2019 is almost upon us. This is a time that many of us are making resolutions or decisions to do something differently, better, more often, or to stop doing something altogether. As Pastors, the resolutions we make affect at least one of the many relationships we must balance. We are often husbands, fathers, grandfathers, brothers, employees, employers, or have to manage other relationships besides these. As we take stock of 2018 to see in what ways we can make 2019 even better, I’d like to submit 3 resolutions pastors can make for 2019. These suggested resolutions will focus on the role of the Pastor, not because being a pastor is more important than being a husband or father, but I simply wanted to help pastors think specifically and clearly about ways to grow in their calling to be shepherds and preachers.
(1) Pray Regularly And Publicly For Other Churches
Praying regularly for another church will be a reminder that we serve one King and we are all on one team as one body. (1 Cor 12) Praying publicly for another church will help disciple your church to think the same way. Do you have a regular prayer time at your church? If so, bring up a neighboring church. Mention the pastor by name. Does that church have any needs or new initiatives on their website? Then Pray for those items specifically. It is a helpful reminder for both pastors and members that we are part of the Kingdom of God. This Kingdom is bigger than you and even bigger than your church.
(2) Become A Better Preacher
“He shepherded them with a pure heart and guided them with his skillful hands,” Psalm 78:72. David didn’t just rely on the “call” of God to be qualified. He shepherded the nation of Israel with skill. Those years tending sheep and fighting the beasts of the field gave him experience and allowed him to become a more competent leader. As pastors we should seek to intentionally and continually grow, especially in our ability to preach the word of God. Here are three simple ways to grow in your preaching.
Exposure is simply listening to other preachers, even outside of your theological or cultural tribe. The goal isn’t to agree with every word said but to expose yourself to different ways to approach and deliver truth from the bible.
Examination is the process of learning from past sermons. I would recommend you watch and/or listen to your sermons regularly to see how it could have been delivered more clearly, faithfully, or with greater connection to the hearers. Also, invite others whom you trust to provide structured feedback as well. “It was good. I liked it!” or “It wasn’t great, definitely not your best sermon” isn’t structured feedback. “Your opening illustration really helped me understand your message,” and “the sermon wasn’t well structured as I couldn’t follow your train of thought well” is structured feedback.
Experience is a double-edged sword. It can either ingrain good habits or bad. But as preachers if we are engaging in the steps above, our preaching experience will build up and deepen good preaching habits over time. Experience is also something that is good news for younger preachers (like me). It reminds us that we can’t rush maturity. You can’t manufacture the phenomenal preaching of great pastors. It simply takes time intentionally growing Sunday by Sunday.
(3) Connect With Your Members
The phrase “smell like sheep” is common in pastoral circles. This concept of pastors being among their people is lauded as a soundly Biblical model of pastoring. But you may wonder what it looks like practically to connect with your members and “small like sheep”. Let me give you one practical suggestion on how to live this truth out in 2019.
Make room in your schedule to grab lunch/coffee with one member a week. Connect with one member or couple a week just to talk. No church business. Just conversation. Ask them how they’re really doing. Ask how you can be praying for them. Ask about their hobbies, their children, or anything besides church business. This will be a logistical challenge. This would be a great task for a church admin to help with if possible. And just slowly work your way to connecting with every member of your church over time. This will take years for most churches even at one meeting a week (which probably isn’t going to happen realistically). I would recommend starting with members you have the least amount of regular contact with. This practice has been invaluable to me as a Pastor and has changed how I do ministry and even how I preach as I’ve gotten to know church members better.
My prayer is that these suggestions encourage you as you look to grow in 2019. The Church is the hope of the world and we have the awesome responsibility of being stewards and shepherds of God’s people and resources. Let us continue to live a life worthy of that calling. (Ephesians 4:1; Philippians 1:27)