In an age of video preaching, podcasts, and social media, regular pastors are tempted to chase a number of ministry goals. These goals can include platform building, a strong social media presence, denominational recognition, publishing contracts, speaking invitations, and even quasi-celebrity status.
In contrast to these often-repudiated yet often-pursued goals, regular pastors should seek a ministry that aligns with the pattern of ministry set forth in the New Testament. In several places the apostle Paul describes his ministry, and these descriptions are helpful for regular pastors looking for a pattern to follow.
For example, in Romans 1 Paul highlights 10 characteristics of his ministry (see my article 10 Snapshots of Christian Ministry).
A similar description is found in 1 Thessalonians 2:1-8 where the apostle Paul mentions 10 marks of Christian ministry.
- Suffering (1 Thessalonians 2:2). Paul and his team suffered greatly in Philippi just before coming to Thessalonica. Christian ministry in 2019 will certainly involve suffering, even if it doesn’t involve imprisonment and physical abuse.
- Boldness (1 Thessalonians 2:2). Paul’s ministry was certainly marked by boldness. In Philippi and Thessalonica and everywhere he went, Paul boldly proclaimed good news. Two thousand years later, there is no place for timidity in Christian ministry.
- Conflict (1 Thessalonians 2:2). Paul’s boldness often resulted in conflict with those who preached a different gospel. Christian ministers do not need to go looking for theological conflict, but when it arises they must be prepared to defend the gospel.
- Integrity (1 Thessalonians 2:3). Paul was not attempting to “deceive” anyone in Thessalonica. There was no flattery involved in his ministry. Ministers of the gospel must avoid deception, flattery, and manipulation as they preach the gospel.
- Calling (1 Thessalonians 2:4). Paul was convinced that he had been called by God to preach the gospel. Those in Christian ministry today may not have a Damascus Road experience, but they must be convinced that God has called them to preach.
- God-focused (1 Thessalonians 2:4-6). Paul’s ministry was not focused on pleasing people. Rather, Paul focused on pleasing God who “tests our hearts.” Even today, ministers of the gospel must seek to please the Lord, not a human audience.
- Not greedy (1 Thessalonians 2:5). Paul didn’t preach for a paycheck. He did accept money from churches at times, but he wasn’t driven by the dollar. Ministers today must make sure that their ministry is not motivated by the love of money.
- Humility (1 Thessalonians 2:6). Paul wasn’t out to build his platform or expand his influence. Paul wanted to make Jesus famous – not Paul. In a social media age, those who preach must guard against the temptation to make a name for themselves.
- Gentleness (1 Thessalonians 5:7). Paul was certainly bold, but he was also gentle like a mother caring for her children. This balance is important. Many today who take pride in their boldness need to work on being gentle like a caring mother.
- Relationships (1 Thessalonians 5:8). Paul’s ministry involved sharing the gospel and sharing himself. He was more than a presence on the platform. Ministers must remember that people aren’t an impediment to our job. People are the job.