I want to share twelve immutable things to your success as a pastor. In my opinion, these are the most important issues a pastor can master.
These are unchangeable fundamentals, and they’ll give you a powerful advantage in your ministry. They will work in any church in any generation.
When I was a young pastor, I first studied 20 of the largest, most fruitful churches in the world and later expanded my research to over 100. These churches included different denominations and disciplines, but they all had one thing in common: They were champions in their calling and were abounding in their churches.
Even though these ministries were very different in many ways, all of them had twelve critical qualities and characteristics in common. Some were spiritual, and some were practical. Here they are:
This is first because in prayer we get ideas from God without the stain of human reasoning. In my first week as pastor when we had only 125 members, I established a weekly intercessory prayer meeting. It grew to daily prayer and even special prayer task force meetings. When prayer is a priority, it proves we are putting Christ as the head of the church.
You’ve probably heard this: “It’s your attitude and not your aptitude that determines your altitude.” What’s your attitude toward God, your family, and the people you lead? What’s your attitude toward soul-winning and disciple-making? What’s your attitude toward a growing church and how can you encourage this attitude in your members?
You’ll never go higher than your vision. See things not as they are, but what they could be. If you can see it, you can have it. I have an illustration in use in pastor’s training. I bring an acorn to class and ask the students what they see. Most say it’s just an acorn. But occasionally a student will say, “I see a mighty oak tree in your hand.” And even less frequently, someone will say, “Pastor, in your hand lies a whole city of oak trees.” The key: seeing things that are unseen to others.
Every service must exude an atmosphere of love, warmth, respect and the manifest presence of the Holy Spirit. I preached in a southern state, years ago and afterward, the pastor asked me what the first thing I would do if I was the pastor there. I told him I’d build walls or put up curtains so people couldn’t see all the empty seats. The church seated about 500, but only about 70 people were in church. Empty seats do not encourage a warm atmosphere.
I’m talking about genuine biblical teaching. Expository and commentary teaching are almost a lost art today but people are craving to know what God says, and they need it straight up, not watered down, politically correct, or designed to make them feel good.
This is what Moses did. And what Jesus did with his disciples. Educate, equip, and release for ministry. Lay people are the treasurers of the church and must be empowered to do the work of the ministry. It’s easier to hire than to equip. But the pastor’s mandate in Ephesian 4 is to equip believers for the work of ministry.
Location was huge with all enormously fruitful churches. My friend, Craig Weiland of Weiland-Davco, offered us a list of why businesses fail and he said one of them is “being a block off Main Street;” In other words, not visible. Radio, television, direct mail, and big events can all be helpful in creating visibility for the church.
In my research, I discovered that the greatest churches in the world were all—without exception—committed to world missions. I determined that our church would conduct mission’s conventions every year, mission’s banquets, and have regular windows on the world from live missionaries on furlough. I would promote missions trips and never cut the mission’s budget for an in-house project. When I began, we as a church were giving $3,500 a year for missions. After 30 years, we were giving over 3 million a year, we were debt free, and God gave us incredible growth and miracles over those years.
I call them faith goals. What things soever you desire when you pray, believe that you receive them, and ye shall have them. Faith is the substance of things hoped for. Faith goals are targets at which to shoot, and they must stretch us every time. For example, as a student, it’s better to have a goal of getting a 4.0 and end up getting a 3.8 than to have no goal and get a 2.0. Facility goals, staffing goals, financial goals, growth goals, and personal goals all help propel us to higher levels.
He that winneth souls is wise. Every successful church that stands the tests of life and the test of time will prioritize the Great Commission of bringing people to Christ and making them disciples of Jesus. How? Altar calls, evangelism training and practice, friendship evangelism, big soul-winning events are all amazingly helpful in getting your church to have a heart for evangelism.
Distractions are curses of the pastorate. When you possess clear principles and priorities, then someone else cannot determine them for you. When you establish priorities and stick with them, the little foxes trying to spoil your vine will drift away. In fact, these twelve things I’m sharing with you today were my top priorities as a pastor.
Jesus spoke about greatness being directly related to serving—really ministering. Jesus ministered to the sick, the demon-possessed, the hungry, the poor. Serving the people in the community is one of the booster rockets to great growth and harvest.
These are what I call the 12 immutable laws of growing a fruitful church. Why not go over these with your staff and board, and prayerfully find ways to implement them in your church? Take these foundational principles seriously, practice them, and watch your church take on a miracle apostolic role in this generation.