In Deliberate Church Mark Dever lays out the four priorities of a pastor. Helpfully, they all start with Ps. Preaching, Praying, People, and Patience.
Boundaries create freedom. If a pastor is supposed to do everything, he’ll be stuck in the web of actually attempting it. No one can, and trying only limits productivity. Know what you’re called to do, and do that. Say “no” to stuff. A lot, sometimes.
There’s immense freedom in knowing exactly what you’re supposed to do, and being able to walk away from distractions. This is one of the reasons Dever’s four things are so helpful. Simplify.
Preaching. People first and foremost need to hear from God. And that means the Bible needs to be taught accurately. And if the Bible would be taught accurately, engagingly, and clearly, time must be given to study, to preparation. Hours in the office are invaluable, even if you’re only typing away at the keyboard. Never underestimate the value of mind-work, of word-work– these are the tools God uses to build his church.
Praying. Spurgeon said “I’d rather teach one man to pray than ten men to preach.” And that is because the public activity of preaching is limp without the private activity of prayer. Eloquence in the pulpit is empty– void of power and influence– if God does not choose to intervene. Lambourghini’s are beautiful, but they still need gas to run.
People. The pastor is known as a shepherd because he spends time with his flock. He knows them. He protects them. He helps them, feeds them, guides them, and teaches them. His work is people work. The word we like to use for this is discipleship– the pastor must be committed to making disciples of Jesus Christ, teaching them to obey all that Christ has commanded them.
Patience. We sow the seed in preaching. We water with prayer. We cultivate the soil with counsel. And then we rest. We can’t do anything else. No, we don’t go through steps one, two, and three and then sit back and watch. We do these things continually while our spirits rest. We cast our anxieties on the Lord. We affirm God’s power to save. We get some sleep.
Patience means not scrambling around like your hair’s on fire screaming, “It’s not working, it’s not working!” It is working. These things do work. Go back to bed. Your hair’s just fine.
Preach, pray, and people (that’s a verbified noun). Lack patience, and soon your preaching and praying and people-ing will suffer. They’ll be the first things to go. Don’t let them.
Take time to consider where the majority of your time is spent. Are you fulfilling your calling? Or has your ministry shriveled up into planning events, administering programs, and putting out fires?