Pastoral Vision (1)
…but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 2 Peter 3.18
I have worked closely with pastors for over thirty years, and it never ceases to surprise me to learn that many—perhaps most—of the pastors I’ve known maintain a shallow spiritual life, and readily admit it. They don’t pray much. Their time in the Scriptures is all business—getting ready to preach. The practice of spiritual disciplines is a now-and-then, on-again-off-again activity. They have almost no sense of spiritual vision and very little excitement in their walk with the Lord.
No wonder the flocks of God are so marginal to life in our society and have so little vision for anything more.
As shepherds, we won’t have much in the way of a compelling vision for our ministries if we continue to be satisfied with a so-so spiritual life. Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892) addressed this matter to his students: “Whatever his natural gifts, whatever his mental powers may be, [a shepherd] is utterly out of court for spiritual work if he has no spiritual life; and it is his duty to cease the ministerial office until he has received this first and simplest of qualifications for it” (Lectures to My Students).
That’s pretty harsh advice. But where there is no flaming heart for the Lord—“the first and simplest of qualifications”—there will be no flourishing vision for the church.
Everything in pastoral ministry—like everything in life—grows out of vision, what we expect, aspire to, hope and pray for, and devote our energies to. What we “see” as the outcome of our service to the Lord. God invites us to think expansively and work diligently, promising that He can do exceeding abundantly more than whatever we might ask or think (Eph. 3.20; Phil. 2.12). God can always take us further beyond ourselves if we maintain a healthy spiritual life.
But we must enter His vision for our work, and that means above all else, dwelling in His Presence, seeing our lives from His vantage point, believing that He Who called us is faithful and will work in and through us for His Kingdom and glory. If our vision is lacking because our spiritual life is flagging, the way to improve both is by seeking a clearer, more compelling, more constant focus on Jesus and the life of faith, life in the Kingdom of God and Christ.
A rich spiritual life will yield an expansive vision for ministry and the faith to believe that God will do what He shows and calls us to in His Name.
Resources for Shepherds
From the Celtic Revival
We need more leaders with the faith of Patrick. A half-hearted Christian. A slave in Ireland. An unschooled drop-out. But called of God to go to Ireland and serve the very people who enslaved him for six years. God blessed his faithfulness, as Patrick himself testified:
Because I owe so much to God. He gave
me this great boon: That through me He would save
so many heathen, who would be confirmed
as followers of Christ; that in my term
a clergy should be raised to care for them—
so many thousands of the finest men
of Ireland; and that churches by the scores
of hundreds should be built, where they adore
the Lord of glory; and that thousands should
be taught to read the Scriptures, that the good
and perfect will of God they might discern,
that they to follow Him in love might learn.
- Patrick, Confession
Patrick’s vision for Ireland grew out of his love for God and determination to spend and be spent in His service. Vision grows out of relationship. The bigger our view of Christ, exalted in glory, the bolder and clearer our vision will be for how we want Him to use us.
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T. M. Moore
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.