John Wesley gave his Methodist preachers 12 rules for their ministry. That seems like a lot to me, but this was probably a concise listing for the man who made rules and routine a global movement. These rules are good for pastors, but they are also good and true for anyone gifted and called to serve others in the gospel.
Rule #1 is to be diligent. Idleness is the devil’s work shop. “Never be trifling employed.” (I love when the word trifling is used effectively.)
Rule #2 is to be serious. “Holiness Unto The Lord. Avoid all jesting, foolishness and light talking.” (I’m way too serious to comment on this one.)
Rule #3 is to converse sparingly with women. Rule #4 is take no step towards marriage without first consulting your brethren. (I think John may have momma issues).
Rule #9 is be ashamed of nothing, but sin. (Easier said than done.)
Rule #11 – “You have nothing to do but save souls..” ( Are you kidding me? Sometimes I don’t know what John was thinking.)
Most days it doesn’t seem like I’m saving souls or at least it doesn’t feel as like I am doing anything to save anybody. My job doesn’t look anything like my job description and the language used in my ordination covenant greatly differs from my actual daily duties.
Instead of saving souls…
I’m mopping up messes and mistakes from previous leadership.
I’m holding the hands of the converted “faithful” who never became disciples.
I’m recovering from the arrogance and self centeredness displayed by Christians on social media.
I’m giving Vitamin C to a congregation to help the culture recover from the flu of inward focus and outward neglect.
I’m busy planning a contemporary, casual, culturally relevant service that brings substance, satisfaction, and salvation to those who gather. Next week I will be planning a traditional, reverent, old time gospel sing to make sure we have balance in our church worship gatherings so that God is pleased by the happy songs we sing. 🙂
I’m hunkering down from the sky that is falling and rebuilding the wall that has been knocked down as we fear politics more than we fear falling away from our first love.
I’m trying to explain to some why we have to sing off of the wall now instead of from the book like God intended for us to.
I’m also trying to explain why the theology of our song selection is more important than its style or sensation to our ears.
I’m interpreting the “he said-she said” dialogue of what people in the church did or did not say about someone, something, or some galaxy far, far away.
I’m begging for people to give generously to the church – not so we can pay my salary, but so we can support missionaries whose blood is being spilled in the 10-40 window.
I’m caught up trying to explain that God is not a Republican or a Democrat so neither candidate represents God, the church, or faithful Christian witness.
I’m scheduled to attend a church growth conference this week, a pastor’s prayer retreat next week, and a preaching seminar when I get back.
What pastor has time (or energy) for saving or souls?
Of course Wesley’s statement is casting a vision for ministry and not forging our practical responsibilities. His words help us to see all of the things that we do in ministry – the menial and the mystical, the glory and the grief, the enriching and the exhausting – as full partners in God’s redemption of the world through the church. So as we serve the Lord through the church let us do so with the conviction that we are seeing souls saved. And when we are involved in tasks not suitable for seminary preparation we should frame such a task as a door to what God really is doing with an eternal soul that we can’t yet see. Pastors must be gifted with a vision by God, but God’s vision for us is less about buildings or programs and more about the soul of humanity, the strengthening of the family, and the the future of the church as the bride of Christ.
Rule #12 is “Act in all things – not according to your own will – but as a son of the gospel.” (Boom! Mic drop.)
May God help us to put away our profession, repent of our frustration, gather up our greatest effort so that we may work through the ministry of Christ our Lord in saving souls. There is no other worthy calling for us to answer.
Happy Pastor Appreciation Month. I am proud to serve with you. (Now get back to work.)