When I started out as a pastor, I thought I had a robust set of convictions. It turns out that they weren’t as robust as I thought. The result was costly: most of the mistakes I’ve made in ministry are a result of not holding tightly to what matters most.
Al Mohler is right:
The leadership that matters most is convictional— deeply convictional. This quality of leadership springs from those foundational beliefs that shape who we are and establish our beliefs about everything else. Convictions are not merely beliefs we hold; they are those beliefs that hold us in their grip. We would not know who we are but for these bedrock beliefs, and without them we would not know how to lead.
I’ve been thinking, then, about my ministry convictions. I’ve been spurred on by Mohler, Todd Henry, and by the awareness that I’m a better leader when I carefully articulate and live by my convictions.
Here’s a list of what I stand for. It’s still a work in progress. I expect to add to it and improve it over the years. But I don’t expect that many of the convictions I articulate here will change. I wish I’d held to them 25 years ago. My service to those I’ve pastored would have been richer for it.
You can download a PDF of these convictions with some notes here (free with email opt-in).
What I Believe
Here’s what I believe about ministry:
- God uses ordinary people. That’s all there are.
- Ministry begins with watching our lives and doctrine, and loving and caring for our families.
- What we do in private will determine how we minister in public.
- Few things matter more than keeping the gospel central and relying on the power of the Holy Spirit.
- To minister well, love well.
- To love well, do three things: assume the best, tell the truth, and give plenty of safety and time.
- Effective ministry is rooted in theology, not in pragmatics.
- Ministry is doing “small, mostly overlooked things, over a long period of time” (Zack Eswine).
- The fundamentals of ministry (preaching, prayer, and discipleship) matter more than the fads.
- Preaching may go out of style, but it will never lose its importance.
- Churches need both gospel doctrine and gospel culture (Ray Ortlund).
- Church revitalization is hard but important.
- Every church should be involved, at some level, with church planting.
- Both traditional and non-traditional (bivocational, low-cost) forms of ministry are needed to accomplish the mission.
- Post-Christian society is ripe for the gospel.
- When conflict happens, move toward it instead of away. Handled rightly, conflict is an opportunity rather than a threat.
- Mentoring others is one of the best uses of our lives.
- What’s hardest is often what’s most joyful.
- Ministry is hard.
- Ministry is a privilege.