ends of the earth. In my ministry, I have always made it a habit to work with a small group of men for the purpose of discipleship, and I have seen how God has used that commitment to small group discipleship to change the lives of the men I have discipled. I do not have the time or the ability to invest intentionally in the life of every man in my church, but I can invest in a few, who then can invest in a few more. If you aren’t currently taking a few men through a process of intentional discipleship, why not commit to investing into a few men over the next year? You’ll be amazed at what God does.
5. The gift of evangelistic zeal.
I cannot think of a pastor who does not want to see people come to faith in Christ, and I cannot think of a pastor who does not want to see his congregation actively sharing their faith with others. If you want to see your people share the Gospel regularly, you have to lead the way. You need to encourage evangelism from the pulpit, and you need to model evangelism with your life. Maybe you have lost your zeal for personal evangelism. Maybe you have not had many intentional Gospel conversations lately. Why not ask God to restore your passion for sharing the Gospel, and why not commit to giving your congregation the gift of evangelistic zeal? It is probable that if your congregation sees your passion for sharing the Gospel, that passion will spread through your church, and you will see your faith family more diligent in sharing their own faith.
Pastor, God has given you a precious gift. He has given you people to love, to disciple, and to lead to be in the center of God’s will. Why don’t you give the people God has given you the precious gift of your best efforts as you serve your people through the power of the Spirit so that God might expand His Kingdom through your congregation?