Let’s get this out of the way so I’m not misunderstood: if you’re in pastoral ministry, I hope you’re working hard. Really hard.
Paul worked hard (Acts 20:35). He was able to speak of his hard work to the Thessalonian church (2 Thessalonians 3:7-8). He could say, “For you remember, brothers, our labor and toil: we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God” (1 Thessalonians 2:9). Nobody could accuse Paul of being a loafer.
We’re called to what Matthew Kruse calls “gospel hustle.”
I also hope you’re teachable. Paul’s words to Timothy apply to who pastor: “Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you. Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress.” (1 Timothy 4:14-15). I hope that you’re refining your skills, studying the Word, and learning carefully from those ahead of you. Keep learning from every possible source.
So that I’m not misunderstood: work hard, and continue to grow. Learn what you can, and be diligent in your ministry.
Having said that, I want to give you permission to ignore the gurus.
The Glut of Gurus
A cottage industry of experts has developed to help you learn how to pastor better. Some of their material is really good. And the quantity of material increases every day, especially in this time of self-isolation.
You could spend every minute signing up for free videos, introductory courses, and programs with money-back guarantees. Some of them may help you. But all of these programs come at a cost.
If we’re not careful we’ll develop a sense of FOMOOG: fear of missing out on gurus. Yes, I know that’s bad. But it’s true. We may labor under the sense that we’re not quite the leaders we should be unless we take another course and watch another video.
Take advantage of the gurus when you’d like, but don’t even try to keep up, because you can’t, and trying may end up distracting you from the work that God has called you to do. Shepherd the flock that’s among you.
Here’s my advice. I’m not a guru, so you should feel even more free to ignore me if you want. Notice that my advice comes in a list, which I’m told is a guru-like thing to give.
- Keep working hard. When you’re working hard, you have less time for distractions.
- Focus on what’s hidden. “My people’s greatest need is my personal holiness,” said Robert Murray M’Cheyne. Let’s commit to growing in holiness and prayer, not just in our performance.
- Cut out some of the noise. Unsubscribe from blogs and social media that distract you or make you feel more pressured unless they provide real value to you.
- Create a plan for your own growth. Figure out where you need to grow, and include areas that we often tend to forget: prayer, godliness, theology, and growth in your ability to handle the Word. Don’t ignore leadership, but counterbalance our overemphasis on this one area. Search out the best resources (including people who could mentor you, and books by dead guys) that will help you grow in these other areas.
- While you work hard and continue to grow, be okay with what God has called you to be and do. Do the work before you faithfully, and don’t worry about all the noise.
You don’t need it from me, but you have permission to ignore the gurus. You’ll feel a lot better if you do.