The month of February is chiefly known for Valentine’s Day. On February 14, the western world celebrates their relationship with their significant others. For this reason, we have decided to focus the Monday for Habits posts this month on relationships. Habits are much more than schedules and routines. As I mentioned in my post on getting organized, we must pursue relationships with intentionality, purpose, and perseverance.
During the month of February, we will highlight four relationships you need to develop:
- Get a Pastor (February 6)
- Get a Friend (February 13)
- Get a Disciple (February 20)
- Get a Mentor (February 27)
When I think about the need for a relationship with a pastor, I think about the book of Judges. The people of Israel continually fell into cycles of disobedience followed by judgment because “in those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 17:6). The people of God need shepherds who will point them to Jesus, walk with them through difficult times, proclaim the Word to them, and equip them for the work of ministry. For this reason, Paul commands Titus to “appoint elders in every town” (Titus 1:5) and such was the example of the early church (Acts 14:23; Acts 20:17ff).
What has God called a pastor to do for you?
1. Find a Pastor who proclaims God’s Word
The Apostle Paul told his protege, Timothy, what his main task and responsibility was as a pastor: “I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: 2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching” (2 Timothy 4:1-2). Proclaiming the Word of God was the pattern of the apostles: “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables” (Acts 6:2) It was the pattern of the apostles and imitated by the early church because it is the Word of God that strengthens us in the faith and, more importantly, causes us to persevere in the faith: “And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified” (Acts 20:32).
Sitting under the teaching of a pastor who proclaims “the whole counsel of God” (cf. Acts 20:27; cf. 2 Timothy 3:16-17) is necessary for the health and growth of your soul. You must find a pastor (and a church) who is fully committed to the proclamation of God’s Word week in and week out. Ideally, you will find a pastor committed to the exposition of Scripture—book by book, verse by verse, phrase by phrase. A pastor who is committed to teaching through the entire Bible systematically will help you ensure that he is bringing you the counsel of God and not his own agenda. In other words, he let’s Scripture set the agenda and thereby let’s God’s sufficient word (cf. 2 Pet 1:3) do it’s full work under the guidance of the Holy Spirit (cf. 1 Cor 2). After all, it is the Word of God that is God-breathed and able “to equip us for every good work” and “make us wise for salvation” (2 Tim 3:15-17).
2. Find a Pastor who equips you for ministry
Ephesians 4:11-13 tells us why God gifted men to be pastors who shepherd our souls and teach us God’s word: “11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,…” (Eph 4:11-13). God gifted pastors for another purpose—to make us skilled and fruitful in ministry. Jesus likens his church to a vine that bears fruit (cf. John 15:1-7). That fruit is the good deeds of loving and serving others (cf. Col 1:10). Look for a pastor who is eager to put you to work. Look for a man who serves others, has his hands busy serving others, and who is eager to see his people work and serve alongside him.
3. Find a Pastor who prays for you
We already noted Acts 6:2, where the apostles indicate that they are to prioritize the study of the Word and prayer. A pastor who is dedicated to prayer is a man who is dedicated to the Lord. In fact, a pastor who is dedicated to prayer is a pastor who believes what he preaches. The first response to God’s Word, one might argue, is always to pray. Spurgeon famously said: “I would rather teach one man to pray than teach ten men to preach.” A pastor who prays shows you that he is dependent on God to do what God has promised and that he is not dependent on himself to accomplish what only God can accomplish.
4. Find a Pastor who can and will give you wise counsel
I have a friend who left their church because they had no relationship with their pastor. This was not a large church with many pastors where the work of knowing and loving the congregation is rightfully spread around to a group of elders. This was a small church. She reported to me that this man never once asked her a question about herself. A wise and godly pastor will show he cares for you by talking to you, asking you questions, and pursuing you. Now, I am not saying that your pastor should be the most popular, dynamic, or easy-going personality. That is not what God requires. The apostle Paul was not impressive in his speech, demeanor, or dress (2 Cor 10:10). It was clear however that he deeply cared for and loved the congregations under his care. Nor should you expect your pastor to be your best friend, to show up at all of your parties, or to include you in everything he does. Be reasonable. Yet, you should seek a pastor who actively shows care to you. He is tasked by the Lord Jesus Christ to shepherd you. The task of watching over you through the ups and downs and joys and trials of life requires that he pursues a genuine relationship with you (2 Pet 5:1-3). If your pastor does not know you, he will not know how to shepherd you and you will not know how to look to him as an example in the faith who you can imitate.
There are more items to add to the list. You want to pursue a pastor who has character, who shows hospitality, who is an evangelist, etc. While we can debate which are most essential, the point is to choose a pastor (and a church) who obeys the word and is an exemplary believer. Your soul depends on it!
How to pursue a relationship with a pastor
The above four points are high altitude points. Since this blog series is focused on relationships, I want to give you a few practical ways to build a relationship with your pastor. Obviously, everyone’s time and availability is different—yet, there are ways to do it.
1. Give your pastor a meal
One of the greatest ways to get to know your pastor is to invite them over for a meal or out for lunch. You can serve them and show them hospitality by doing this. When I was pastoring, I was blessed by those who would have me into their home and then would pepper me with questions. These folks showed an eagerness to learn and to know me that made me want to reciprocate. If I were you, sit down and write down a list of a dozen or so questions you can ask your pastor. You may or may not get to them, but these will help you move past the small talk and into the deeper talk that builds relationships and edifies your soul.
2. Pray for your pastor
I pray for my pastors every day. They need it desperately! I can go home, clock out of work, shut down my email, and relax. They don’t have that luxury. I can choose to focus on 2-3 folks to mentor and pour into. They don’t have that luxury. The ministry can be very demanding and very taxing. Your pastor needs you to pray for them. As you pray for your pastor, let them know you are praying for them and ask them how you can pray for them. As you do this, you will find a few things happening. First, you will start paying attention to their needs, which will then present opportunities for you to serve them and thereby build a genuine relationship with them. Second, you will grow in empathy and understanding for your pastor. Too many Christians are critical of their pastors simply because they do not take the time to pray for them.
3. Show up and serve
I will tell you that two of my mentors in the faith are Jim Hamilton and Denny Burk, my pastors. They are my mentors because I have heard both of them teach for nearly a decade, now. Yet, they are also my mentors because I have taken as many opportunities as I can to show up and serve. There is one place I guarantee you that I will always find my pastors—at church! Now, I go to church for a number of other reasons—supremely because Jesus commands me to gather together with the saints regularly, to serve them, and to sit under the teaching of the Word with them. But there are times that I also show up because I want to watch my pastors shepherd and love others so that I may become a more skilled shepherd myself.
As I have served, I have often find myself serving alongside them—raking leaves, knocking on doors, babysitting kids, sweeping floors, loving on the elderly, comforting the grieving, etc. While I have met with them and shared with them on innumerable occasions, I have never asked one of them: “Will you mentor me?” Yet, that is exactly what they have done. By showing up and serving, I have made myself known to them and given myself the opportunity to get to know them. As I have watched them do all the things that they do—pray, teach, serve, love, sweep, wash, admonish, encourage, parent, ask forgiveness, make mistakes, persevere, rejoice in suffering—I have learned to do the same. There is nothing more powerful than the power of human example.
This February, let me encourage you to find a pastor. The Christian life is not meant to be lived on your couch with just a Bible and an “Our Daily Bread” devotional. The Christian life is meant to be lived with other Christians. God has built the church on the backs of his people and he has designed it to be led by pastors. If you do not have a pastor, you are missing out on one of God’s greatest gifts and means of grace to you. Go get one!