Proverbs 23:7 teaches us that as a man "thinking in his heart, so is he. " In other words, that which we truly think and believe will ultimately determine the course of action which we take. It is for this reason that a pastor must set down a Biblical philosophy of ministry before he can effectively serve the Lord. If he has no direction, or no guiding principles, how can he hope to accomplish that which God has called him to do? Obviously, he cannot. Thus, it is incumbent upon the pastor to work out his Scriptural responsibility, and then determine to follow it through.
First and foremost, a pastor must know that he has been called of God into the work of the ministry. James tells us to "be not many masters," so we know that all believers are not expected to hold this leadership position. Since we understand that God will direct the paths of those who delight in Him (Proverbs 3:6), a man will know if God is directing him into a full time ministry. There are numerous Biblical examples of the Holy Spirit leading and calling men to Christian service (Acts 9, 10). In addition, the Holy Spirit in many instances worked through the local church to separate out His servants (Acts 13:2). Thus it would seem that not only should the man of God realize God's definite call in his life, but the local church should be able to recognize the Spirit's leading there as well.
The Bible teaches that when an individual is born again, God grants to him spiritual gifts which are to be used for the edification and ministry of the local church (I Peter 4:10). As each member of the body allows the Spirit of God to work through him in the exercise of these gifts, the body increases and edifies itself in love (Ephesians 4:16). I believe that the office of the pastor is a gift to the church (Ephesians 4:11). In order to be an effective pastor, God gives to those whom He has called into the ministry a number of gifts. Paul instructs Timothy to exhort (II Timothy 4:2), give (I Timothy 3:2), teach (I Timothy 3:2), rule (I Timothy 5:17), and minister (I Timothy 4:6). All of these are spiritual gifts. As a pastor, I need to use my gifts and my office to accomplish God's work in the world through my local church.
Having established God's call to the ministry, and His giving of spiritual gifts to fulfill that call, my particular philosophy of ministry should be discussed. This will be dealt with in two areas: my belief as to what God wants our church to do, and my philosophy as to how this should be accomplished. I believe that God has a two fold objective for the church. We are to bring glory to Him (I Corinthians 10:31), and actively work to fulfill the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18 20). Both of these are necessary. If we claim to be glorifying God, yet are disobedient to His command of Evangelism, Baptism, and Discipleship, both at home and around the world, we are liars. On the other hand, if we are working hard at evangelism, but neglecting to bring honor to God in our lives, our speech, and our worship, then we are not striving lawfully, and we bring a reproach to the name of Christ. These two concepts balance each other. Fulfilling the Great Commission puts our reverence of God into action. Remembering that all we do must be done for His glory forces us not to compromise Biblical principles in an attempt to win the lost and then disciple them. This helps the pastor balance his church priorities with his family priorities. If a pastor spends all his time at home, he is not doing the work of disciple making. However, if he is always out doing church business, he is not bringing glory to God in his family. A wise pastor will find the time for both.
The necessity of bringing glory to God also keeps a pastor from violating Biblical standards of separation in his attempt to do the work of evangelism and discipleship. Far too many churches have become ecumenical in their attempts to draw a crowd. Others have moved their church services away from the preaching and teaching of the Scriptures and now center more on fellowship, communication, recreation, and "need meeting." While these have their place, it must never be forgotten that it is the "foolishness of preaching" that challenges the soul and changes lives. Dr. Bob Jones Sr. used to say, "It is never right to do wrong, to get a chance to do right." In spiritual terms: soulwinning ends can never justify unscriptural means. Separation from worldly movements and fleshly methods must be the standard if all is to be done to the glory of God.
How is the goal of glorifying God and fulfilling the Great Commission to be accomplished in the church? I believe that Ephesians 4:11-16 outlines the Biblical philosophy of church leadership. Pastors were given to equip the saints to do the work of the ministry and to edify the body of Christ. Thus, the pastor is to use both his pulpit and personal ministries to mend, prepare, and train his church so that they will get involved in ministering work, and so that they in turn can build up others within the body. The goal of this process is to remove immaturity and confusion, and produce in its place a congregation which is spiritually maturing, Christ like, and united in doctrine and practice based upon the knowledge of Christ and His Word. People like this will not only be growing in the Lord, but will also be fulfilling the call to evangelism, and bringing baby Christians into the church to be discipled. Because they are becoming more Christ like, their goal will be to glorify God in all that they do. This is God's program for the church today.
God has called me into the ministry. As a believer, and particularly as a pastor, He has given me gifts which are to be used to edify the local church. I believe that God's goal for the church is to fulfill the Great Commission, both at home and through the world wide missions programs. This involves a pastor preparing the people to go out and do the work, whether as laymen or ultimately in a full time capacity. As each member of the body fulfills the responsibility that God has given him, the work of the Lord will prosper, souls will be saved, and spiritual and numerical growth will take place. Above all, it must be remembered that this is God's work, and it must be done at His direction, according to His Word, and to His glory. It is my prayer that we will continue to see people in Pennsylvania come to know Christ as Saviour, be baptized into the membership of the church, be discipled in the principles of Scripture, and be sent out to repeat the process throughout this world.