It is of the utmost importance to be on the same page theological but it is also important to be on the same page regarding ministry philosophy. A philosophy communicates to others what you consider most important. It clarifies the goals, purpose and priorities of your ministry. It is the meeting point of belief and ministerial implementation. In order to accomplish ministerial tasks for the Kingdom of God, the pastor, staff and congregation need to be headed in the same direction. The following sections highlight my philosophy toward ministry in several areas.
On Church Worship
Church worship is a celebration of who God is and what He has done. We do this by expressing our love and devotion to Him in spirit and in truth through our praise and through the proclamation of the Word of God. We must focus on Him in our worship rather than the satisfaction of our own personal needs or wants. It is a dynamic display of reverence of thankfulness, not a passive mundane attempt at going through the motions. It is not only a personal act but also a corporate act, a congregational expression of the family of God. It is people of all ages and of all backgrounds worshiping together as the people of God.
On Outreach and Witnessing
The pastor is called to do the work of an evangelist. In fact, every Christian is called to evangelize. We have the greatest news that the world will ever need to know, why would anyone want to keep that to themselves? The message to be taken to the lost and dying world is that of the cross: a renewed life in Christ through His death, burial and resurrection. He came to earth to die for us and to show us who God is. He then left us here to carry on His work. It is up to us to show the world who God is.
Discipleship is following someone with the intent of emulation. It can be one on one or with a small group but without a doubt, it is intentionally relational. Jesus' disciples are shown in Scripture as being His followers, both literally and figuratively. The point of discipleship is to teach those disciples the specific skills, truths and principles that they need to grow as they continue their journey toward spiritual maturity in Christ. Understanding and living an identity abiding in Christ is our ultimate goal. This has a profound impact on what it means to be a disciple in Christ. Discipleship is a commitment to His identity. It is obedience to the Word of God. It has a cost and one must be truly committed to that cost. Dietrich Bonhoeffer said:
Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son: 'you were bought at a price,' and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us. Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon His Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered him up for us. Costly grace is the Incarnation of God.
Jesus commanded the church to go and make disciples. There are no other institutions or organizations in the world to which this command has been given. According to Acts 1:8, the church is to evangelize those in Judea, Samaria and then to the uttermost parts of the world. W.A. Criswell said:
Words can hardly describe the desperate urgency and the immediate hopefulness with which they (the early church) preached the message of the cross... Evangelism, winning the lost, the confession of our faith, is New Testament Christianity.Placing this in our modern context, it represents the local church, the cities, counties, states and then moves the concept to the foreign mission field, making the effort to evangelize not only a local but also an international effort.
On Church Ministries
The church should be able to continue its work every day, every week and every month of the year, having multiple ministries within the church is essential to making this a reality. Ministries unify the body of Christ. Sunday School or small group ministries play a vital role in creating a sense of community within the church and Christian community can make the church come alive! That sense of community is contagious. When we, the body of Christ, share ourselves with one another in a small group setting, the Spirit can work through us to create an inviting and attractive quality of life. Having other ministries within the church also allows for additional avenues of spiritual growth. Disciples can find something they are passionate about, gifted in and skilled at to employ their God given abilities in varying ministries within the church. Ministries such as the music ministry, children's ministry, youth ministry, college ministry, singles ministry, senior adult ministry, vacation bible school, etc. all need leaders and workers to serve in order to ensure their success for God's kingdom.
Stewardship is more than just managing money. It is the management of the resources that God has given us: time, money, talents and energy. Christians must think about how they can use their resources not only for their own leisure and entertainment but for the work of the gospel. Stewardship is a spiritual discipline, understanding it and practicing it helps us to grow toward Christ as our model. It is not only and individual discipline but a corporate discipline as well. As a church body we are to be managers of the church's time, money and talents to ensure that we are being effective in ministering to our community and beyond, to the uttermost parts of the earth.
On Conflict Management
Alfred Poirier in his book The Peacemaking Pastor defines conflict as "a difference in opinion or purpose that frustrates someone's goals or desires." In other words, conflict results when one person's desires, expectations, fears or wants collide with another person's desires, expectations, fears or wants. Much of the New Testament focuses on unity within the body of Christ, primarily how to build and maintain it. Individuals operate according to their own agenda and that will eventually cause conflict within the body of Christ. Allegiances will be divided, authority issues will be raised, boundaries will be crossed and personal preferences of one individual will attempt to take precedent over another individual's personal preferences - this is inevitable. The cause of this strife is always a focus on self. In order to resolve conflict, the pastor must first know that there is a conflict and then he must lead by example. He must be aware by listening to his flock and then he must be simple, clear and direct - helping those in conflict see things as they truly are. That first requires confession which will shine a light on the real problem. That confession reminds us that we are sinners saved by grace.
On Time Management
As with any leadership position, being a pastor can demand a lot of one's time. God gives both the gift of time and work to do during that time. Time is precious and it needs to be managed wisely so that it is not squandered on frivolous things. In Jonathan Edwards' short essay, The Preciousness of Time and the Importance of Redeeming It, he gives four reasons why time is so precious: 1) a happy or miserable eternity depends on the good or ill improvement of time; 2) time is short; 3) we are uncertain of its continuance; and 4) when it is gone, it cannot be recovered. In the fourth section of his essay Edwards urges us to improve our time management by considering these four things: 1) we are accountable to God for our management of time; 2) we need consider how much time we have lost already; 3) we to consider how time is valued by those who come near to the end of it; and 4) consider what value is set upon time by those who are past the end of it. In his final section Edwards gives three pieces of advice to those seeking to improve their use of time: 1) improve the present time without any delay; 2) be especially careful to improve those parts of time which are most precious; and 3) improve well your time of leisure from worldly business. Time needs to be looked at in light of eternity. The work to be done within the time we have been gifted is so great that there is no time to spare.