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1. Rediscovering the gospel

The credibility of what a pastor says depends on the life he lives. A congregation watches its pastor to see how he puts into practice what he teaches them about walking with Jesus. And rightly so. Paul repeatedly sets himself as an example. Being an example like this can be paralysing if it makes you feel that as a pastor you have to be some sort of perfect Christian. Thankfully, this is not the case; if it was, who could be a pastor?

It does mean that in every aspect of your life you deliberately seek to serve God, to follow Jesus and to be led by the Holy Spirit. The only way you can be an example for your congregation is by consciously living in close communion with God. A spiritual leader cannot survive without caring for his own soul. Be aware as a pastor that each new day you must first receive from God before you can give out in His name! The question is: how do we nourish ourselves spiritually, how do we lead a spiritual life? Let me mention three aspects of spiritual life that a pastor, keeping watch over his own soul, must take into account.

There are other issues as well, but throughout Christian tradition these three have been considered the three most important aspects of spiritual life. A pastor who observes these three points will grow in Christ and therefore also in his ministry in the church. The first thing about the spiritual life of a pastor is that he must lead a prayerful life. Although this is such a vital issue for every pastor, it is often the first thing to be forgotten or neglected under the pressure of all the work. Prayer is a form of hidden communion with God, it is what nourishes your relationship with the heavenly Father.

If you prayerfully share your whole life with Him, your sins and your wounds, your joys and your sorrows, He will give you comfort and strength. Spending time in prayer with your Sender will place all your labouring and your concerns in a very different light. Staying tuned to God through prayer will take the worst pressure off your shoulders. Instead of you leading your life, He will lead it. Instead of you leading the church, He will lead it. Only he who daily practices the presence of God will persevere and continue to grow and to blossom spiritually.

The best example of a praying pastor is Jesus Himself. Again and again we read that He was praying, that He withdrew to be alone with His Father. When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles. In addition to personal prayer, every pastor is also charged to pray continually for the members of his congregation. This is what Jesus did in His prayers, too. I am not praying for the world.


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He is one of you. He serves Christ Jesus. He is always praying hard for you. He prays that you will stand firm in holding to all that God has in mind for us. You pleads for them with God, praying that they will stand firm and grow in faith, hope and love. You prayerfully fight alongside them, like Moses did when the people of Israel fought against the Amalekites Exodus As long as he kept praying for them, they were winning, but every time he lowered his hands, they began to lose.

But how do you put this into practice as a pastor? People often ask their pastor to pray for them personally. One way of dealing with this is to pray for that man or woman on the spot, while he or she is with you. Another approach is to take time out at the end of each day to intercede for everyone you have met that day. That way you will be praying for the whole congregation and not just for those in need. These are ways of taking them to God in prayer, pleading for them with their heavenly Father, representing them to their Lord. They may be too restless that day to pray themselves, but you will be taking time out to speak to God for them and on their behalf.

Satan has asked to sift you disciples like wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon. In almost every letter he writes, Paul tells the churches he writes how he prays for them. It encourages people and gives them hope and expectation. At the same time, it offers them an example of a prayerful life. As church members experience how uplifting it is to hear that someone is praying for them, they will pray for others more consciously.

You are a human being, living and moving consciously and compassionately among other human beings. Those others, too, will benefit from your prayerful attention. Church leaders facing persecution emphasise in every conversation about their pastors and churches that they continuously pray for their country. We pray zealously for a revival and we are prepared to pay the price if the Kingdom of God can be advanced in our country. Egypt is our mother. So our hearts cry and we beg God that revival will come soon, that Jesus will draw the hearts of the Egyptian people to Himself.

The compassion of these pastors for their countries, with all the fiercely anti-Christian forces at work there, is a tremendous example to us all. Finally, living a prayerful life involves the dual movement of deliberately consecrating time and space for prayer on the one hand, while staying tuned to God throughout the day on the other. In the first instance, prayer is entering into communion with God in the inner room Matthew What matters most in the inner room is not so much everything we want to tell God, but our worshiping Him.

It is an inner attuning to His presence, a quiet delight in who He is. On the other hand, a prayerful life also means staying tuned to God throughout the day, walking by the Spirit: not just in those consecrated moments, but throughout your whole existence. The life of a pastor is one big prayer. Daniel was in charge of the greatest empire of his day and we read about him that it was his custom to pray three times a day facing Jerusalem Daniel ,11, Prayer was his source of strength and he would not be robbed of it by anyone or anything — even if he had to pay for it with his life.

Pastors, especially, are too busy not to pray. A church leader from Bhutan told me how a lack of education and resources drives pastors in Bhutan to draw their strength from prayer. Prayer is their top priority. Before making any decisions or taking any action, they pray. Most pastors, he said, spend every morning in prayer. Often they find that God provides guidance during these prayer times, making His will clear to them — which sometimes means they have to change their plans after praying.

On Sunday morning, the whole church fasts to prepare for the church service and for fellowship. The pastor fasts and prays first, then makes decisions. Meditation is the second pillar of a healthy spiritual life for pastors. Prayer is our answer, our response to what God has said to us.

There is an ongoing interaction between praying and reading the Bible. Without prayer, the Bible will not come to life for you, and without the Bible your prayer life will soon languish. A pastor who wishes to lead a spiritual life and to breathe prayer cannot survive without regularly and attentively listening to what God says to him in His Word.

The Psalms, in particular, celebrate the great wealth and eternal value of the Word. The Word is a source of assurance, comfort and strength. The Word shows you the way, keeps you close to God. Psalm is one big hymn to the value of the Word. The Pakistani church leader whom I mentioned earlier told me that in an environment in which the Quran is considered sacred and the Bible blasphemous, the value of the Bible to Christians is unrelinquishable. We can only get to know God through the Bible.

He has promised to guide us through His Word. Of all people, a pastor living and working in the service of God cannot do without daily immersion in the Word of God. Paul asserts this, too, in his instructions to Timothy on what really matters in leading the church of Christ. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

So, again, a pastor cannot do without daily interaction with the Word. Meditating on it must be part and parcel of the spiritual life of every pastor. Meditating on the Word is something that, in the first place, you do for your own good. The great danger for every pastor is to view the Bible merely as a vast store of sermon texts. You scour it for suitable material for sermons, pastoral care or Bible studies. But we can only pass on a message to others with any real authority, if we have ourselves read and lived through the Scripture passage in question.

You must listen before you speak. In several Bible passages, meditation is compared with eating. Then you want more, so you start chewing, which releases more of its flavour. Finally you swallow it, so that it can nourish your body. Take a few verses, or read a short passage, and reread it several times, slowly and attentively. Read it out loud once, so that you can actually hear the words. This will give you a first impression, helping you to get familiar with it and to internalise it.

The best way is to memorise the words of the text, so that you can take them with you into the day or week. Now try digging a little deeper, by trying to bring the words and images of the text to life. What do you see as you read them, what do you hear, feel, think? What is happening in the text? Next, allow the words and their effect on you to penetrate you deeply. Do they make you happy or sad, grateful or angry? Can you wholeheartedly embrace them or do they provoke resistance?

Do these words call for a change in your life? Do they affect your view of God, the world around you, or yourself? Questions like these will help you digest the text. Conclude your meditation by praying that the Spirit will renew your life through this Word. Surrender to Him. Then you can rest in His presence.

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Finally, thank God for who He is and for the Word of grace and truth, which you have just received. You will understand that meditating on the Word, like prayer, requires you to consciously set apart time and space. Make sure you really take time. But the more you search, the more beautiful the treasure will often be.

Vision for a Refugee Kingdom Movement

Essentially, that is what you are as a pastor, both on Sundays and during the week: a servant of the Word. You live with this Word and work with it. People do not believe a pastor because of what he has to say, but because of what God has to say through him. Your authority is given you as a servant of the Word, as one who opens, explains and applies the Word to the believers.

It is good to remind ourselves of this again and again. Admittedly, there are other ways in which God makes Himself known. Being allowed and empowered to speak genuinely on behalf of God calls for the discipline of daily meditation. The third aspect of spiritual life mentioned by Luther is struggle. This aspect is less a matter of spiritual exercise than prayer and meditation are. Rather, the spiritual battle is the situation in which every Christian — and therefore every pastor — finds himself.

It is of vital importance for your spiritual life that you realise you are in a battle zone. This explains why whenever we pray, meditate, preach and provide spiritual leadership, there is always a tension, a sense of being in a struggle. Sometimes we feel pressure from within, sometimes from without. The Bible tells us that these experiences are trials we must face.

Such trials can appear in your life in many different ways.

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You may pass through a spiritual desert, a period in which your fellowship with God seems all but barren. These are times in which it seems as if God has turned His back on you. Do not hide your face from me, do not turn your servant away in anger. Another trial you might face as a pastor is when you are criticised by members of your congregation. Everyone holding a leadership position in a group, including those in the church of Christ, will experience this.

What matters most when it happens is that on the one hand you take your critics seriously, honestly asking yourself whether they are right, while on the other hand you make sure that your identity as a pastor is not anchored in the favour of the people, but in the calling and commission you have received from God. When out in the wilderness the devil threatened His ministry and His very life Matthew 4 , He did not start arguing with Satan, but consistently responded with a word of God.

This teaches us that we should always search the Scriptures for situations similar to ours, so that we will learn to react to our trials with the wisdom of God. Take a look at the three attacks he launches on Jesus in Matthew 4. Every honest pastor knows these temptations. Know that they do not come from God, but from within. Every pastor, then, is tossed around and tested by trials from within and temptations from without. Trials and temptations are part of the spiritual battle you are in.

A pastor, in particular, operates on the front line. It would be more alarming if you never found yourself under attack. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. Living and working in the service of God as a pastor calls for a spiritual lifestyle. Your life with God is not limited to the inner room, but expresses itself in the practical realities of everyday existence. What people see and hear of you shows them what matters most to you deep down inside.

And you can be sure that church members keep an eye on the life of their pastor. Particularly in his letters to Timothy, Pauls talks about being an example to your congregation as a pastor. When that happens, people will see it and long for it themselves. By your sacramental living, you will be passing on to the congregation the salvation you received from Jesus, even as you walk and talk with them from day to day. The first thing Paul mentions is that as a pastor you set an example by the way you speak.

A pastor spends a lot of time talking, as a counsellor, during meetings and in the pulpit. The way you speak says a lot about what lives in your heart. With words you can both damage and restore people. The second area in which as a pastor you are called to set the example is your conduct, or lifestyle. In other words, he must be monogamous in his thoughts and actions.

This was an important instruction to pastors who were formerly unbelievers living a very different lifestyle: they were now called to reflect the love and faithfulness of Jesus in how they lived with their wife. This meant in those days: do not beat your wife, do not take more than one wife It is also an important instruction to pastors who regularly interact with women or conduct intensive counselling sessions with women.

There is always the risk of — often unconsciously — stretching the boundaries. If you are pastorally engaged with a member of the other sex intensively and for a long time, it is advisable to avoid meeting her alone, but rather to involve another female counsellor or your own wife. But Jesus Himself constantly warns against riches and the power of money, the unrighteous Mammon.

It is a serious risk, especially for pastors. They often work hard for little money, while many church members around them are better off than they are. You may experience fierce temptations in this area, an inner desire for more, bigger, better. Keep reminding yourself of this. Another temptation you may face as a pastor is to use your position and spiritual authority in the church for financial gain. It can be easy to abuse that trust.

A pastor must be inwardly independent of money and possessions. An Egyptian church leader told me that the pastors in Egypt are all poor. They know from the moment they start their theological training that their future will be one of poverty. There are several reasons for this. One is that the church assumes God will take care of His servants, which means pastors are underpaid.

On the other hand, the families of Egyptian pastors have to endure a lot of tensions because of their economic position. What we can learn from this is that a sober lifestyle will enable you to connect with everyone in your congregation, including those with the lowest incomes. A pastor should never belong to the elite, but rather should be free to interact with everyone. A third characteristic of the exemplary conduct of a church leader is that he must be respectable, hospitable and above reproach.

These qualities all have to do with avoiding self-centredness and instead placing the interests of others above your own, thus practicing genuine love for your fellow man. This is not some artificial, sentimental or professional niceness, but real, authentic interest in others. A pastor does not only love God, he also genuinely loves people. And people notice. He has a large heart. Deeply loved by God, he finds within himself the space to love others, to truly see them, hear them, and receive them. This means you will often have to efface yourself and forgo your own plans.

Your family, too, will often have to make sacrifices for the sake of letting others go first. In Bhutan, for instance, Christians are often evicted from their homes, along with their families, as a result of their outspokenly Christian lifestyle. Often, it takes weeks for the family to find a new home. However moving this example may be, a measure of balance in these issues does seem appropriate to me. Your very first and highest calling is not the church, but your marriage and family.

The congregation really does come second. Most pastors tend to give the church and the needs of church members first place, at the expense of spending time with their own family. This is not honouring to God. In the long run it will not strengthen the church either, as it may result in an overworked pastor with a disappointed or even embittered family. This last characteristic mentioned by Paul in 1 Timothy 3 is quite remarkable: a pastor must be a competent educator. Both in teaching the church and in managing his family and children, he is an example to the congregation.

You are attuned to the needs of others, which also means you lovingly provide clear boundaries and direction. These are very practical guidelines offered us by Paul for the conduct a pastor should exhibit in his daily life. A third area Paul touches on in 1 Timothy is love. A pastor loves his church and will vouch for her. This love does not develop automatically; in your own strength, you cannot love so many different people with so many different characters.

However, the Bible speaks of an inner attitude from which this love springs up like water from a well. Once you realise this, once you realise Who you belong to and what riches you have already received in Christ, you will find room in your heart and life to consider others rather than living only for yourself.

It will enlarge your heart, making it big enough for many church members, and you will serve them a loving heart. How this serving love operates in practice within the church is summarised by Paul in 1 Corinthians 13 — a passage that applies to all believers, but that according to 1 Timothy requires a special example from pastors.

It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. Again, there is a strong emphasis on not sticking up for yourself, being patient with others, bearing one another.

If you want to be a servant leader, patience, forbearance and perseverance in relationships are indispensable. Every pastor runs out of patience now and again, and feels a powerful urge to give that brother or sister — maybe even the whole congregation — an earful. Those are the moments in which it is important for you as a pastor to read the words of 1 Corinthians 13, to meditate on them and to draw on your relationship with Jesus to put them into practice once again — not as some impossible assignment, but as the natural result of having the mindset of Christ.

Whoever reaches out for it will receive it. The fourth area of Christian living in which as a pastor you are to set the example for the church is faith. What Paul means here is that a pastor must be firmly rooted in his faith in God. You can only be a guide if you have made the journey yourself. That would be impossible; God leads each of His children on a different and unique path. But it does mean that you know God well enough and are sufficiently familiar with His words and His ways to be able to help others understand what is happening in their lives with God. The last area in which Paul appeals to young pastor Timothy to set an example is purity.

Here, Paul, is talking about self-control in general. It has to do with living purposefully. Then you will no longer be worried about earthly treasures, and the temporal, transitory things of this world will lose their hold on you. You will be in control of your natural impulses and desires, and equipped to serve God with your whole life. It means you put into practice what you believe. If you say Jesus is everything to you, than your life shows that everything else takes second or third place.

The best of me for the Most High! Timothy, and with him every pastor, is given five very practical instructions on how to live a life that will be an example to his church. But how can you set an example as a pastor if you still have to learn and discover it all yourself? The amazing thing is that as a pastor you, too, have an example you can follow. If you want to know how to live with God as a believer and how to set an example to your church, fix your eyes on Jesus.

And he gave us His Spirit to teach us. Almost every pastor is busy. You have to be available for people all day and you can be called on in many ways. Regardless of the size of your congregation, perhaps the toughest part of being a pastor is the fact that church members have so many different expectations. Every congregation is a colourful blend of unique individuals, often with totally different wishes. And each one expects the pastor to be there for him or her in good times and in bad — especially if there is a strong bond. They assume you will have time for them, think along with them, pray with them.

They expect you to understand their desires and disappointments, including those related to church life. On top of all this, you need quiet time as a pastor to pray, study and meditate, personally, and as a part of your sermon or Bible study preparation. So although a pastor can only pass on what he has first received in his quiet time with God, he is often so busy that real quiet time is hard to come by.

Most pastors realise this, but in many cases they have been stuck in certain working and living patterns within the church for a long time and do not know how to break out. Martha is the woman who had to take care of the temporary house church of Jesus and His disciples — and got pretty frustrated in the doing.

Her story is recounted in Luke Jesus is passing through with His disciples, and probably quite a few others. On arrival in Bethany, Martha graciously welcomes them into her home and sets about making arrangements for this unexpected gathering. While Jesus speaks, the disciples listen. But what about Martha? Martha strongly resembles a busy pastor who, like her, is totally absorbed in serving Jesus and ministering to His church.

Somebody has to do it, right? As a pastor, you often work alone. This can frustrate you deep down inside. If it does, you may start complaining inwardly that the church is sitting back and enjoying itself, while you seem to be doing all the serving. The worry and fuss of a pastor over his congregation is completely unnecessary, according to Jesus. So before doing anything at all in the church as a pastor, begin your day by sitting at the feet of your Lord.

There you will receive everything you need for another day of serving the church. The common denominator in my conversations with pastors in the Suffering Church is that they all have to do everything for their congregation. They provide spiritual leadership, preach, do visitation work, often get called at night by people whose troubles are keeping them awake.

In Pakistan, many believers consider the pastor to be a kind of father figure, in Egypt he is seen as a husband and in Bhutan they expect him to always sacrifice everything for them. In these countries, such leadership patterns tend to be the norm in society and therefore they are easily copied within the church.

It can be very difficult to change them. In the Bible, we encounter quite of a few bustling pastors. The most famous of them all is Moses, who led the people out of Egypt and set out to guide this huge congregation across the desert to the promised land. He was a shepherd guiding his flock through some very rough circumstances. Many pastors will recognise this. Moses was as busy as a beaver leading and serving all those people God had entrusted to his care. They talked for a while and the next day Jethro observed Moses at work as the pastor of the people.

Why do you alone sit as judge, while all these people stand around you from morning till evening? You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. Blessed is the pastor who meets a counsellor like Jethro! Someone who sees you at work and honestly shares his observations with you. Blessed is the pastor who has an elder board or church council that quotes these words of Jethro.

Blessed is the pastor whose wife, children, relatives or friends are prepared to say things like this to him. An overly busy pastor is not a blessing — not to himself, not to the church and not to God. Jethro goes on to affirm that all that work does indeed have to be performed. But if all the work rests on the shoulders of one individual, something is wrong.

He appeals to him to divide the work more evenly. He identifies the core activities to which a pastor must restrict himself. He points out which tasks a pastor must perform himself and which can be delegated to other gifted members of the community. Teach them his decrees and instructions, and show them the way they are to live and how they are to behave. But select capable men from all the people—men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain—and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens.

Have them serve as judges for the people at all times, but have them bring every difficult case to you; the simple cases they can decide themselves. Jethro offers a crystal-clear priority list for pastors. We saw in Chapter 3 that it is not good for a pastor to spend the whole day among people, but rather that he must daily commend the people to God. The word used here for teaching suggests urgency. It is a matter of great importance. We gather together to listen to what God wants to teach us about who He is, how Jesus Christ has brought us salvation, and how He wants us to live with Him.

Instil the Word of God in the people, Jethro says. This aspect of teaching is a vital part of church life. It should be aimed at showing believers how the Biblical message proclaimed among them is designed to direct, change and renew our lives. How does the sermon you heard affect the way you live with God, with your fellow man and with yourself? Teaching takes preaching a step further by seeking a practical application for the church.

Through teaching, the proclaimed Word can be applied to specific situations, brought nearer, made more practical. This teaching also implies systematic coverage of the whole of Scripture. You can use different passages of Scripture to clearly outline themes and principles, highlighting the key truths and enabling church members to really apply them in day-to-day life. Preaching and teaching cannot do without each other, they complement each other, draw the church together and bring the believer nearer to God. So in addition to praying and preaching, the pastor is also responsible for the spiritual development of the church through systematic, practical teaching.

Tensions and troubles are bound to occur within a group of people journeying through the desert together. Most of Moses pastoral work consisted of settling disputes. Pastoral counselling — which largely consists of comforting, encouraging and visiting people — is a core responsibility of every pastor. You encourage, comfort, share words from the Bible, pray with your people.

But another necessary part of your pastoral work is admonishing and correcting people, with the Bible in your hand, or condemning wrong situations or sinful patterns. A good shepherd will lift up the weary or wounded sheep and carry it a while, leaning on his rod and his staff. But he uses that same rod and staff to bring straying sheep back to the flock, or to goad them onto the right path. A real pastor is concerned with the wellbeing of his people and will do whatever it takes to draw them near to Jesus and to keep them there.

This is what pastoral work is all about. And it is one of the core responsibilities of every pastor. The fifth piece of advice Jethro offers deals with the question of how to provide leadership to a bustling, dynamic group of people. Jethro here offers Moses a mini-course on church management. Find competent, devout, reliable men and make them responsible for the wellbeing of larger and smaller groups within the church.

In other words, Jethro advises Moses to divide the people into smaller units and to appoint pastoral workers for each one. Then the people will know who they can go to, the pastoral workers will have clearly defined responsibilities, and Moses will no longer have to deal with all those issues on his own.

We see, then, that organising the church efficiently is another core responsibility of the pastor. Essentially, this is about team-based leadership: Moses is to deal with the most difficult cases himself, while all other concerns and questions can be taken to the group pastors. In this way, the pastor does not get overworked, the gifts of other church members will be put to good use, and the work will not be done reluctantly but in gratitude for the opportunity to work together to the glory of God.

Jethro offers pastors a priority list outlining five clear tasks. The beautiful thing is that this same list reappears in Acts 6. After the first day of Pentecost, the apostles soon were so busy leading the rapidly growing church and coping with an increasing range of material demands that they began to neglect their primary responsibilities. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.

They said their task was to pray and to administer the Word of God. In order to be this focussed in your work, you will have to make firm decisions and stick to them consistently. This calls for vision — and the courage to put that vision into practice. Like any other believer, a pastor knows temptation: sinful thoughts and feelings that well up from the depths of our soul and lure us away from God. Everyone faces temptations. Christians can battle and overcome them in the name and the power of Jesus.

Typical examples include material temptations, sexual temptations, the temptations of self-centredness and so on. Like other believers, a pastor is familiar with these dangers. Paul exhorts the young pastor Timothy to be an example right there in those tough areas of life.

Show others, he says, how to deal with such temptations as a Christian. In addition to the common dangers every Christian faces, a pastor has to cope with several other risks that are part and parcel of his ministry. In this chapter, we will focus on five pitfalls. The danger of receiving praise as a pastor is that — unconsciously, of course — you become proud of what you do and who you are. Rarely does a church member appeal to you in vain.

A Passionate Call to Obedience in Action

You work hard for God and for your fellow believers. And unintentionally, you adopt an air of subtle pride. You may not want to face it, you may not readily admit that a thing like pride smoulders deep within you, but it is a very real pitfall. Pride always has to do with seeking and enjoying appreciation. The pastor can start to take on a more central role than his Lord. And that is a serious sin. Pride is the desire to be important. Pride is a feeling that you can do things better than others can, which soon leads to a hidden conviction that in some ways you actually are better than others.

Ever since the Fall of man, pride has been the root of evil. It was pride, after all, that caused the fall of Adam and Eve in paradise: they wanted to be more and better. The opposite of pride is gratitude. Pride creeps in subtly. Pride is a warning signal that as a pastor you are no longer living in intimate fellowship with your Lord.

You start to behave as if you did it all yourself. The more you are at the centre of attention, the greater this pitfall becomes. Pride usually comes disguised as false modesty. Rather than fuelling your pride, this makes you grateful. A pastor is a servant. He lives to serve God and his whole manner of leading should express this. He is a servant leader. This means that in everything your aim is to honour God and to build up the church. But all too often we slip back into old, natural leadership patterns of the kind we see in the world around us.

Before you know it, your leadership as a pastor can harden into dominance over the church. Jesus warns against this in Matthew 20, when the wife of Zebedee brings her two sons to Him. She wants her sons to rule on the throne with Jesus. Being an example like this can be paralysing if it makes you feel that as a pastor you have to be some sort of perfect Christian.

Thankfully, this is not the case; if it was, who could be a pastor? It does mean that in every aspect of your life you deliberately seek to serve God, to follow Jesus and to be led by the Holy Spirit. The only way you can be an example for your congregation is by consciously living in close communion with God.

A spiritual leader cannot survive without caring for his own soul. Be aware as a pastor that each new day you must first receive from God before you can give out in His name! The question is: how do we nourish ourselves spiritually, how do we lead a spiritual life? Let me mention three aspects of spiritual life that a pastor, keeping watch over his own soul, must take into account. There are other issues as well, but throughout Christian tradition these three have been considered the three most important aspects of spiritual life.

A pastor who observes these three points will grow in Christ and therefore also in his ministry in the church. The first thing about the spiritual life of a pastor is that he must lead a prayerful life. Although this is such a vital issue for every pastor, it is often the first thing to be forgotten or neglected under the pressure of all the work.

Prayer is a form of hidden communion with God, it is what nourishes your relationship with the heavenly Father. If you prayerfully share your whole life with Him, your sins and your wounds, your joys and your sorrows, He will give you comfort and strength. Spending time in prayer with your Sender will place all your labouring and your concerns in a very different light. Staying tuned to God through prayer will take the worst pressure off your shoulders. Instead of you leading your life, He will lead it. Instead of you leading the church, He will lead it.

Only he who daily practices the presence of God will persevere and continue to grow and to blossom spiritually. The best example of a praying pastor is Jesus Himself. Again and again we read that He was praying, that He withdrew to be alone with His Father. When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles. In addition to personal prayer, every pastor is also charged to pray continually for the members of his congregation.

This is what Jesus did in His prayers, too. I am not praying for the world. He is one of you. He serves Christ Jesus. He is always praying hard for you. He prays that you will stand firm in holding to all that God has in mind for us. You pleads for them with God, praying that they will stand firm and grow in faith, hope and love. You prayerfully fight alongside them, like Moses did when the people of Israel fought against the Amalekites Exodus As long as he kept praying for them, they were winning, but every time he lowered his hands, they began to lose.

But how do you put this into practice as a pastor? People often ask their pastor to pray for them personally. One way of dealing with this is to pray for that man or woman on the spot, while he or she is with you. Another approach is to take time out at the end of each day to intercede for everyone you have met that day. That way you will be praying for the whole congregation and not just for those in need. These are ways of taking them to God in prayer, pleading for them with their heavenly Father, representing them to their Lord.

They may be too restless that day to pray themselves, but you will be taking time out to speak to God for them and on their behalf. Satan has asked to sift you disciples like wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon. In almost every letter he writes, Paul tells the churches he writes how he prays for them. It encourages people and gives them hope and expectation. At the same time, it offers them an example of a prayerful life.

As church members experience how uplifting it is to hear that someone is praying for them, they will pray for others more consciously. You are a human being, living and moving consciously and compassionately among other human beings. Those others, too, will benefit from your prayerful attention. Church leaders facing persecution emphasise in every conversation about their pastors and churches that they continuously pray for their country.

We pray zealously for a revival and we are prepared to pay the price if the Kingdom of God can be advanced in our country. Egypt is our mother. So our hearts cry and we beg God that revival will come soon, that Jesus will draw the hearts of the Egyptian people to Himself. The compassion of these pastors for their countries, with all the fiercely anti-Christian forces at work there, is a tremendous example to us all. Finally, living a prayerful life involves the dual movement of deliberately consecrating time and space for prayer on the one hand, while staying tuned to God throughout the day on the other.

In the first instance, prayer is entering into communion with God in the inner room Matthew What matters most in the inner room is not so much everything we want to tell God, but our worshiping Him. It is an inner attuning to His presence, a quiet delight in who He is. On the other hand, a prayerful life also means staying tuned to God throughout the day, walking by the Spirit: not just in those consecrated moments, but throughout your whole existence.

The life of a pastor is one big prayer. Daniel was in charge of the greatest empire of his day and we read about him that it was his custom to pray three times a day facing Jerusalem Daniel ,11, Prayer was his source of strength and he would not be robbed of it by anyone or anything — even if he had to pay for it with his life. Pastors, especially, are too busy not to pray. A church leader from Bhutan told me how a lack of education and resources drives pastors in Bhutan to draw their strength from prayer.

Prayer is their top priority. Before making any decisions or taking any action, they pray. Most pastors, he said, spend every morning in prayer. Often they find that God provides guidance during these prayer times, making His will clear to them — which sometimes means they have to change their plans after praying. On Sunday morning, the whole church fasts to prepare for the church service and for fellowship. The pastor fasts and prays first, then makes decisions. Meditation is the second pillar of a healthy spiritual life for pastors. Prayer is our answer, our response to what God has said to us.

There is an ongoing interaction between praying and reading the Bible. Without prayer, the Bible will not come to life for you, and without the Bible your prayer life will soon languish. A pastor who wishes to lead a spiritual life and to breathe prayer cannot survive without regularly and attentively listening to what God says to him in His Word. The Psalms, in particular, celebrate the great wealth and eternal value of the Word. The Word is a source of assurance, comfort and strength. The Word shows you the way, keeps you close to God. Psalm is one big hymn to the value of the Word.

The Pakistani church leader whom I mentioned earlier told me that in an environment in which the Quran is considered sacred and the Bible blasphemous, the value of the Bible to Christians is unrelinquishable. We can only get to know God through the Bible. He has promised to guide us through His Word. Of all people, a pastor living and working in the service of God cannot do without daily immersion in the Word of God. Paul asserts this, too, in his instructions to Timothy on what really matters in leading the church of Christ.

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. So, again, a pastor cannot do without daily interaction with the Word. Meditating on it must be part and parcel of the spiritual life of every pastor.

Meditating on the Word is something that, in the first place, you do for your own good. The great danger for every pastor is to view the Bible merely as a vast store of sermon texts. You scour it for suitable material for sermons, pastoral care or Bible studies. But we can only pass on a message to others with any real authority, if we have ourselves read and lived through the Scripture passage in question.

You must listen before you speak. In several Bible passages, meditation is compared with eating. Then you want more, so you start chewing, which releases more of its flavour. Finally you swallow it, so that it can nourish your body. Take a few verses, or read a short passage, and reread it several times, slowly and attentively. Read it out loud once, so that you can actually hear the words.

This will give you a first impression, helping you to get familiar with it and to internalise it. The best way is to memorise the words of the text, so that you can take them with you into the day or week. Now try digging a little deeper, by trying to bring the words and images of the text to life. What do you see as you read them, what do you hear, feel, think? What is happening in the text? Next, allow the words and their effect on you to penetrate you deeply. Do they make you happy or sad, grateful or angry? Can you wholeheartedly embrace them or do they provoke resistance?

Do these words call for a change in your life? Do they affect your view of God, the world around you, or yourself?


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  8. Questions like these will help you digest the text. Conclude your meditation by praying that the Spirit will renew your life through this Word. Surrender to Him. Then you can rest in His presence. Finally, thank God for who He is and for the Word of grace and truth, which you have just received. You will understand that meditating on the Word, like prayer, requires you to consciously set apart time and space. Make sure you really take time. But the more you search, the more beautiful the treasure will often be.

    Essentially, that is what you are as a pastor, both on Sundays and during the week: a servant of the Word. You live with this Word and work with it. People do not believe a pastor because of what he has to say, but because of what God has to say through him. Your authority is given you as a servant of the Word, as one who opens, explains and applies the Word to the believers. It is good to remind ourselves of this again and again. Admittedly, there are other ways in which God makes Himself known. Being allowed and empowered to speak genuinely on behalf of God calls for the discipline of daily meditation.

    The third aspect of spiritual life mentioned by Luther is struggle. This aspect is less a matter of spiritual exercise than prayer and meditation are. Rather, the spiritual battle is the situation in which every Christian — and therefore every pastor — finds himself. It is of vital importance for your spiritual life that you realise you are in a battle zone. This explains why whenever we pray, meditate, preach and provide spiritual leadership, there is always a tension, a sense of being in a struggle.

    Sometimes we feel pressure from within, sometimes from without. The Bible tells us that these experiences are trials we must face. Such trials can appear in your life in many different ways. You may pass through a spiritual desert, a period in which your fellowship with God seems all but barren.

    These are times in which it seems as if God has turned His back on you. Do not hide your face from me, do not turn your servant away in anger.

    THE APOSTOLIC AGE

    Another trial you might face as a pastor is when you are criticised by members of your congregation. Everyone holding a leadership position in a group, including those in the church of Christ, will experience this. What matters most when it happens is that on the one hand you take your critics seriously, honestly asking yourself whether they are right, while on the other hand you make sure that your identity as a pastor is not anchored in the favour of the people, but in the calling and commission you have received from God.

    When out in the wilderness the devil threatened His ministry and His very life Matthew 4 , He did not start arguing with Satan, but consistently responded with a word of God. This teaches us that we should always search the Scriptures for situations similar to ours, so that we will learn to react to our trials with the wisdom of God. Take a look at the three attacks he launches on Jesus in Matthew 4.

    Every honest pastor knows these temptations. Know that they do not come from God, but from within. Every pastor, then, is tossed around and tested by trials from within and temptations from without. Trials and temptations are part of the spiritual battle you are in. A pastor, in particular, operates on the front line.

    It would be more alarming if you never found yourself under attack. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. Living and working in the service of God as a pastor calls for a spiritual lifestyle. Your life with God is not limited to the inner room, but expresses itself in the practical realities of everyday existence.

    What people see and hear of you shows them what matters most to you deep down inside. And you can be sure that church members keep an eye on the life of their pastor. Particularly in his letters to Timothy, Pauls talks about being an example to your congregation as a pastor. When that happens, people will see it and long for it themselves.

    By your sacramental living, you will be passing on to the congregation the salvation you received from Jesus, even as you walk and talk with them from day to day. The first thing Paul mentions is that as a pastor you set an example by the way you speak. A pastor spends a lot of time talking, as a counsellor, during meetings and in the pulpit. The way you speak says a lot about what lives in your heart. With words you can both damage and restore people.

    The second area in which as a pastor you are called to set the example is your conduct, or lifestyle. In other words, he must be monogamous in his thoughts and actions. This was an important instruction to pastors who were formerly unbelievers living a very different lifestyle: they were now called to reflect the love and faithfulness of Jesus in how they lived with their wife.

    This meant in those days: do not beat your wife, do not take more than one wife It is also an important instruction to pastors who regularly interact with women or conduct intensive counselling sessions with women. There is always the risk of — often unconsciously — stretching the boundaries. If you are pastorally engaged with a member of the other sex intensively and for a long time, it is advisable to avoid meeting her alone, but rather to involve another female counsellor or your own wife. But Jesus Himself constantly warns against riches and the power of money, the unrighteous Mammon.

    It is a serious risk, especially for pastors. They often work hard for little money, while many church members around them are better off than they are. You may experience fierce temptations in this area, an inner desire for more, bigger, better. Keep reminding yourself of this. Another temptation you may face as a pastor is to use your position and spiritual authority in the church for financial gain.

    It can be easy to abuse that trust. A pastor must be inwardly independent of money and possessions. An Egyptian church leader told me that the pastors in Egypt are all poor. They know from the moment they start their theological training that their future will be one of poverty. There are several reasons for this.

    One is that the church assumes God will take care of His servants, which means pastors are underpaid. On the other hand, the families of Egyptian pastors have to endure a lot of tensions because of their economic position. What we can learn from this is that a sober lifestyle will enable you to connect with everyone in your congregation, including those with the lowest incomes.

    A pastor should never belong to the elite, but rather should be free to interact with everyone. A third characteristic of the exemplary conduct of a church leader is that he must be respectable, hospitable and above reproach. These qualities all have to do with avoiding self-centredness and instead placing the interests of others above your own, thus practicing genuine love for your fellow man.

    This is not some artificial, sentimental or professional niceness, but real, authentic interest in others. A pastor does not only love God, he also genuinely loves people. And people notice. He has a large heart. Deeply loved by God, he finds within himself the space to love others, to truly see them, hear them, and receive them. This means you will often have to efface yourself and forgo your own plans. Your family, too, will often have to make sacrifices for the sake of letting others go first.

    In Bhutan, for instance, Christians are often evicted from their homes, along with their families, as a result of their outspokenly Christian lifestyle. Often, it takes weeks for the family to find a new home. However moving this example may be, a measure of balance in these issues does seem appropriate to me.

    Your very first and highest calling is not the church, but your marriage and family. The congregation really does come second. Most pastors tend to give the church and the needs of church members first place, at the expense of spending time with their own family. This is not honouring to God. In the long run it will not strengthen the church either, as it may result in an overworked pastor with a disappointed or even embittered family.

    This last characteristic mentioned by Paul in 1 Timothy 3 is quite remarkable: a pastor must be a competent educator. Both in teaching the church and in managing his family and children, he is an example to the congregation. You are attuned to the needs of others, which also means you lovingly provide clear boundaries and direction. These are very practical guidelines offered us by Paul for the conduct a pastor should exhibit in his daily life. A third area Paul touches on in 1 Timothy is love.

    A pastor loves his church and will vouch for her. This love does not develop automatically; in your own strength, you cannot love so many different people with so many different characters. However, the Bible speaks of an inner attitude from which this love springs up like water from a well. Once you realise this, once you realise Who you belong to and what riches you have already received in Christ, you will find room in your heart and life to consider others rather than living only for yourself.

    It will enlarge your heart, making it big enough for many church members, and you will serve them a loving heart. How this serving love operates in practice within the church is summarised by Paul in 1 Corinthians 13 — a passage that applies to all believers, but that according to 1 Timothy requires a special example from pastors. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.

    Again, there is a strong emphasis on not sticking up for yourself, being patient with others, bearing one another. If you want to be a servant leader, patience, forbearance and perseverance in relationships are indispensable. Every pastor runs out of patience now and again, and feels a powerful urge to give that brother or sister — maybe even the whole congregation — an earful.

    Those are the moments in which it is important for you as a pastor to read the words of 1 Corinthians 13, to meditate on them and to draw on your relationship with Jesus to put them into practice once again — not as some impossible assignment, but as the natural result of having the mindset of Christ. Whoever reaches out for it will receive it.

    Martin Luther | Christian History | Christianity Today

    The fourth area of Christian living in which as a pastor you are to set the example for the church is faith. What Paul means here is that a pastor must be firmly rooted in his faith in God. You can only be a guide if you have made the journey yourself. That would be impossible; God leads each of His children on a different and unique path. But it does mean that you know God well enough and are sufficiently familiar with His words and His ways to be able to help others understand what is happening in their lives with God.

    The last area in which Paul appeals to young pastor Timothy to set an example is purity. Here, Paul, is talking about self-control in general. It has to do with living purposefully. Then you will no longer be worried about earthly treasures, and the temporal, transitory things of this world will lose their hold on you. You will be in control of your natural impulses and desires, and equipped to serve God with your whole life. It means you put into practice what you believe. If you say Jesus is everything to you, than your life shows that everything else takes second or third place.

    The best of me for the Most High! Timothy, and with him every pastor, is given five very practical instructions on how to live a life that will be an example to his church. But how can you set an example as a pastor if you still have to learn and discover it all yourself? The amazing thing is that as a pastor you, too, have an example you can follow. If you want to know how to live with God as a believer and how to set an example to your church, fix your eyes on Jesus.

    And he gave us His Spirit to teach us. Almost every pastor is busy. You have to be available for people all day and you can be called on in many ways. Regardless of the size of your congregation, perhaps the toughest part of being a pastor is the fact that church members have so many different expectations. Every congregation is a colourful blend of unique individuals, often with totally different wishes. And each one expects the pastor to be there for him or her in good times and in bad — especially if there is a strong bond. They assume you will have time for them, think along with them, pray with them.

    They expect you to understand their desires and disappointments, including those related to church life. On top of all this, you need quiet time as a pastor to pray, study and meditate, personally, and as a part of your sermon or Bible study preparation. So although a pastor can only pass on what he has first received in his quiet time with God, he is often so busy that real quiet time is hard to come by. Most pastors realise this, but in many cases they have been stuck in certain working and living patterns within the church for a long time and do not know how to break out.

    Martha is the woman who had to take care of the temporary house church of Jesus and His disciples — and got pretty frustrated in the doing. Her story is recounted in Luke Jesus is passing through with His disciples, and probably quite a few others. On arrival in Bethany, Martha graciously welcomes them into her home and sets about making arrangements for this unexpected gathering. While Jesus speaks, the disciples listen. But what about Martha? Martha strongly resembles a busy pastor who, like her, is totally absorbed in serving Jesus and ministering to His church.

    Somebody has to do it, right? As a pastor, you often work alone. This can frustrate you deep down inside. If it does, you may start complaining inwardly that the church is sitting back and enjoying itself, while you seem to be doing all the serving. The worry and fuss of a pastor over his congregation is completely unnecessary, according to Jesus.

    So before doing anything at all in the church as a pastor, begin your day by sitting at the feet of your Lord. There you will receive everything you need for another day of serving the church. The common denominator in my conversations with pastors in the Suffering Church is that they all have to do everything for their congregation.

    They provide spiritual leadership, preach, do visitation work, often get called at night by people whose troubles are keeping them awake. In Pakistan, many believers consider the pastor to be a kind of father figure, in Egypt he is seen as a husband and in Bhutan they expect him to always sacrifice everything for them. In these countries, such leadership patterns tend to be the norm in society and therefore they are easily copied within the church.

    It can be very difficult to change them. In the Bible, we encounter quite of a few bustling pastors. The most famous of them all is Moses, who led the people out of Egypt and set out to guide this huge congregation across the desert to the promised land. He was a shepherd guiding his flock through some very rough circumstances. Many pastors will recognise this. Moses was as busy as a beaver leading and serving all those people God had entrusted to his care.

    They talked for a while and the next day Jethro observed Moses at work as the pastor of the people. Why do you alone sit as judge, while all these people stand around you from morning till evening? You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. Blessed is the pastor who meets a counsellor like Jethro!

    Someone who sees you at work and honestly shares his observations with you. Blessed is the pastor who has an elder board or church council that quotes these words of Jethro. Blessed is the pastor whose wife, children, relatives or friends are prepared to say things like this to him. An overly busy pastor is not a blessing — not to himself, not to the church and not to God.

    Jethro goes on to affirm that all that work does indeed have to be performed. But if all the work rests on the shoulders of one individual, something is wrong. He appeals to him to divide the work more evenly. He identifies the core activities to which a pastor must restrict himself.

    He points out which tasks a pastor must perform himself and which can be delegated to other gifted members of the community. Teach them his decrees and instructions, and show them the way they are to live and how they are to behave. But select capable men from all the people—men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain—and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens.

    Have them serve as judges for the people at all times, but have them bring every difficult case to you; the simple cases they can decide themselves. Jethro offers a crystal-clear priority list for pastors. We saw in Chapter 3 that it is not good for a pastor to spend the whole day among people, but rather that he must daily commend the people to God.

    The word used here for teaching suggests urgency. It is a matter of great importance. We gather together to listen to what God wants to teach us about who He is, how Jesus Christ has brought us salvation, and how He wants us to live with Him. Instil the Word of God in the people, Jethro says. This aspect of teaching is a vital part of church life. It should be aimed at showing believers how the Biblical message proclaimed among them is designed to direct, change and renew our lives. How does the sermon you heard affect the way you live with God, with your fellow man and with yourself?

    Teaching takes preaching a step further by seeking a practical application for the church. Through teaching, the proclaimed Word can be applied to specific situations, brought nearer, made more practical. This teaching also implies systematic coverage of the whole of Scripture. You can use different passages of Scripture to clearly outline themes and principles, highlighting the key truths and enabling church members to really apply them in day-to-day life.

    Preaching and teaching cannot do without each other, they complement each other, draw the church together and bring the believer nearer to God. So in addition to praying and preaching, the pastor is also responsible for the spiritual development of the church through systematic, practical teaching. Tensions and troubles are bound to occur within a group of people journeying through the desert together.

    Most of Moses pastoral work consisted of settling disputes. Pastoral counselling — which largely consists of comforting, encouraging and visiting people — is a core responsibility of every pastor. You encourage, comfort, share words from the Bible, pray with your people. But another necessary part of your pastoral work is admonishing and correcting people, with the Bible in your hand, or condemning wrong situations or sinful patterns.

    A good shepherd will lift up the weary or wounded sheep and carry it a while, leaning on his rod and his staff. But he uses that same rod and staff to bring straying sheep back to the flock, or to goad them onto the right path. A real pastor is concerned with the wellbeing of his people and will do whatever it takes to draw them near to Jesus and to keep them there.

    This is what pastoral work is all about. And it is one of the core responsibilities of every pastor. The fifth piece of advice Jethro offers deals with the question of how to provide leadership to a bustling, dynamic group of people.

    The Key to the Missionary Problem

    Jethro here offers Moses a mini-course on church management. Find competent, devout, reliable men and make them responsible for the wellbeing of larger and smaller groups within the church. In other words, Jethro advises Moses to divide the people into smaller units and to appoint pastoral workers for each one. Then the people will know who they can go to, the pastoral workers will have clearly defined responsibilities, and Moses will no longer have to deal with all those issues on his own. We see, then, that organising the church efficiently is another core responsibility of the pastor.

    Essentially, this is about team-based leadership: Moses is to deal with the most difficult cases himself, while all other concerns and questions can be taken to the group pastors. In this way, the pastor does not get overworked, the gifts of other church members will be put to good use, and the work will not be done reluctantly but in gratitude for the opportunity to work together to the glory of God. Jethro offers pastors a priority list outlining five clear tasks. The beautiful thing is that this same list reappears in Acts 6. After the first day of Pentecost, the apostles soon were so busy leading the rapidly growing church and coping with an increasing range of material demands that they began to neglect their primary responsibilities.

    We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word. They said their task was to pray and to administer the Word of God. In order to be this focussed in your work, you will have to make firm decisions and stick to them consistently. This calls for vision — and the courage to put that vision into practice. Like any other believer, a pastor knows temptation: sinful thoughts and feelings that well up from the depths of our soul and lure us away from God. Everyone faces temptations.

    Christians can battle and overcome them in the name and the power of Jesus. Typical examples include material temptations, sexual temptations, the temptations of self-centredness and so on. Like other believers, a pastor is familiar with these dangers. Paul exhorts the young pastor Timothy to be an example right there in those tough areas of life. Show others, he says, how to deal with such temptations as a Christian.

    In addition to the common dangers every Christian faces, a pastor has to cope with several other risks that are part and parcel of his ministry. In this chapter, we will focus on five pitfalls. The danger of receiving praise as a pastor is that — unconsciously, of course — you become proud of what you do and who you are. Rarely does a church member appeal to you in vain. You work hard for God and for your fellow believers. And unintentionally, you adopt an air of subtle pride. You may not want to face it, you may not readily admit that a thing like pride smoulders deep within you, but it is a very real pitfall.

    Pride always has to do with seeking and enjoying appreciation. The pastor can start to take on a more central role than his Lord. And that is a serious sin. Pride is the desire to be important. Pride is a feeling that you can do things better than others can, which soon leads to a hidden conviction that in some ways you actually are better than others. Ever since the Fall of man, pride has been the root of evil. It was pride, after all, that caused the fall of Adam and Eve in paradise: they wanted to be more and better. The opposite of pride is gratitude.

    Pride creeps in subtly. Pride is a warning signal that as a pastor you are no longer living in intimate fellowship with your Lord. You start to behave as if you did it all yourself. The more you are at the centre of attention, the greater this pitfall becomes. Pride usually comes disguised as false modesty. Rather than fuelling your pride, this makes you grateful.

    A pastor is a servant. He lives to serve God and his whole manner of leading should express this. He is a servant leader. This means that in everything your aim is to honour God and to build up the church. But all too often we slip back into old, natural leadership patterns of the kind we see in the world around us. Before you know it, your leadership as a pastor can harden into dominance over the church.

    Jesus warns against this in Matthew 20, when the wife of Zebedee brings her two sons to Him. She wants her sons to rule on the throne with Jesus. When the other disciples hear about her request, they are indignant. Not so with you. Jesus makes it clear that in the world it is normal for leaders to oppress their subjects and to abuse power. Every leader has a tendency to give his own will and interests first place.