My new book Gospel-Driven Ministry: An Introduction to the Life and Calling of a Pastor releases today. Here is an edited excerpt:
It is the mandate of every pastor to become well acquainted with death. And the truth is, there are a million little deaths to die along the road to the big one. Every day as we tend to Christ’s flock, we are dealing, whether we realize it or not, with the necessity of our own death to self and the dying of self to others. I used to think that pastoral ministry was about helping people live. Then I learned it was actually about helping people die. These daily deaths, these momentary self-crucifixions, are in fact necessary for anyone who wants to live forever. “Die before you die,” C. S. Lewis writes. “There is no chance after.”
Whether you are facing the daunting prospect of congregational conflict or your eyes are wide in wonder at seeing your “wish-dream” come to life, you must heed your death in Christ. Milton Vincent writes:
“When my flesh yearns for some prohibited thing, I must die. When called to do something I don’t want to do, I must die. When I wish to be selfish and serve no one, I must die. When shattered by hardships that I despise, I must die. When wanting to cling to wrongs done against me, I must die. When enticed by allurements of the world, I must die. When wishing to keep besetting sins secret, I must die. When wants that are borderline needs are left unmet, I must die. When dreams that are good seem shoved aside, I must die.”
Do you die, pastor? Because you will. This will be your legacy, in fact — your demonstrating of life in Christ, having taken up his cross and having gloried in his resurrection. Everything else is shifting sand.
Shortly after I left the pastorate and moved to a new city to embark on a new season of ministry, I began visiting a Christian counselor, mainly to just process the mess of me. As I began to recount for him the weight of my previous ministry, how I had spent the last few years of my last assignment daily facing the darkness of death, the floodgates opened. I buried too many friends. Precious saints. Those with whom I’d eaten, laughed, cried, sung, and served. I walked with them all through weeks and months of suffering, seeing them across their finish line into glory. It seemed as though as soon as we’d put one in the ground, another one would become sick.
I was still mourning up until my final months of ministry. And at the same time, as I was caring at the bedside of a good friend who was dying of pancreatic cancer, I could sense some in the church turning on me. I endeavored to ignore the pain of that, to stuff it down deep within me. While I was helping someone die, the church was helping me die to self. And it was painful in ways I didn’t recognize.
The counselor suggested I had never really processed all that death. I sort of laughed that off at the time. Now I think he was more right than either of us knew. I had come to him still licking some wounds from church life. I still carry the scars and callouses. I often lament them. But I also treasure them.
Paul contemplates his death this way:
“For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing” (2 Tim 4:6–8 ESV).
Whatever pain or grief you are enduring (or will endure) in your ministry, picture getting to the end, whenever that may be, and feeling the rough places on your flesh, the fatigue in your bones, the weariness behind your eyes, and considering it all glory, all worth it, all part of the treasure of knowing Jesus and helping others know him too.
You can buy “Gospel-Driven Ministry” via Amazon or wherever you buy Christian books. Here’s what some people are saying about it:
“There are certain books that a pastor should read once a year to regain his gospel sanity, clarity of calling, passion for his Savior, love for his people and a renewed sense of what his daily work is. Gospel-Driven Ministry is one of those books. It holds the gospel forward, not just as a preacher’s core message, but also as his model and motivation for who he is to be and what he is called to do. Pastor, buy this book and put it in your yearly reading rotation.” — Paul Tripp
“Current and future pastors – and those who love them – need to read this book.” — Harold L. Senkbeil, Executive Director Emeritus, DOXOLOGY: The Lutheran Center for Spiritual Care and Counsel, Author of The Care of Souls: Cultivating a Pastor’s Heart
“If you know one thing about Jared, it’s that he has an unwavering passion for gospel-centrality. Gospel-Driven Ministry reads like a greatest-hits of Jared’s wisdom and experience from years of pastoring both local congregations and local pastors. A must-have for every pastor and ministry leader who desires to keep the gospel at the core of their ministry and practice.” — Ronnie Martin, Lead Pastor, Substance Church, Ashland, OH
“I’d recommend this book to any pastor, especially those just starting in their ministry, and any others desiring to understand what faithful leadership in God’s church looks like. Saturated in the gospel-depth that has characterized his other books, Jared shows us that a church leader is not just a defender of truth but a servant of people. I was particularly moved by Jared’s challenge that we represent the love of God to people who walk through our doors. What an incredible and weighty privilege. May God use this book to raise up a generation of faithful servant leaders!” — J.D. Greear
“In Gospel Driven Ministry, Jared Wilson invites us to sit down and reimagine the call of pastor ministry in biblical terms, as a supernatural stewardship. You hold in your hands a book that will not only recalibrate your heart but will also reenergize your hands to navigate the practical day to day work among the people God has called you to serve. Again, and again, Jared’s writings set him apart as a true pastor to pastors. You will do well to apply his wise and experienced counsel.” — Matt Capps, Senior Pastor, Fairview Baptist Church, Apex, NC
“Whether you are new pastor or a seasoned veteran of many years, Gospel Driven Ministry will educate, instruct and encourage you in your service to the Lord and His people. Combining personal experience, theological understanding, and a deep love for Christ’s church, Jared Wilson offers timely wisdom for those called, in these challenging times, to shepherd the flock of God.” — Brian Brodersen, Senior Pastor, Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa, California
“With clarity and the requisite pastoral experience, in Gospel-Driven Ministry, Jared Wilson seeks to bring us back to the gospel roots that drive faithful pastoral ministry. If you’re considering pastoral ministry or are in the habit of training up gospel ministers, pick up this book and use it as a “gospel primer” for ministry.” — Juan R. Sanchez, senior pastor, High Pointe Baptist Church, Austin, Texas
“Gospel Driven Ministry is an honest, practical, instructive, and comprehensive work on pastoring that I wish would have been available to me twenty-five years ago.” — JR Vassar, Lead Pastor of Church at the Cross and author of Glory Hunger: God, the Gospel and our Quest for Something More
“In Gospel-Driven Ministry, Jared Wilson provides a timely and necessary reminder of the transformative power of the gospel as the cornerstone of all effective pastoral ministry. With the warmth and wisdom of a seasoned pastor, Wilson calls the reader to consider not only the shape of their ministry, but more importantly their motivation for it.” — Dr. Malcolm Gill, Director of Postgraduate Studies, Lecturer in Greek, New Testament, and Homiletics, Sydney Missionary & Bible College, Sydney, Australia
“Absorbing this book will yield more of Christ in you and his Church.” — Jonathan Dodson, Lead Pastor of City Life Church and author of Gospel-Centered Discipleship, Here in Spirit, and Our Good Crisis: Overcoming Moral Chaos with the Beatitudes