Johnny Hunt and Jerry Vines have a lot to say about ministry. Their combined 85 years of it gives them an abundance of credibility when it comes to observations of ministry challenges and giving advice to pastors.
Challenges of Ministry
Hunt’s experience as a pastor confirms to him that one of the major issues in a church is control. “Much of the conflict in our churches today is due to the desire for control. People forget to Whom the church belongs and feel threatened by the leadership that the Lord has raised up,” he said.
His advice to pastors and congregations on handling this issue is to take biblical instructions on patience. He also has something for pastors to keep in mind: longevity is important. “It takes about five years for the pastor of a church to really become the pastor. Longevity is crucial to a pastor building relationships and gaining trust in his leadership.”
Jerry Vines warns pastors of common mistakes he has seen throughout decades of ministry. “Pastors, especially ones of growing churches can get so involved in the mechanics of church life that they fail to spend to spend time in the Word. If you’re not careful it becomes more of a business instead of a ministry.”
He says another challenge he sees as times goes by is disregard for leadership. “One thing we have to realize is that the Bible tells us there will be apostasy in the end times. This is always a constant issue of which we need to be aware. We’re living in a day where there is lack of respect for authority and leadership and spirit of rebellion. I think a lot of pastors are encountering that in their leadership roles.”
Perhaps one of the biggest challenges felt by pastors is the pull between church life and home life. Because pastors never “clock out,” Hunt and Vines have seen most pastors – and their families – personally suffer. “It’s mostly through the lack of attention we show our children or our spouses. This can be worse in a smaller church (which describes most of the churches in America) since there is not a staff to handle pastoral care,” explained Hunt. “In those cases, everything falls to the pastor.”
Advice to Pastors
Because of the tendency to get immersed in the day-to-day business of the church, Vines has some very serious advice for pastors. “Each pastor needs to maintain his personal devotional time and give himself to solid Bible exposition. If that is done, then the people who come to church will hear not what he thinks, but what God says through Scripture.”
There are many pastors out there who are without a church home or looking to make a change. Hunt’s advice to them is to reveal more than just their preaching style when considering a new church; they also need to expose their ministry philosophy. “Tell them up front when you’re talking to them that Christ will be first, then your family, then ministry,” he explained. “Most preachers do not get in trouble because of the sermons they deliver or the theology they embrace. They get in trouble because of the philosophy of life they are trying to emulate.”
Especially for a younger pastor, patience is necessary when the desire for church growth is strong. “Be prayerful and be patient,” said Vines. “There is a difference between building a crowd and building a church, and there is a difference between people simply attending and people becoming disciples of Jesus. We must be sure we are reaching people for Christ, not getting them to buy in to a popular movement.”
Advice to Congregations
Scripture teaches us to support the person in authority so that they serve you with joy. “Make sure the investment you make in your pastor allows him to do what he does in joy – not in grief,” urges Hunt.
Vines expounds upon Hunt’s sentiment. “Pray for us, realize we are not perfect, and be willing to encourage us when we fail. Love us enough to be honest, but speak the truth in love.”
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