I remember when people began to call me pastor for the very first time. It was a title that I had to adjust to; I wasn’t accustomed to being called anything other than my name. It didn’t, however, take me long to realize that there was a great difference between the mere title of pastor and the fulfillment of the position. The job of the pastor has been described in this fashion:
Disturbers are to be rebuked, the low-spirited to be encouraged, the infirm to be supported, objectors confuted, the treacherous guarded against, the unskilled taught, the lazy aroused, the contentious restrained, the haughty repressed, litigants pacified, the poor relieved, the oppressed liberated, the good approved, the evil borne with, and all are to be loved.
That is a large and difficult task, especially for a brand new pastor.
When a church planter begins, for the most part, he is a brand new pastor to all of the people in the church, and all of the people are brand new to him. He has a clean slate and no stigma to overcome, yet, he has not established a reputation and history of success with which to steer and direct. I read recently that it takes five years in the church for people to begin to see you as the leader! The church planter does not have this luxury; he is the leader now!
With that in mind, I want to share some practical insight to help the brand new pastor set the direction for the church in the early days. There is no doubt that, with the help of the Holy Spirit, the direction is set by the pastor, and his greatest tool is the preaching of the Word of God. The pastor is sent on a heavenly mission, and the church moves on the feet of those who, “Preach the gospel of peace and bring glad tidings of good things” (Romans 10:15b). There is no greater tool for setting the direction in the early days of the church than the tool of preaching. Here are three simple aids in setting direction for a new church:
1. Be an Example
Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity. (1Timothy 4:12)
“Be yourself” is about the worst advice you can give to some people. “Be Christ-like” is far better. When you begin to lead and set direction as the pastor of a new church, you are first and foremost to be an example. People do what people see! You can’t be content to merely speak of what you hope the church will resemble, and you certainly can’t expect the church to become what God intends for it to become without being a living template to follow.
Lamps don’t talk, but they do shine, and you are to be a shining example to your people. Charles Spurgeon said:
A man’s life is always more forcible than his speech. When men take stock of him, they reckon his deeds as dollars and his words as pennies. If his life and doctrine disagree, the mass of onlookers accept his practice and reject his preaching.
I would encourage you to set the tone by faithfulness, service, love, a godly lifestyle, and joy. Paul teaches this kind of leadership.
Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ. (1 Corinthians 11:1)
Paul further declared: “For yourselves know how ye ought to follow us: for we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you; Neither did we eat any man's bread for nought; but wrought with labour and travail night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you: Not because we have not power, but to make ourselves an ensample unto you to follow us” (2 Thessalonians 3:7-9).
He is not emphasizing the privilege of leadership or the position of leadership, but rather the price of setting the example.
2. Embrace the Ministry
Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all. (1 Timothy 4:15)
The pastor of a new church must be totally absorbed in his call, and totally given to the duties and responsibilities within the ministry. This absorption cannot be to the detriment of a personal walk and of family, but there is certainly great cost and sacrifice associated with the early days.
A pastor must be an avid reader and student; those who speak without thinking seldom say anything worth thinking of. John Wesley said, “He that is wholly in these will be little in worldly company, in other studies, in collecting books, medals, or butterflies.” If we are to successfully navigate setting the direction in the early days, it will be as we fully embrace the ministry along with its duties and responsibilities.
3. Establish Authority
These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee. (Titus 2:15)
I am not speaking about an authority that comes from our sheer force of personality, but as we are called, so are we enabled and given oversight of the flock. We must lead without ambiguity and without compromise. Authority is birthed in our walk with God, manifested in our lives by the Holy Spirit, and revealed in our preparation and focus. It is by our walk with God in the power of the Holy Spirit that we are able to implement direction through our preparation and focus.
I do not exercise authority as a despot, but rather, I lead as a shepherd. My authority does not rest in my ability; it rests in my walk with God. If I will clearly expound the Word and live it out by example, if I will wholly give myself to what God has called me to, and lead with God’s authority, I can certainly and successfully set the direction for the new church that I lead.