I’m always on the lookout for quality pastoral resources to help me grow as a shepherd. I’m particularly thankful for books that bring me back to the basics of my pastoral calling.
Danny Akin and Scott Pace have helped me regain my bearings with their recently released book, Pastoral Theology: Theological Foundations For Who a Pastor Is and What He Does. With clarity, concision, and a reasonable amount of alliteration, they give pastors a reliable guide for understanding the biblical and theological foundations of pastoral work.
I recently corresponded with Akin and Pace about discerning a pastor’s call, social media, pornography, good works, and more.
You discuss the importance of rightly discerning one’s calling as a pastor. How does a current pastor discern if he has misjudged his calling?
The two most common reasons someone mistakenly embraces pastoral ministry as a calling is in response to the well-meaning encouragement of other people or a sincere, yet misguided, desire to maximize their usefulness to the Lord. As a result, their lack of calling is often revealed through corresponding signs: when the support of others wanes or shifts to criticism, or when ministry hardships reveal that their efforts to serve God in a ministerial capacity don’t equate to a deeper devotion for him.
Those serving in pastoral ministry can also discern their misplaced calling when they begin to recognize the absence of the necessary spiritual gifts, their ineffectiveness in vocational ministry, or a lack of genuine fulfillment in their pastoral responsibilities. If the doubt regarding their pastoral calling begins to severely discourage them or causes them to become ineffective, it may be necessary to step away for a season of discernment, renewal, or even redirection. Seeking the counsel of other trusted pastors can be extremely helpful.
Ministry will be difficult and at times overwhelming, but certainty regarding the call will determine whether we should stand firm or step down. Ultimately, we must remember that usefulness to the Lord and spiritual success isn’t measured by our position or status but by our faithfulness to God’s will.
Should pastors have a presence on social media? If so, how can they protect themselves from indulging in self-promotion?
It would be irresponsible to ignore the potential impact of social media for the cause of Christ. Posts that promote the church or ministry, proclaim Scripture, or advocate for biblical truths and worthy causes can be leveraged for the gospel. These should be favored over social soapboxes and rants, personal accomplishments, or ministry opportunities that can be interpreted as selfish attempts to gain notoriety.
Our personal posts should exalt Christ, encourage his people, and celebrate the achievements of others. When our posts center around our family or other aspects of our personal lives, they can be helpful windows of transparency for a watching world. But even these must display a spirit of humility as we honor the Lord and enjoy his blessings. It can be helpful to post through ministry accounts to deflect the spotlight and defuse misperceptions of self-promotion.
What word would you give to pastors caught in the clutches of pornography?
We all have struggles, not because we’re pastors but because we’re people. Yet the pastoral office requires our personal holiness, and sexual purity must be guarded with the utmost diligence. For those who struggle with pornography, practical steps of personal accountability, strategic safeguards, and spiritual devotion must be immediately taken to combat and overcome temptation.
Others who are suffering through a prolonged battle and continue to indulge in pornography must be willing to discreetly but honestly confess to their church leadership, subject themselves to a season of redemptive discipline, and decisively deal with their sexual sin before they can be restored. Continuing to struggle with this deadly sin in secret will only result in the destruction of your family, the collapse of your ministry, and disgracing the name of Jesus who died to rescue your from the vice of sin.
In light of 2 Timothy 2:24–26, how can pastors avoid the twin temptations of constant quarreling and cowardly compromise? How might a man know he has drifted into one or the other?
As pastors, we’re called to defend and contend for the faith (Titus 1:9; Jude 3). But we’re also called to be peacemakers and peacekeepers (Matt. 5:9; Rom. 12:18), preserving the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Eph. 4:3). These callings require us to carefully discern which battles are worth fighting (and losing!). We must perform theological and ministerial triage to determine which things of utmost importance require our unwavering defense and support.
As we navigate debatable issues, we can’t compromise the truth or our testimony. Like Jesus, we must blend grace and truth (John 1:14), using tact and diplomacy to persuade others with a winsome, yet resolved, disposition. Scripture requires us to be gentle and not quarrelsome (1 Tim. 3:3), patient and not arrogant or quick-tempered (Titus 1:7), while we hold firm to our biblical convictions (Titus 1:9).
When you lead from a defensive posture, argue through hypothetical scenarios, or preach your sermons with specific targets in mind, you may have drifted into the raging waters of a quarrelsome temperament. Conversely, when you constantly worry what people think, feel paranoid about others’ actions and opinions, avoid “hard to hear” truths in your sermons, or apologize for your decisions, you may have steered into the ditch of cowardly compromise.
Paul tells Titus to be a model of good works (Titus 2:7). What does it look like for a pastor to be a model of good works?
Good works are emphasized throughout Paul’s letter to Titus. They’re evidence of genuine salvation (1:16), and they’re the practical goal of our faith (2:14). In order for us to effectively exhort our people to do good works (3:8), we must embody and exemplify the righteous deeds we endorse.
Practically, this involves demonstrating good works that exhibit humility, mercy, and justice (Micah 6:8). Pastorally speaking, we must love strangers, extending hospitality to others (1:8). We must meet “urgent needs” by caring for the sick, ministering to the hurting, and serving the underprivileged and disadvantaged (Titus 3:14; Matt. 25:34–40).
But pastoral good works also include encouraging and empowering church members by exhibiting servant leadership that embodies the kindness and humility of Jesus (Mark 10:45). We must also actively serve and support our communities, “showing perfect courtesy to all people” (3:1–2). Perhaps the greatest and most important “good work” for a pastor to model is a consistent commitment to personal evangelism, sharing the good news of God’s grace that’s available to all people through Jesus Christ (2:11).