- Jeff Baxter
Three Essential Pastoral Priorities
Pastors can't do it all. We might want to do it all, but I have learned the hard way, I can't do it all in the local church. Here is the good news. I am not suppose to do it all. I am learning I need to focus on a few things and with the Lord's help, do them really well.
I will never forget the night. I was driving my car down the highway with my beautiful wife in the passenger seat. I asked her to tell me when she could read the sign ahead. She said, "I can read it now." I thought "Oh no" and then ten seconds later said, "Now I can read it." Time to go see the eye doctor. I received my first pair of glasses and the world changed. I did not know there were leaves on trees. I now had vision to see forward. In the same way, pastor's need clear vision to know where their time and energy needs to focus.
Here is my short list of three areas to focus.
1. LIVE: First and foremost, I must live as a faithful follower of Jesus. This requires all pastors to love God with all of their hearts in all areas of their lives starting with their own family. If you are married, love your spouse and kids well. This requires time and energy. We must have high integrity bearing the Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:13-26) with those around us. This requires seasons of rest and days off. This involves daily time with the Lord in Bible study and prayer listening to the Lead Shepherd's voice. We need to invest in a few followers of Jesus who will do the same. This is discipleship. Multiplication is the goal. We can't invest in everyone deeply, but we can a few. It also means we need to strive to be a human being and not a human doing. Our identity is in Christ Jesus, so we abide in Him gaining His approval and love. This is so important for all pastors for the longevity of your life and ministry. I am learning this lesson daily so I live well for by his grace and for his glory.
2. LEAD: The second item in my short list is to lead the congregation forward. As I equip and delegate responsibilities to others trusting their efforts, I need to put energy toward moving individuals and the congregation toward compelling Biblical vision. For our local church, our vision is "To glorify God by making followers of Jesus throughout the world." Every local church vision must be God-sized and Biblical. It has to involve making followers of Jesus (disciples) as Matthew 28:18-20 and Acts 1:8 declare. Pastors must focus their time, talent and treasure primarily toward discipleship. We must be relentless to focus on this vision in our leadership because it is so easy to be derailed and misaligned. Stay the course on this! Ministry momentum will come in time. This is our God-given mission.
3. FEED: Third, I love to study, teach and preach the Bible for life change. Preaching the Word of God must be a priority for the pastor. The Word of God changes lives. One of the struggles for all pastors is finding enough time to prepare to preach each week because of all the other responsibilities pulling on you. Every pastor is different in the needed preparation time. It is based on experience, gifting and personality. This requires saying, "no" to some things and delegating responsibility in order to stay focused on preaching the Bible faithfully and equipping the body for ministry. This feeds the flock of sheep. If the sheep are not being fed, they will probably not stay in your church. Overtime, faithful preaching of God's Word will bear fruit. Stay the course.
I have a little framed picture in my office with the words "LIVE, LEAD and FEED" to remind me every day to stay focused on what God has called me toward. I encourage you to stay focused daily on your calling and your vision priority list. Arrange your calendar around these three areas. Persevere and watch God move in and through your humility as you partner with Him to advance the Kingdom. Blessings to you as you LIVE, LEAD and FEED.
Jeff Baxter has been married to beautiful Laurie for 22 years and they have three wonderful kids. He has his M.Div. from Columbia International University in Pastoral Leadership and his D.Min. from Fuller Theological Seminary in Theology and Family Ministry. He has been serving all ages inside and outside the local church for nearly two decades and continues to learn. He has written two books with Zondervan,The Ultimate Guide to Being Christian in College and Together: Adults and Teenagers Transforming the Church. You will probably find him connecting with people, reading, writing and dreaming at a Starbucks in the Denver area. He is currently the Lead Pastor of River Church in Lakewood, Colorado. Church: RiverChurchMovement.org Blog: Sacredoutfitter.blogspot.com