Heading south on Highway 99 out of Vancouver, Canada in a faithful, but beat-up old Ford Ranger during an extra cold January day, I asked a couple of questions that scared me, but were formational for my journey into pastoral ministry:
“Where am I weak? Where do I need to grow?”
I was heading back from sitting in on a couple of Michael Goheen’s classes at Regent Seminary with my pastor, who was completing his MDiv. My official title was “Executive Assistant,” but if you know me and my organizational skills you would laugh. The title should have been, “guy who is trying to figure out how to be a pastor,” but since that’s not very official sounding, I was an EA.
Theologically Astute and Blind Spots Galore
See, ever since I got saved in my early 20’s, I was always pretty theologically inclined. I enjoyed learning about God, his attributes, and his ways. I had thrown myself into study within the first month or so of meeting Jesus and felt pretty well rounded in my understanding and my abilities to apply theology in a pastoral setting. Youthful confidence or pride would be a good way to sum it up.
Anyway, I knew I had blind spots. I knew there was no way I was ready to enter pastoral ministry until I had a trusted friend, pastor, and guide to challenge me in my growth. So I asked, “Where am I weak? Where do I need to grow?”
If you are an aspiring pastor, new pastor, or young pastor you need to ask these questions too.
Find a Trusted Guide
I was blessed to have a pastor who cared about me, not just as a project to get another church planted or another pastoral candidate into ministry, but one who truly cared about me, invited me into his family, and spoke into my life at every level.
I trusted my pastor not to misuse my desire for guidance to push his will into my life or affirm me in ways that wouldn’t have been helpful, but to speak lovingly and truthfully into my soul.
If you are growing, you’ve got to find a trusted guide to do that for you also. Seek them out, pray to the Lord to provide them for you, and develop a relationship that enables you to trust in their guidance. It will serve you well.
Do What They Tell You
This should go without saying, but once you find that trusted guide and ask your questions, you need to be diligent about doing what they tell you.
It might seem overwhelming to begin with, but that should be a sign of good advice. If you are truly weak in an area, it’s going to be overwhelming when you think about growing there. It will be challenging, but that’s a good thing. Commit yourself to that growth.
Having the integrity to commit yourself to follow the advice of your guide is a good mark of character that will see you, not just through this time of growth, but future times as well.
Ask Again Every New Season
If I’ve learned much in the past eight years or so since I first asked those questions it’s this: with each new season of life and ministry there are new areas that are revealed to me about where I need to grow. Make a practice of it. You aren’t likely going to identify all of your weaknesses and growth areas, so keep asking, keep growing, and keep developing as a follower of Jesus and ministry leader.
Your congregation and those that you lead, or will eventually lead, will be blessed by it.