My Personal Philosophy of Ministry by Tom Bartmer
For me, there is no higher calling in life than to have an on-going, deep, and loving relationship with God. I echo the apostle Paul who said, "I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection..." (Phil 3:10). It is the deepest desire of my soul to know God in an intimate way, and I thank my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, Who has made that desire possible. Having received His gift of salvation, by faith, I have come to understand that knowing and loving God is inextricably linked to following Him. Jesus said, "If you love me, you will obey what I command." (Jn 14:15) Therefore, my desire to love Him should be equal to my desire to obey Him in all that I do. Having studied the Bible regarding this matter, it is clear to me that God has called each believer to serve Him in a special way, according to the gifts the Holy Spirit has bestowed upon those who are in Christ. Of many things I am convinced, but none as much as the fact that God has called me to be a pastor and to serve Him in that role. Of this calling, there are at least three driving values that I seek to maintain and which serve as a foundation for my philosophy of ministry:
First, as is true of any calling from God, I feel it incumbent upon me to be committed to the process of spiritual growth and growth as a pastor. To the extent that Christ seeks for me to grow and serve others in a pastoral role, I know, too, He seeks to conform me to His image. Again, I echo the thoughts of Paul who said, "Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me...I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." (Phil 3:12-14)
Secondly, I understand that my pastoral calling, though it is the joy of my life, does not supersede my calling as a husband to my wife and father to my children. The hierarchy of my priorities place a personal relationship to God as primary, secondly my family, and thirdly pastoral ministry. The qualifications of a pastor found in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and other related passages demonstrate this measure of priorities to be biblical and sound.
Thirdly, I understand that I am foremost a servant. God has not called me to the pastorate so that I can benefit from a title, or be enamored by prestige, or climb a professional ladder. I have been called to serve. The extent as to the nature of pastoral servitude I will explain later in this paper. Suffice it to say for now, the synonym I believe is most closely associated with a pastor is the word shepherd. A pastor serves by shepherding his flock. A shepherd is basically a caretaker, one who looks after his sheep, leads them to green pastures, protects them, nurtures them, feeds them, and takes care of the their needs. Obviously, a shepherd gives of himself for the health and betterment of his sheep. As a pastor, I seek to give of myself for the spiritual health and betterment of my church. To that end, I give God the praise and the glory, for He has, to my utter amazement, seen fit to place me in such a role. I am humbled to think that I, of all people, would be so greatly blessed. It is by God's grace alone that He has chosen me in this way; I cannot help but to respond with gratitude of heart and the desire to surrender my life to Him in His service. May grant me the strength to finish the race He has set before me, and finish it well.
Philosophy of Ministry Statement
Having now expounded upon the core values that serve as the foundation of my spiritual pilgrimage, I offer the following statement as a personal philosophy of ministry to which I will endeavor to adhere with regards to the pastoral call:
As a man who has been called of God to love and serve Him as a minister of the gospel, I recognize and affirm that I am foremost a servant of people. To that end, I commit my life to the spiritual success of others. I am a shepherd who will take care of his sheep. To those who need help, I will help. To those who are lost, I will lead. To those that hunger for truth, I will feed. To those who hurt, I will care. To those who need God, I will show them Christ.
The question now is, how will I accomplish this philosophy of ministry? To answer that question, I will disseminate the various concepts within the statement and make some practical applications for each:
"As a man who has been called of God to love and serve Him..."
As was stated earlier, of primary importance is my relationship with God. Cultivating that relationship, according to Scripture, is accomplished through the spiritual disciplines such as prayer, bible study, worship, meditation, times of solitude, fasting, and the like. Not only is my personal walk with God hindered by becoming lax in these disciplines, but the effectiveness of my ministry will be hindered as well. If my preaching is to remain fresh and my zeal for serving and loving others remains intact, I must have an avenue to be spiritually fed. How am I to give if I am not receiving? Therefore, I will make daily times set aside for communion with God through prayer and Bible study. I will also be devoted to read books and listen to other preachers expound the Word. In other words, I will try to saturate my life with spiritual input. I also have several leaders in our church to which I hold myself accountable for moral purity and godly living. I have asked them to regularly ask me the hard questions, to which they have wonderfully complied.
"...as a minister of the gospel..."
A wise man once told me that the call to preach is the call to prepare. I take James 3 very seriously, where he states that those who teach should seriously consider the implications of such a position. The understanding that a teacher is held accountable for what he teaches and that greater judgment is given him for teaching error has made me realize that I need a solid grounding of God's Word. If I am to impart His truth to others, I must be sure that I am prepared. This sense of responsibility has been one of the motivating factors of coming to Moody Bible Institute and enrolling in the Pastoral Studies Program. Having now completed my academic experience at Moody, I am much more confident in my ministerial tasks and I thank God for the opportunity He has given me to learn from some of the best teachers on the planet.
"...I recognize and affirm that I am foremost a servant of people..."
Having already shed some light on this topic, I will quickly jump to some of the ways I will apply this particular aspect of the statement. One of the defining characteristics of a servant is humility. And I believe that a spirit of humbleness will help keep my attitude of servanthood alive and kicking. As long as I understand and recognize that I am only a pastor by God's grace, that I do not even remotely deserve what He has entrusted to me, then I can better see that everything I do is, in essence, a service project, engaging a perpetual gratitude for the privilege of doing anything for God. I found myself last week cleaning our church's restrooms and being struck with the fact that even doing that is a tremendous privilege, for I am serving God. I have asked my wife to stop me and let me know if there is ever a time where she senses that certain church tasks are too lowly for me to perform. Not that it should be the pastor's job to doing everything in the church, but that I not ever lose my attitude of servitude for God.
"To that end I commit my life to the spiritual success of others"
Since I am a servant, I serve to help others be a success in their spiritual lives. I see my role as an equipper, someone who can give others the tools they need to be vibrant and victorious Christians. And I will seek to do these things via the gifts that God has granted me to do. The remainder of the statement, then, is the vehicle in which this philosophy and commitment is fleshed out...
"...I am a shepherd who will take care of his sheep..."
God has entrusted me with a newly formed church that has brought a group of Christians together that I have a deep love and caring sense for. They are people who have expressed their love and care for me, and I am compelled to care for them, much as a shepherd would care for his flock. I interjected this analogy in my statement for I believe it beautifully describes what I do and wish to continue doing. It also gives me a graphic picture that will help me memorize this statement and keep it near and dear to my heart. The remaining "To those who..." sentences describe exactly how I am to be a shepherd of my sheep.
"To those who need help I will help"
This speaks to my commitment to do my best to meet any need that is brought before me. In some areas, I feel skilled to help in a direct and personal way. To those needs that are brought before me that I feel unqualified to help or that other people will be of greater help, I will endeavor to point them in the right direction. Again, this sentence affirms the priority of servanthood, whatever the situation may be.
"To those who are lost I will lead"
Spiritual leadership is the crux of pastoral ministry. It is an office that demands the responsibility of leading an entire congregation, of being accountable for the spiritual direction of the church. Such accountability staggers my imagination and puts serious implications on all I do and say, in and out of the pulpit. I must also recognize that others will invariably look to me for spiritual direction, to which I must not neglect the best of efforts.
For example, it is no secret that many look to a pastor for counseling, sometimes over dire circumstances in their life. I believe the pastor's role, by its nature, lends itself to counseling situations, and there has been many a time when people have come to me devastated and hopeless, having no answers to their problems. As a pastor, I seek to give biblical counseling and point people to the truths of scripture. When appropriate I will lead them through various exercises and principled applications to help them deal with their problems. It is not as though I have the answers to all difficulties, but I know that God has provided His resources so that those in distress can find a way of handling their crisis. In and out of the pulpit, I serve to lead people to the biblical principles that will invariably and profoundly effect their lives. Hebrews 4:12 certainly attests to that truth.
"Those who hunger for truth I will feed"
Preaching is my love, and it is the opportunity for me to expound the Word of God to listening ears every weekly service. It is a part of pastoral ministry that I take very seriously, and I will commit a good part of my working week to Bible study and exegesis to be properly prepared to teach the Bible.
"Those who hurt, I will care"
I feel it is the duty of every pastor to give pastoral care to the sick and the dying. It is a minister's responsibility to offer their presence and their prayers to encourage and uplift the down-trodden. Therefore, visiting in peoples homes, hospital visitation, the laying on of hands, according to James 5, and praying with hurting people will encompass my job as a pastor.
"Those who need God, I will show them Christ"
Paul wrote to Timothy to do the work of an evangelist. No pastor's role is complete without the commitment to share the gospel of Christ to the lost. It is my goal to be active in the community in which I serve, to contact people who do not know Christ and seek opportunities to share God's love with them in any way possible. This is my response to the Great Commission given by Christ. Making disciples begins with leading people to a saving knowledge of Christ, and then urging them on to maturity. I would not be fulfilling the calling of God upon my life if I neglect this avenue of ministry.
On a more personal note, fulfilling the role of pastor gives me a deep sense of satisfaction and worth. Of all the pursuits of ministry, it is when I function as a pastor, in the above prescribed manner, that I receive a profound sense of joy and accomplishment. And it is personally fulfilling for me for others to recognize me as a pastor, not for the purpose of inflating an ego but for the privilege of being allowed and encouraged to fulfill a function that gives meaning and joy to my life. This joy, I believe, is the same joy that any believer would experience as they follow and fulfill God's specific calling upon their life. However, a caution must be placed regarding this role of pastor in that it is traditionally elevated above the callings of others within the church. Such attitudes are sometimes manifested in forms that create tyrannical pastoral "regimes". This ought never to be the case, and it shall not be in my ministry. Though I will lead the church, hold members accountable for godly lifestyles, and provide spiritual direction, this in no way implies some innate superiority over others who will serve and lead with me.
In conclusion, my philosophy of ministry has and will continue to define and shape the kind of pastor I am and will be. On occasion I will review it and make any pertinent changes, when having sensed God's leading to re-define or adjust it. It is according to His divine purpose that I seek to conform my life and ministry. As I have in the past seen God change me in many different ways, I know too that, in time, He may re-direct my philosophy of ministry, for His glory and honor.