By Chris Hefner
At first glance, you might think this is a no-brainer article for pastors and church leaders. Of course, pastors serve. Isn’t that our job?
But there’s a difference between the outward actions of serving and the inward spirit of a servant. Christ desires not only that we serve His church, but that we have His mind and put others first.
In previous articles, I addressed the worship habits and learning habits of spiritually healthy pastors. These traits, coupled with a habit of serving others, allows us to embrace the mission of Christ to become His followers in action and attitude.
Habit #1—Use time and talents to regularly put others first.
Most of us who have a ministry career get the concept of service. The word minister means “to serve.” Our gifts, abilities, calling, and responsibilities are service-oriented.
To preach is to serve the church in teaching and prayer ministry (Acts 6:4). The habit I’m suggesting here, however, isn’t always outwardly visible.
As pastors, we should have a motivation to serve that goes beyond being noticed by others. Visiting a sick church member, caring for a family during a funeral, or preaching each week are visible ministries.
Serving with our talents and gifts are vital, but what about when no one sees us? Do we serve with our time in these moments? Do we have the character of a servant?
For example, if you’re married and have kids, do you serve your family by helping out around the house, guiding your children in their chores, and taking the lead when discipline is required?
Do you serve others in your community and church when no one else sees? To have the mind of Christ is to put others first and serve regularly.
Habit #2—Consistently protect the unity of the church.
Difficult deacons, selfish church members, and churches that run off pastors all have a bad reputation.
But unfortunately, as often as I hear about another church that’s run off a pastor, I hear about a pastor who’s left a church in shambles.
Without the character of a servant, the patience of a shepherd, and the wisdom of Christ, it can become easy for pastors to conclude they’re the ones in charge. Not true.
Christ alone is Lord of His church. The pastor is to shepherd, oversee, feed, and guide the church, but not rule the church.
Pastors who appear to serve out of ego affirmation aren’t protecting the unity of the church. Pastors who rule like dictators aren’t protecting the unity of the church. Pastors who unwisely stir up unnecessary conflict aren’t protecting the unity of the church.
If you have the role to lead a church, you need the character to match it—a heart that serves and a desire to help the church grow in spiritual health and unity.
Habit #3—Connect with mission partners and community organizations.
If churches must get outside their walls to minister to the community, so should pastors.
Most pastors and church leaders have enough going on inside the church to keep them busy for weeks if not much longer. Our congregations wouldn’t be disappointed to have our time, attention, and effort focused on them.
Of course, ministry to our church through preaching, shepherding, and leading is of primary importance. But if we expect our congregation to serve faithfully in the community and the world through mission and organizational partnerships, then we must lead by example.
Find a local mission organization where you can serve regularly (maybe with your small group or another group in the church), as well as a national or international mission partner with whom you can participate in mission service outside your local context.
Serving outside your church opens the door for evangelism, models service to your church, and reflects the example of Christ.
CHRIS HEFNER (@chrishefner) is husband to a beautiful wife and fantastic mommy, Jean Hefner, daddy of two little boys, William and Nathan, and senior pastor at Wilkesboro Baptist Church in Wilkesboro, North Carolina. He’s also professor of Western Civilization and Apologetics at Fruitland Baptist Bible College and Ph.D. graduate from the Billy Graham School of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.