Wednesday, May 18, 2011

10 Simple Things Good Pastors Say

1. Please forgive me.

Better than "I'm sorry," which can often be followed with an "if" or a "but," these words indicate a humble heart. Bad pastors hide their faults behind the cloak of their authority, practice self-defense against all charges, and basically pretend. Good pastors know they're sinners and admit it.

2. You're right.

Good pastors know they're not always (not usually?) the smartest, most "spiritual" person in the room. They are zealous to give credit and acknowledge achievement and intelligence, not just because it's the right thing to do, but because it encourages and empowers others.

3. You're wrong.

Bad pastors chicken out when it comes to calling people on sin or biblical ignorance. Good pastors brave potential conflict and hurt feelings and say "You're wrong" in gentle but firm ways when necessary.

4. Jesus loves you.

Why did we stop saying this? I think because it became cliche. I'd love to see a recovery of the art of "Jesus loves you." Strategically said at times of others' admissions of failure, sin, or trouble, "Jesus loves you" is a fantastic way to speak the gospel into people's lives.

5. I love you.

I think one reason we stopped saying "Jesus loves you" to people is because we don't really love them ourselves. Might as well save the hypocrisy, eh? But good pastors lay their lives down for the sheep. Telling people you love them is a reminder to them and to you that sacrificial love is your calling.

6. Me too.

Next to "Grace is true" (see below), these might be the most important words in pastoral counseling. Bad pastors trade regularly in "Not me." In the pulpit and in the office, bad pastors set themselves apart from their congregations with tales of adventure, spirituality, and personal holiness. In the pulpit and in the office, good pastors talk of sin and trials and utter ineptitude and say, "Me too." I have seen entire countenances change when I've said some variation of "Me too."

7. Any time.

Of course you don't mean it literally. But you kinda do. Good pastors are available.

8. Thank you.

Bad pastors think they're owed. Good pastors know everything is a gift.

9. Grace is true.

I think deep down we all want to hear "You're approved" (see below), which is why we find "Grace is true" such a radical statement. You probably won't use the words, of course. But good pastors take the opportunity to glorify God by "talking up" his amazing grace every chance they get. Just 30 minutes ago, my writing of this post got interrupted by a visitor who wanted to talk about works and grace. I relished the chance to confirm his suspicion that grace is true. Bad pastors may say grace is true but the context of their teaching and the expectations in their leadership say "Your works must be this high to ride this ride." I know some of my friends hate it when "gospel" is used as a verb, but I just have to say it: Good pastors gospel their people. :-)

10. You're approved.

Everyone wants to believe they have what it takes, which is why it's such a bummer to hear the first half of the gospel and learn we really don't. Don't leave your people hanging. Be a good news pastor. Bad pastors beat their people up with their failures. Bad pastors are always disappointed. Good pastors know grace is true and Jesus is Lord, so they are ready to challenge every self-despairing soul with the wonderful truth that in Christ we are approved by God. Good pastors tell people they do have what it takes when they have Jesus' righteousness. Do you trust Jesus? You're all set, then.


Anonymous said...

This post is really good. I love how simple and helpful this is. This is essentially a physical and a good check up for any person in ministry.

For a long time I struggled with telling others that I loved them because I disliked myself so much. Preaching the Gospel to myself by the power of Jesus has been instrumental in letting my students and peers know that I love them, and Jesus does too.

Being a Good News person is just better.

Brian Kiley said...

Good stuff, thank you for these reminders. These ten phrases really highlight the necessity of humility, boldness, grace, and compassion in pastoral ministry.

Rev. Spike said...

Thanks for this, good reminder on a lousy day.

Tim Graham said...

Some really helpful reminders here. Thank you!

jmark said...

"Its a privilege"

When someone is thanking you for some pastoral input - counsel in a murky situation, care amidst bereavement, working through the gospel with them until they come to faith - often they are so grateful or heartfelt and overflowing in their thanks. Sometimes they either place you on a pedestal, or they feel they owe you. "Its my privilege" reminds them that you do it as a servant, and serving Christ and his people, or his cause is your great privilege. It also coveys that they havent been a burden or a bother.

It also reminds me that I am a servant, fights pride in my achievement for it is my privilege to serve the one who said "I am among you as one who serves".

rdsmith3 said...

Great list, for any Christian, not just pastors. May I humbly suggest that #10 should be #1; that it could have been numbered from 10 down to 1 (Letterman style).

Dan said...

Thanks Jared. As a fellow pastor this comes as a well needed reminder. Oh the grace to even be in the service of our King. May we never get to the point where we think WE are owed!

walter said...

Great word! Especially "Me too." Good reason not to use illustrations in sermons of how we do it "right." Better to illustrate w/ our failures and the hope of grace.

Richard Moore said...

Great post I love "Grace is true" the best. I'm going to think this week how I can implement that into everything I say. I also love the line, "Telling people you love them is a reminder to them and to you that sacrificial love is your calling." If you are in ministry and you are not sacrificially loving people maybe you are in the wrong line of work. GREAT POST!

Scott Beaman said...

Perhaps "gospel" should be a verb. We should be gospelling the world.

Anonymous said...

I disagree with "You're wrong." To shut down a conversation about a topic that is so interpretive shows close mindedness to me. You might say, "That's your interpretation and I disagree" but to just get all high and mighty to me is wrong. Sorry.

Jared said...

Anonymous, do you realize you just did to me what you said we shouldn't do?

Unknown said...

Thank you for this post. Greatly encouraged.

bunsofaluminum said...

Anonymous: if a person is in sin, then it is the duty of his fellow believers to gently and lovingly tell him so. Not with the meaning "I disagree with you on this point of doctrine" but "Friend, you seem to be straying from the paths of righteousness. Please repent and come back" ... THAT meaning, spoken fitly, is like apples of gold in a setting of silver, and will perhaps bring back a sheep from straying.

Pastor Doug said...

Great post....but...#7 is very dangerous! The truth is that there are times when I am completely available (Sunday mornings, pre-arranged counseling times, etc.); there are times when I'm only partially available (Holy Week, Christmas, etc.) and there are times when I am definitely NOT available (vacation, family time, study time, etc.). These boundaries will protect your ministry; your spouse; your children and your sanity! Blessings on you...

Chris Krycho said...

Great post, Jared.

I also really like jmark's contribution, as that's something I've wrestled with, and I'm not even a pastor!

Kevin Wax said...

I was surprised at how short these comments were. Short, but powerful...that's for sure! Great post.

Unknown said...

Great reminders. I really like the last one "you're approved". So often I find myself promoting the gospel intellectually, yet through my tone and actions, promoting little more than holy achievement.

Kelly said...

"I understand"
Something my pastor says and recommends his congregation to say when being "attacked". So even if the negative comments are not true or unreasonable you quickly diffuse the anger by not defending yourself. It also helps you to consider what the person is saying is valuable criticism or not.

Logan Wolf said...

Great stuff! As a younger pastor/church planter, I've found that people really appreciate it when you admit that you don't have it all figured out. Simply saying, "I don't know, but I'll look into it for you" has gone a long way.