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Missions 101

What Does it Mean to Have a Pastor’s Heart? (Part 4)

Aug. 28, 2012By: Evan Burns

As shepherds of our families and for whatever ministry the Chief Shepherd entrusts to us, may our hearts be mastered by Christ and manifest the following and much more:

Fear of God.  If there is any book in the Bible written to guide the hearts of spiritual leaders, pastors, teachers, and elders, it is Proverbs.  Proverbs makes clear that above all else, wisdom and knowledge are of utmost importance (Prov 4:5-7).  And, the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and knowledge (Prov 1:7).  The pastor must be so tethered to God’s heart and holiness that there is never a question about where his allegiance lay.  Because he has been undone by the holiness of God, the pastor is an obedient God-fearer (Isa 6:1-8).  He does not fear man, nor does he serve himself.  He conducts himself with fear knowing that God will impartially judge him (1 Pet 1:17).  It is the fear of God that makes the pastor enjoy the friendship of God (Ps 25:14). 

Humility.  The pastor who truly fears God is truly humble.  God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble of heart (Jam 4:6).  Because the humble pastor is quick to repent and confess sin, his shepherding is marked by the presence and favor of God (Isa 57:15).  The pastor must surrender his will and sense of significance under the sovereign hand of God, knowing that he cannot serve God as though He needed anything (Acts 17:24; Job 41:11).  A pastor that trembles before the holiness of God is willing to follow Him wherever He wills (Isa 6:1-8).  The humble pastor will also surround himself with those who are strong in areas where he is weak.  He is not afraid to work himself out of a job.  The humble pastor does not view himself as indispensable and without replacement.  He knows God alone promotes and demotes pastors.

Bible-Filled.  God commanded Joshua to meditate on the Law in order to obey it and speak it.  His success was to be measured by the degree that his heart was tethered to the Word of God (Josh 1:8).  What gives pastors the strength to pursue the straight and narrow path is the sense that this is the way prescribed in the Bible.  There is a temptation to give in and try an easier way or a way that will bring quicker or more efficient results, but if a pastor follows the principles of God’s Word, he can be eternally sure that God will honor him.  A tight-fisted grasp on the Bible keeps the pastor focused on objective, unchanging truths and not on passing trends or cultural fads.  It is this security grounded in the Word that keeps the pastor fresh and encouraged.  In fact, any pastor or elder whose heart is not in submission and dominated by the Scriptures will cease to lead spiritually.  A pastor without a Bible is a pastor without authority. 

Servanthood.  Jesus came not to be served, but to serve (Matt 20:28).  Subordinate to teaching and preaching, His model of shepherding was one of compassion and ministry to the sick (Matt 9:36) and serving His followers (John 13).  Instead of seeking out affinity and only those with whom pastors easily get along, biblical principles call the heart of a pastor to pay the price in identifying and enduring with a group to which he is committed even when it is frustrating to do so.  Learning the cost of servanthood is a key to developing deep fruit in ministry.  Having a heart that identifies with people and that is patient with them through frustrating situations will help pastors minister more effectively. 

Handle Criticism.  The pastor will not only be opposed by demonic powers, but he will also be often criticized by the people he is seeking to lead.  The reality of constant criticism requires the pastor’s heart to not seek man’s approval (Gal 1:10) but to entrust his soul to God alone.  In fact, if a pastor is never criticized and only praised, it is very likely that his heart is not following God (Lk 6:26). 

Making Disciples of Young Leaders.  The pastor has a responsibility to grow young disciples by intentionally teaching them.  The pastor should set aside times to directly speak truth at length with young disciples and not only limit teaching truth to mutual conversations.  Nevertheless, part of his responsibility is to reveal the heart of God by sharing his heart as he trains young leaders-to-be.  Pastoral ministry does not have to do with status; it has to do with responsibility.  There is a long-suffering that a pastor’s heart must endure during the slow growth of their followers, much like a parent who endures the gradual development of a child.  As a disciple grows, so does his level of freedom to explore his ministry passions and gifting.  A young disciple who is well-shepherded will step out and take risks not merely because of confidence in acquired skills but because of confidence in the culture of love, nurture, and trust demonstrated by his pastor’s heart.  The culture of pastoral ministry is primarily relational and not project-driven.  The wise pastor’s heart will look for very trainable young men to grow up into shepherds to eventually take the reins of disciple-making.

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