Many years ago as a young pastor I became frustrated with “the work of the ministry”. I was preaching and teaching three times a week, visiting everyone in the church at least once a month, and going to every hospital call I received whether it was a church member or not. I was a “one man band” as they say. Please don’t misunderstand. I loved the people, I loved the call of God on my life…but being and feeling responsible for ALL the work of the ministry was wearing me out.
It was during this time I learned I must set priorities in my life. I remember to this day searching the scriptures, reading leadership books and biographies of great men of God of the past, and seeking God. There was no doubt in my mind that the Lord would be first place in my life, my family would be second, and the specific call to ministry would be third. I have never regretted those priorities set so many years ago. One of the “secrets” of keeping family and ministry in balance, is in the family serving the Lord together. I can honestly say my children never dreaded going to church because they were a part of what was taking place in age appropriate ways. My wife and I have always been drawn closer together through ministry, not driven apart.
The question became, “What would be my priority in ministry?” The answer for me was found in 2 Tim. 2:15
2 Timothy 2:15 (AV)
15 Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
I am of the opinion that the most important thing lead pastors can do for their flocks is to “feed them”. The best way to shepherd the sheep is to keep them spiritually healthy in the first place. That is best done by feeding them a steady diet of balanced spiritual food, sometimes milk and sometimes meat. Psalm 119 is a great study in the importance of the Word of God in the life of a believer. Jesus was the “Living Word” everywhere He went. The Spirit-illuminated Word is of primary importance to God’s people. We must remember that Jesus praised Mary for sitting at His feet while Martha scurried around Jesus working herself to exhaustion.
Lead pastors must study the word in-depth if they are to properly shepherd the people of God. If we are to genuinely understand what it means to be an under-shepherd, we must learn to preach, teach, and lead with the Word and Spirit of the True Shepherd. Pastors, I encourage you to spend much time in the Word of God. It is not your secondary duty, it is your first for the sake of the people of God. This is especially true in the practice of the Church today, where we meet only a couple of times per week. You must have not just a sermon, but a Word from God that moves the hearts of the people entrusted to you. This doesn’t happen by accident! It occurs through prayerful study and meditation in God’s Word.
How much time does it take to receive and prepare a Word for the people? My first answer is always, “A life time.” Every message should be crafted from the life long study of a specific subject or specific point the Lord is leading you to share. My second answer is more personal and I believe must be personalized by the individual pastor as well. It takes me many hours to prepare a Word that I believe is from the Lord. The “thought” or “inspiration” for the message my come in a moment…but the hammering out of that nugget of gold takes a while. I’ve never stood before a congregation to minister a word that I have not put at least seven to ten hours of prayerful preparation. I am not one who believes, “Just open your mouth and God will fill it.” I am more of the mindset that you fill your heart and mind with the Word and rivers of living water will flow forth from you.
Jesus told Peter, “…feed My sheep.” All the work of the ministry is important, but none more than feeding the flock of God.