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The Pastor's Guide to Leading and Living
By O. S. Hawkins
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2012 O. S. Hawkins
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe Pastor and His Purpose
The pastor has been given by the Sovereign Lord the highest calling in God's economy. It is not a vocation to be chosen among several options. It is a divine, supernatural calling from the Lord. Jesus put it thus, "You did not choose Me but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit" (John 15:16). Paul said, "I became a minister according to the gift of the grace of God given to me by the effective working of His power" (Eph. 3:7). The pastor has a special calling from God and a special gift that is given to him in order to perform the work of ministry. God's words to Jeremiah are as poignant and personal to a God-called pastor as any to be found anywhere. He said, "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations" (Jer. 1:5). I have always considered this one of the most awesome thoughts a pastor could have. Think about it: before I was formed in my mother's womb, God knew me! But that is not all. God set me apart for a special calling and ordained me to do his will. Nothing nobler could be said of a pastor than what Paul said of David in his Pisidian Antioch address. He said that David "served God's purpose [calling, will] in his own generation, and he fell asleep" (Acts 13:36 NIV). God's purpose is for each of us to find the will of God for our lives and then to do it.
God does not simply call the pastor into ministry; he gifts him for the tasks of the pastorate. God does not call the equipped and gifted; he equips and gifts those whom he calls. That simple statement should be a comfort and a challenge for any and all who feel God's call to ministry. We find the gift of the pastor-teacher listed among those glorious ascension gifts to the church that God bestows for the express purpose of "equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ" (Eph. 4:11–12). There is something supernatural about the God-called pastor. He has the specific spiritual gift of pastoring the church of the Lord Jesus Christ. There were days in the pastorate when the call of God upon my life was the only thing that kept me going. As soon as I sensed God's call to ministry on my life as a young college student, my pastor challenged me saying, "Son, if you can do anything else and find joy, peace, and satisfaction, go and do it. Because, if God has called you, there is no contentment to be found in doing anything else." In Psalm 16:11, it is written, "You will show me the path of life. In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore." I have never understood how anyone could pastor any church without a definite sense of the call of God. This is our purpose, "to serve God's purpose"—his calling and his will for our lives.
Accompanying the sense of a calling to ministry is the confidence that we are "sent" by God for a special purpose. Yes, "there was a man sent from God, whose name was John" (John 1:6). Pastor, put your name there. You are the man sent from God. Think about that! God still calls and sends particular people to particular places for particular purposes. Paul asks in Romans, "How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent?" (Rom. 10:14–15). From the moment I was convinced God had called me into ministry, I have had the sense that I am a "sent man."
It was the summer before my senior year at the university where I was on track to earn my degree in business administration. I had been converted to Christ three years earlier, and as I was nearing graduation, I began to continually ask the Lord the question of Paul in Acts 9:6, "Lord, what do You want me to do?" That particular year a hurricane had swept through a part of Mexico and brought devastation to a particularly poor section of Matamoras. I journeyed there with some friends and spent time helping people rebuild their homes and lives. God used the experience to open my heart to his calling. Riding back to Fort Worth all night on a bus, I wrestled with him and what was a growing and irresistible sense that he was calling me, setting me apart, for the work of the ministry. A few days after I returned home, a gentleman called me (totally unaware of my search for God's will in my life) and asked if I could preach on a given night at the old Union Gospel Rescue Mission downtown. I readily agreed and that simple assignment confirmed in my heart God's purpose for my life. Even as I type these words, I remember the thrill of standing behind that sacred desk in that dilapidated old room and lifting up the Lord Jesus Christ. I do not believe it was sealed in my heart, however, until I made the decision public in my own church. There was something about declaring it publicly and finding the confirmation and encouragement of my church family that sealed the decision forever in my heart. From that moment, I had the assurance that there was a man sent from God whose name was O. S.
Along the years of ministry, I have discovered a very important principle. There is a difference in an achieved ministry and a received ministry. One of the most moving passages of Scripture is found when Pastor Paul is saying a farewell to those he had pastored in Ephesus. Knowing he will see their faces no more, he says, "But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God" (Acts 20:24). Did you catch that phrase? "The ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus." And note the way he ends the Colossian epistle, "Take heed to the ministry which you have received in the Lord, that you may fulfill it" (Col. 4:17). Paul saw his calling as a "received ministry." We do not have a ministry. It belongs to the Lord. I must confess I cringe each and every time I hear someone talk about "my ministry." Pastor, you do not have a ministry. It is not yours. You are a steward and an ambassador. You have received a ministry from the Lord Jesus. There are stark differences between an "achieved ministry" and a "received ministry." An achieved ministry seeks the applause and the amen of men. A received ministry seeks the applause and the amen of God. An achieved ministry may succeed even though it fails. A received ministry may fail (in the eyes of men) even though it succeeds (in the eyes of God). Pastor, one of the most liberating discoveries you will ever make is to discover, or perhaps rediscover, that, like Paul, you have "received a ministry" from the Lord. The pastor's calling is to "serve God's purpose" and glorify his holy name in the process.
After I surrendered to God's call to ministry, I continued my senior year in college and finished with a bachelor of business administration degree. I then went to Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, my hometown, to begin work on the master of divinity degree.
I had within my soul a passion and burning desire to preach, but there seemed to be no opportunities afforded me, and, what is more, I saw no possibilities on the horizon. I remember going into the student center and looking on the information board and seeing various flyers and promotional pieces of my fellow seminarians preaching at various forums such as youth revivals, youth rallies, or supply preaching assignments. And nothing came my way.
On a given day, feeling rather sorry for myself and wondering why, if God called me to preach, I was not having any opportunities, I got in my car and drove across town to talk with my pastor. W. Fred Swank was not known for his compassion on what he thought were trivial matters and could at times be rather gruff. I walked into his office and poured out my dilemma to him. Poor me! He looked up from his desk and abruptly said, "Son, you be faithful over little things and God will make you ruler over greater things. Now, go on your way and close the door when you leave." That was it! I got in my car and you can probably still see the stripes of black rubber marks in the parking lot. I was incensed at his "insensitivity." "You be faithful over little things."
I started driving down Lancaster Street repeating those words sarcastically over and over—"You be faithful over little things." I passed a nursing home I had seen a thousand times but never really saw it until that day. Without thinking, I turned into the parking lot. I went in and met the manager, and she agreed to let me start coming there on Sunday afternoons and have services for the residents. I got back in my car and drove downtown to lower Houston Street and pulled up to a rescue mission. I went in and met Brother Williams who ran it, and he agreed to let me come there on Tuesday evenings and preach to the skid row inhabitants of his mission.
That advice Dr. Swank gave me was the greatest I ever received. I can tell you that today, more than thirty-five years later, there has not been a week go by in my life when I have not had multiple opportunities to preach the unsearchable riches of Christ. Pastor, one of the most practical things we can do is to be faithful over little things. When we are, God has his own ways of enlarging our coasts and expanding our opportunities.
One of the questions that sometimes challenges us is "How can I know that God is calling me to a certain purpose or place? How can I be sure?" Apart from the supernatural phenomenon of my spirit bearing witness with his own spirit within my heart confirming my calling, there are three practical approaches to finding God's will.
The first word is desire. I do not believe that God will call you to any particular calling without first implanting a desire in your heart to do so. The psalmist said, "Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart" (Ps. 37:4). Now, this does not mean that whatever your little heart desires, God will give you. It means that God will implant those desires in your heart to do his will. God will give you the desire. We sometimes hear someone testify that "God called me to preach, but I did not want to do it." I have difficulty with that because if God is calling us to preach, he will begin by giving us the desire to do so.
The second operative word is opportunity. In seeking to discover God's will, desire is not enough. It must be accompanied by an opportunity. More than one of us have had a "desire" to be pastor of such and such a church, but it was not God's will for us because the opportunity did not present itself. For example, I may have the desire to be the next Billy Graham (incidentally, I do not), but it obviously is not God's will for my life. I could go rent Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, where the Dallas Cowboys play, and maybe a few dozen of my friends would show up to hear me!
Third, in finding the will of God in ministry, if you have the desire and are afforded the opportunity, then my counsel is to keep on walking and trust God if it is not his will to shut the door. A good biblical example of this is in Acts 16 when Paul is heading out on his second missionary journey. He tried to go to Asia, but he was "forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word" there. He tried to go to Bithynia, and when he put his hand on the doorknob there, "the Spirit did not permit" him to go in. Even though Paul had a desire to go to these places and preach, the opportunity was not afforded him. There was no rebuke here. He was simply on the move abiding in the truth of Isaiah 30:21, "Your ears shall hear a voice behind you, saying, 'This is the way, walk in it,' whenever you turn to the right hand or whenever you turn to the left." The only way we can hear a voice behind us is to be on the move. Finally, Paul gets to Troas. There, he receives the Macedonian call. The Bible records: "After he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go to Macedonia, concluding that the Lord had called us" (Acts 16:10). The operative word here is concluding. This Greek word symbibazo means that it all came together. It is the word picture of a sweater being knitted that doesn't look like much until it is almost finished. It is the word picture of a jigsaw puzzle that makes little sense until a piece fits here, and another there, and then it all comes together. And so it is with the will of God. It begins with desire; then there is an opportunity; and if these come together, keep walking like Paul, trusting God, and if it is not his will to shut the door, it will all come together for you. Then you, too, can conclude that the Lord has called you to a particular place for a particular task.
Once the pastor has sensed the call of God to preach and has found his place of service, then it is essential from a practical point to understand his role as a God-called pastor. Peter's first letter, and specifically chapter 5, lays this out. Practically, in the church the pastor is called to be the spiritual leader, the servant leader, and the senior leader. Peter uses three words in 1 Peter 5 to illustrate this important role of the pastor.
The pastor's calling is to be the spiritual leader of the church. Peter refers to the pastor as the presbyteros, translated "elder" (1 Peter 5:1). This word generally refers to a fully mature man in the faith. This may or may not have anything to do with a pastor's age. I have known men who have been in ministry for decades who do not show maturity in the faith. And I have known young men who have exhibited extraordinary maturity in ministry. This word, elder, carries with it a profound respect and esteem for the high calling of the office of pastor. The pastor is the spiritual leader of the church.
Peter goes on to remind us that the pastor is the servant leader of the church. He chooses the word, which in its noun form is poimen, translated "shepherd," to describe this task of the pastor (1 Peter 5:2). The shepherd is to lead, feed, protect, and serve the flock of God under his care. This concept of the servant nature of the under-shepherd is found in the word hyperetes, or "under rower" in other places in Scripture. This word refers to those slaves who sat down in the belly of those great Greek ships chained to the oars and rowed through the waters of the sea. This is the spirit of the pastor. He takes his place as an under rower. He doesn't have to be on deck barking out orders for others to follow. He leads with a servant's heart.
Peter continues in revealing that not only is the pastor to be the spiritual leader and servant leader of the church but also the senior leader as well. Here he chooses the word episkopos to describe this task (1 Peter 5:2). We translate this word "overseer." The emphasis here is on the administrative responsibilities of the pastor. Many a pastor has been less successful because he failed to see the importance of this task in ministry. If the pastor is God-anointed, God-appointed, and God-called, then no one should know what is best for the church where he serves as the pastor. He is the one whom God has appointed to give oversight to the church of God. He is the one who will one day stand before God to give account for his faithfulness to this task.
Practically speaking, the local New Testament pastor is to be the spiritual leader, the servant leader, and the senior leader of the church, recognizing full well that there is a difference in an achieved ministry and a received ministry.
The pastor should see himself as a "sent man." Perhaps one of the greatest pressure points in the pastorate comes at this point. The illustration of this truth is found in the description of the beginning of Paul's first missionary journey recorded for all posterity in Acts 13. He saw himself as a "sent man." After the church at Antioch had determined that God had set Paul and Barnabas apart from the others for this special calling, the Bible records, "Then, having fasted and prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them away" (Acts 13:3). The very next verse records, "So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia, and from there sailed to Cyprus" (Acts 13:4). Note the word sent in both verses. This brings an obvious question. Who sent them? Who sends us? Verse 3 says the church "sent" them. Verse 4 says the Holy Spirit "sent" them. So what happens when a pastor is called to the church? Is it in the hands of the church to call him or does God call him? Herein lies the issue with the call of a pastor to the church.
Excerpted from The Pastor's Guide to Leading and Living by O. S. Hawkins Copyright © 2012 by O. S. Hawkins. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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