Do you want your service for the Lord to last an entire lifetime? I know that many of us think that ministry hinges on teaching ability, musical excellence, or creativity. We may think that our ministries will succeed because of how much we love on people or how relational we are. Although these elements are important for ministry, they’re not what I’m looking for first in my own life and the lives of leaders around me.
The one vital question I’m asking is this: Can I trust you?
As a pastor, I realize that my role is that of a shepherd. 1 Peter 5 says that I am called to shepherd the flock of God, which means that I need to be willing to protect the sheep and care for them.
Jesus has this to say about shepherding:
I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.
As the good Shepherd, Jesus is willing to lay down His life for His sheep. What differentiates the shepherd from the hired hand is that the shepherd cares for the sheep.
Since I have been called to shepherd God’s sheep, I want to be sure that nothing will happen to them. I want to make sure that those who are working with me are not wolves or hired men, but rather shepherds who will also lay down their lives for the sheep.
Too often I hear stories of youth pastors who are wolves. They seduce their students, they teach false doctrine, and they destroy students’ faiths. I want to make sure that the students in my church are under the leadership of good shepherds.
God wants you to be a good shepherd. He wants you to be trustworthy. The only way you can be trustworthy is through daily surrender and repentance. You need to make a choice to live a life that believes the gospel that Jesus can save you, will save you, and is enough for you.
Here are several outward signs of trustworthiness I look for in leaders:
1. Pursuing Jesus daily.
- Get on your face daily and pray. You need to spend time with God.
- Read the Bible every day. Something is better than nothing.
- Share the gospel with people.
- Be open to doing something different if God tells you to do it.
2. Being faithful in little things.
- Respond to emails and calls promptly. Don’t make me chase you.
- Be on time. If you have trouble getting to appointments on time, set yourself an alarm or two.
- If you can’t be faithful in the small things, how can I trust you in the big stuff?
3. Being completely above board sexually.
- Paul says: But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people (Ephesians 5:3). This means not even joking about sexual stuff. Be pure.
- Thoughts on being pure: Have strong boundaries. Don’t be alone with girls that aren’t your family; it doesn’t matter if you don’t think they are interested in you. Don’t cross lines in social media. Don’t be a hugger; you might get ambushed awkwardly sometimes, but don’t make hugging a part of your ministry. Only date your wife. Don’t go to lunch with people of the opposite sex who aren’t your wife; it seems simple, but it is a lot tougher than you think. Make sure you date your wife. Make sure your heart is fully hers.
4. Teaching the scriptures.
- Let the word do the work. I get nervous when people preach without basing what they say in the Bible.
5. Communicating with me.
- Work hard to keep the lines of communication open. If something shady is happening, tell me immediately. Don’t cover it up, and don’t make me find out about it from someone else.
- Tell me when you are struggling. Don’t try to be Superman. Let me know when you are hurting, scared, lonely, or out of your league. I will help you.
- Let me know your dreams and hopes for the future. Trust me: I am on your team. I wouldn’t have hired you if I didn’t think you are a good leader.
My hope is that you find great joy in leading God’s people. It is a difficult task, but it is worth it.
I want to leave you with one of my favorite passages from Scripture; may it encourage you to be steadfast in your calling and fruitful for the kingdom.
Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.
1 Corinthians 15:58