Thursday, June 22, 2006

10 Activities of an Effective Pastor

Thoughts on a Pastor's Responsibilities

These are busy days. My joyful work with Nourished in the Word Ministries includes serving as an interim Pastor of one church, a church planting Co- Pastor of another, managing a book store and traveling around to preach in a variety of places.

I have given some thought to how I need to spend most of my days as a Pastor and as the leader of Nourished in the Word Ministries. Below I have sketched out some of my notes. I am concerned about these points because I fear that with my own busy schedule that I may fail to focus on some essential things. Can you relate? These are not burdens disjointed from joy but joyful responsibilities. Whatever time amounts you assign to any of the items-- all are vitally important to an effective ministry. The goal is not just a more ordered and productive life. The goal is to "glorify God and enjoy Him forever." The list below does not include the vital responsibilities that a Pastor has to his family nor does it take into consideration all of the daily responsibilities of life. Remember what follows are notes (not carefully constructed formal sentences) and most applicable to those serving in church leadership though there is application for all Christians.
1. Daily Devotion
For me this presently involves Scripture reading, listening to The Valley of Vision recorded by Max McLean (who also has the entire Bible on CD--The Listener's Bible), prayer and listening to a couple of God-centered hymns ( It is my desire to get my heart warm by the sweet fires of devotion before I engage in the rest of the activities of the day.
2. Extensive Reading
It is so easy to become dull in preaching and in one's studies of theology, history, biography, and other aspects of life and ministry. The Pastor needs to be a devoted reader. Ligon Duncan has a good blog from Feb. 16, 2006 at under the title, Pastors--studying and reading; The Biblical Mandate. (A note is in order here...Ligon Duncan is one of the bright lights in the evangelical world these days. Get to know him and his ministry better!)
3. Sermon Preparation
I think that a good minimum goal for a Pastor is about 20 hours in sermon preparation each week. A book that deals with the subject of time and the Pastor is, The Preacher: His Life and Work by J.H. Jowett. He wrote that it is "imperative that the preacher go to his study to do hard work." It will not do long for the Pastor to rely on old messages at his church (though an occasional repeat will be both necessary and helpful and the Pastor may often give the labors of previous sermons to other churches as he travels). The Pastor should also do away with any thoughts of subscribing to sermon services. The Pastor needs to lock himself away in the study and prepare his heart and mind.
4. Sermon Listening
One of the richest endeavors that a Pastor can embark upon is to listen to the preaching of other godly men. There is a treasure chest of preaching available at the click of a button through the internet these days. One good resource is There you can listen to men like John MacArthur and John Piper to name a couple. Consider listening to at least one sermon per week.
5. Writing
It has been said that writing makes an "exact man." Some of us should consider writing an hour a day for at least three days a week. For me this would help to bring an incredible discipline into my life and would also help me to get to work on my manuscript for a possible upcoming book. I remember reading A Minister's Opportunities by Ralph Turnbull a number of years ago and especially being encouraged by his chapter The Discipline of Writing. He notes on page 151 "Albert Barnes (1798-1870), pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, for thirty-five years was able to work at an incredible pace. In addition to fulfilling the demands of a long pastorate, he published essays, sermons, notes for Bible study, and then a Bible commentary of twenty-seven volumes...How was this work accomplished? Barnes said all of his writing was done before nine o'clock in the morning. Rising regularly between four and five o'clock he would spend several hours in writing. In this way he did not neglect his large congregation and pastoral responsibilities."
6. Administration
Most Pastors readily admit that they struggle at this point and yet most are aware that administrative responsibilities are an absolutely necessary. There are letters to write, offices to organize, meetings to plan, finances to manage and a myriad of other responsibilities. I listed my own administrative responsibilities and felt a bit overwhelmed. We need Christ and we need to learn to delegate and to pray that the Lord would bring people to us who could help us in this and other responsibilities.
7. Elder Discipleship
The Pastor has a responsibility for his own training and to participate at some level in the training of his fellow elders. Areas for training include personal Bible study, family leadership, systematic theology, church history, exegetical and homiletical studies, time management, preaching and other matters related to personal and church development.
8. Attend Conferences
It is tempting for a Pastor to isolate himself to his own location and his own daily and local activities and fail to benefit from interaction with other Christian leaders in a conference environment. For many Pastors finances prohibit them from attending conferences. A loving church should do everything that they can to encourage their Pastors to be edified by attending good bible conferences. The Pastor should squeeze the budget and calendar as much as possible in order to go to good conferences. This will benefit his ministry at church, in the community, and his family. Some of the conferences that I recommend include The Founders Conference (, The Shepherd's Conference (
The Ligonier Pastor's Conference (
9. Discipleship of Others
It is wise and biblical for the Pastor to be pouring his life into the life of others. The Pastor should pray and look for several men that he can meet with on a regular basis to mentor in the things of God. He must look for "faithful men" (2 Timothy 2). The Pastor will also have opportunity to disciple in a more general way through his contacts in the community, relationships with neighbors--etc.
10. Personal Evangelism
The work of an evangelist is in some ways the work of every Christian. The Pastor has the opportunity to be a leader in this regard. Sharing Christ has been called "gossiping the gospel." See the book, God the Evangelist by David Wells and read the introduction by J.I. Packer. This is an area in which I am falling short and recognize my need for grace and the strength of the Spirit of God. Let us pray and labor for souls. Excellent resources include, The Soul Winner by Charles Spurgeon and To Tell the Truth, by Metzger. Also visit the websites and
These ten responsibilities remind every Pastor of his own insufficiency and of his need for Christ. Let us be driven to pray, seek the face of God, and rely upon His Spirit as we engage in His excellent work.
Note: Ray's wife Lori is developing a site for ladies. Visit her often at

1 comment:

Pastor Daphne said...

Typically clarion counsel from one of America's premier pastor/theologians.