Pastors, People, Passions, and Prayers

The following post is by Chuck Lawless, Dean of the Graduate School and Professor of Evangelism and Missions at Southeastern. 

Southeastern Seminary is committed to being a Great Commission institution. In fact, our motto is “Every classroom a Great Commission classroom.” Our focus, though, is not only on preparing international missionaries. We are just as committed to equipping leaders for the North American church. Via our academic degrees, our EQUIP training program, and our Southeastern Center for Pastoral Leadership and Preaching, we want to prepare the finest local church pastors – and it is to those current and future pastors I write this post.

Pastors, you are critical to the work of the Great Commission. Having been a church consultant for almost twenty years, I have never seen a strong Great Commission church without a pastor burdened for his neighbors and the nations. Simply stated, a DNA of brokenness over lost people usually trickles down from the top. Churches seldom weep over non-believers unless a pastor leads them there.

If your longing to get the gospel to the lost has waned, here are some simple suggestions to re-ignite your passion.

  1. Admit to God and to someone else where you are. Confession to God is the first step toward change, and accountability with others is a daily reminder of your renewed commitment.
  2. Ask someone to pray these texts for you: Ephesians 6:19-20 (that you will share the gospel boldly) and Colossians 4:3-4 (that God will open a door and help you speak the gospel clearly). If the apostle Paul needed folks to pray this way for him, surely pastors need this same support today.
  3. Study and preach on “grace.” Frankly, we often lose our passion for the Great Commission because we take grace for granted. Go back to the beginning of your spiritual journey, and let the Word magnify the grace of God again.
  4. At least once a week, take a couple of hours to see your community with God’s eyes. Drive around, praying as you go. If you see worship sites for other world faiths, grieve for those who worship false gods. Pray for the children and teens who attend schools you pass. Go to a local shopping center; sit and watch the shoppers. See them as sheep without a shepherd. Pray for them, knowing you may be the only person praying for those folks that day.
  5. At least once a week, take time to pray for an unreached people group around the world. Go to imb.org or www.joshuaproject.net, and learn about a people group. Open a map, and learn where they live. Read their story. Hear about the spiritual blindness that keeps them in darkness. Consider their final state if no one ever gets the gospel to them. To be consistent with this task, calendar it each week.
  6. Every day, make it a point to tell somebody something good about Jesus. Maybe that person is your spouse, a co-worker, or a friend. Or, perhaps it’s the convenience store employee or the bank teller. What you say may be as simple as, “I’m having a good day because Jesus loves me,” “I’m really glad to be a follower of Jesus today,” or “May I tell you how God answered my prayer?” The point is this: if you speak a good word about Jesus every day (even to believers as a starting point), telling the gospel story will become more of your DNA.

Pastor, implore God to renew your passion for Jesus. Pray fervently and work faithfully so others know Him. Your church will not catch the fire of the Great Commission unless the flame first burns in you.

In Case You Missed It

1) At Canon and Culture, Andrew Walker has an interesting interview with Ryan Anderson on physician-assisted suicide.

2) From First Things, Carl Trueman discusses the nature of pastoral language and political rhetoric, especially as such rhetoric relates to sexual ethics (or the lack thereof).

3) Mike Leake, at Pastors Today, offers four reasons why we should write out prayer requests.

4) The guys at Baptist 21 have a series of posts on the need, in their eyes, for change to state conventions. Whether or not you agree with their take, it points to the importance of the conversation.

5) Finally, at TGC, Mike McKinley reminds us that Jesus — not our efforts here or to the ends of the earth — ensures that the Great Commission will not fail.

Pastor: Replicate Thyself

Every Thursday morning we highlight the work of the Spurgeon Center. A key component of the Center’s mission works through the EQUIP initiative, which seeks to link up SEBTS students with local churches for the purpose of field-based theological education. Steven Wade, Associate Professor of Pastoral Theology, directs the EQUIP center. In this post, he writes about the need for pastors to replicate themselves in order to fulfill the Great Commission. 

I grew up in a church known for its inordinate numbers of “preacher boys”—men surrendering to the call of God to be pastors—as well as other men and women committing theirs lives to full-time ministry. It seemed that God called more men and women to the ministry in our church than any other church I knew of. Why was this? Was there something special about this church? Was there something unique about our pastor? As I have pondered these questions throughout my ministry I have come to understand that my home church and her shepherd (or more correctly her under-shepherd) had some characteristics that resulted in more men and women realizing God’s call and surrendering their lives to full-time ministry. While this list is by no means comprehensive, I believe it can be a starting point for a local church to see more and more believers give themselves to vocational ministry.

  • Take the Great Commission seriously

It may seem a bit elementary to start with the Great Commission but it has unfortunately been proven too often that churches have the ability to lose focus and exist for purposes other than what God intended. If God is to raise up leaders for His church from a local congregation, that congregation must be centered on fulfilling the commands of our Lord Jesus Christ! Believers are commanded to be disciple-making disciples and without accomplishing this mission, it is unlikely that very many will surrender to full-time ministry.

  • Expect that God is calling people in your congregation to devote themselves to full-time ministry

One thing I recognized in the preaching and discipleship of my pastor (and mentor) was a constant expectation that God was calling men and women to ministry. It was often part of his plea during invitations to respond to a sermon as well as part of his everyday conversations with people in the church. I believe one of the reasons churches do not see more people respond to a call to fulltime ministry is that churches do not really expect God to call people from their congregations.

  • Commit time each week to replicating yourself no matter what your ministry position in the church

One of the greatest memories as well as the greatest influences in my teenage life was the time that my pastor committed to spending with those called to ministry. He taught us how to read the Bible, how to preach, how to give invitations, how to share the gospel, how to lead a worship service, etc. The time that I spent with him teaching me how to be a shepherd was invaluable! It seems that pastors often admonish and encourage people in their congregations to replicate themselves. We tell people “work yourself out of a job” or “always be training someone to do the ministry you are doing.” However, too often pastors do not take the time to replicate themselves in this way. Both churches and pastors must see the importance of the pastor taking time to replicate himself in order for the church to grow and the ministry to be multiplied.

  • Articulate clear expectations and pathways to every ministry including the pastorate

At our church we have made a commitment to articulate clear steps that we expect people to take to move from “guest to elder.” We often ask of our congregation, “Where are you on the discipleship road?” and “What are the next steps for you to move further down that road?” It is helpful to give people clear expectations of growth and then show them precise practical steps to take to make the next step in their discipleship. When this is done with precision and care, the Holy Spirit has practical tools to use to help people know how to grow and respond to his calling, whatever it might be!

  • Develop a vision of multiple churches and ministries that are started, supported and influenced by your church

One of the hindrances to churches nurturing the development of pastors is the unfortunate mindset, “Well, we have a pastor. Why would we want another?” This mindset takes many forms and reveals a church with a small vision to accomplish the Great Commission. A church with a vision for the expansion of the Kingdom of God will recognize the need for more and more leaders in God’s church. Just as disciples must replicate themselves, churches must replicate themselves. I praise God for the move toward church planting in our convention and the need it has revealed for us to raise up new leaders. A church that has a kingdom vision will see a need for leaders in their own church as the ministry grows and expands, but will also see a need for people surrendered to fulltime ministry to be sent as missionaries overseas, as pastors in new church plants, and commissioned to other churches in need of ministers.

What other characteristics do you see as necessary for churches and pastors to develop in order to see more and more men and women called to fulltime ministry in the local church?