Five Pastoral Reflections

I’ve only been a Senior Pastor for a total of six months. This means, of course, that I have no access to any grand wisdom. However, I wanted to offer up five reflections on my first six months as pastor.

1. Set Your Routine

Everyone wants a piece of the pie. Most people are well-intentioned pie eaters. Some just want to spend some time getting to know the new pastor, others have spiritual needs which they want addressed immediately. Every single church member will have some expectation concerning the pastor’s time. Without a set schedule, pastors will find it difficult to salvage even a sliver of time for biblical study.

I have a set routine. Certain times are available for meetings. Other times for biblical study. Keeping track of my own schedule helps ensure that no duties are neglected. As for myself, Saturdays are protected. I’m with my family all day. Emails, prayer meetings, and events always seem to popup on Saturdays, but unless it’s an emergency, I’m not available to anyone except my wife and children. A set routine assures family time.

2. Nail Down Haphazard Habits

By “haphard habits,” I mean those habits which have some fluidity to them. Any spiritual discipline that isn’t nailed down and engrained can be forgotten easily. I find these habits the hardest to maintain.

Recently, I asked in a Church Revitalization Facebook group which spiritual discipline is most-commonly neglected. Many pastors responded that fasting was the most neglected spiritual discipline. Fasting is one of those haphazard habits. Few Christians have a set time every week for fasting. I don’t let spiritual disciplines waste away. If a year passes without memorizing a new verse of Scripture, I’m in trouble. My way of nailing down scripture memory is to record when and what I memorize. Therefore, a spiritual journal is key to nailing down haphazard habits.

3. Prioritize your Marriage

We all have a number of ministerial spinning plates to keep in the air. Our spouse shouldn’t feel like one of them. We do not consider the qualifications of 1 Timothy to be suggestions—they are foundations. Much like pastoral integrity, the marriage covenant qualifies to even perform pastoral duties. Peter says, “Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.” Since prayer is the power of pastoral ministry, let Peter’s warning concerning hindered prayer sink in deep.

4. Saying “No” is Easy

Since we moved to Georgia we’ve had the occasion for several long car trips to Texas and Michigan. Thank you Waze app! With a well planned route, staying on course is easy. The only issue is the still small voice in the back of the van, “Dad, can we stop at . . . ” Can you say, “recalculating?”

When the path is clear, saying “no” is easy. Have a clear, Christ-centered plan for leading the church. Set goals. Have a vision. There are hundreds of very good things the church could do; if any one of them doesn’t line up with the vision, say “no.” Saying “yes” to side attractions is a sure way to hear “recalculating”. Recalculating the vision every month is a sure way to never arrive at your destination.

5. Members are Just People

Even the best Christians are still sinners. Congregants will lift up and tear down in the same week. As such, church members cannot be the foundation of our ministries. The Church’s one foundation is not the church itself; only Christ is a solid enough foundation to rest our ministries on.

Numbers will go up and down. Sunday School will flourish and diminish. Sermons will be strong some weeks and weak on others. Christ alone is enough to stabilize the tumultuous nature of pastoral ministry.

Pastoral Counsel – Is Abuse Grounds for Biblical Divorce?

Godly men and women have differed, and continue to differ, on what constitutes biblical grounds for divorce. For some, divorce is never permissible; others believe the exception clause in Matthew 19:9 (“except in the case of adultery”) to provide the only allowance. Others still view the term translated as “adultery”—porneia (interestingly enough, the Bible doesn’t use the Greek term that generally refers to adultery)—to refer to a litmus of sexual immoralities.

The difficulty lies in that nowhere in Scripture does it state explicitly that abuse is grounds for divorce. The only exception (given by Christ!) is porneia, or sexual immorality. And even that, when he was pressed, Jesus explains that Moses (in the Old Testament) permitted divorce only because of Israel’s hardness of heart.

So the way I’ve counseled it in the past, adultery (and I expand that in light of the use of porneia to include unrepentant sexual immorality) is legitimate grounds for divorce. However, I don’t think pastors/ministers should ever counsel believers to make an appeal for a divorce. In that way, I make a distinction between permissibility/grounds and counsel. I think the goal in every case should be the repentance of the offending party and the restoration of the marriage.

Sadly, that’s not always possible, but it should always be the desired outcome.

That having been said, if a woman (or a child for that matter) claim to have been abused, my responsibility as a pastor is to counsel distance and to report the claim to the authorities. My responsibility is to encourage their safety and let the state investigate the alleged abuse. All the while, my responsibility is to press for repentance from the guilty party and to seek, as much as I am able, the restoration of the marriage.

My experience is that by following that pattern, we provide the context for God to do incredible things and to save marriages that would often be lost otherwise; it also tends to drive a wedge between the party seeking restoration and the unrepentant offender—thereby showing their lack of conviction by the Holy Spirit, and ultimately resulting in abandonment. 1 Corinthians 7:15 speaks of the abandonment of an unbelieving spouse, “But if the unbeliever leaves, let him leave. A brother or sister is not bound in such cases.” Then, the offended party is free of the guilt and shame that tends to come upon those who end up feeling like they could have done a little more to save their marriage.

Speaking of these things always reminds me that there are no simple answers. As believers in Christ, we must always search Scripture, ask for the guidance and wisdom of the Holy Spirit, and walk in humble submission to God. Believers will not always agree on how that process plays out, but those who follow this pattern (searching Scripture, etc.) can disagree while respecting each other’s intentions.