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The Priorities of Ministry

There will never be enough time to do it all. The best we can hope for is not to get a lot of tasks completed in our busy schedules, rather it is that we complete the right tasks. My own ministry is often driven by what I term “paperwork” including bulletins, newsletters, web site design, and other such odd jobs. I believe that it’s important for the church to put her best foot forward, so I am often driven by the details. Occassionally, however, I find myself in need of a revival of right priorities for ministry. So here are my three “P’s” of ministry, ranked by importance…

First, Prayerwork.

Acts six is unavoidable in any discussion about priorities in ministry. The overworked apostles, under pressure by various interest-groups within the church, needed desperately to get back to the Bible and prayer. So they asked the church to set aside seven men to oversee the benevolence work of the church, that they might give themselves more fully to time with God. One of my former pastors, Don Chandler, used to say that the people you preach to will know within a few weeks of hearing your preaching whether you have been with God or not.

It’s been wisely said that God is more interested in preparing the man than He is in preparing the message. That’s why prayer must be viewed as just as importantly as sermon preparation. In my article, The Two Halves of Sermon-Making, I relate the principle of the prayerful side of preparing messages.

Second, Peoplework.

God calls men to preach, but the essence of preaching through a lifetime of ministry will be to make disciples. Disciples are not made on accident. Instead they require personal attention. Though too much ministry to people may indeed rob our time with God, individual people are still more important than the little tasks that will steal all of our time.

Pastors cannot possibly visit everyone every week and stay fresh in the pulpit. Depending on the size of his church, the wise Pastor will decide the most pertinent needs and attend to them. One Pastor of a large church told his congregation, “You don’t want to see me at the hospital because if you do, you’re either dying or you’ve just had a baby!” Nonetheless, people are always worthy of our time.

The greater part of peoplework for the Pastor will be spent in disciple-making. Bill Hull wrote an excellent book called The Disciple-Making Pastor. If Hull’s conclusions were followed to their end, the Pastor would spend little time at all on mass evangelism. But the basic premise is that a Pastor should invest himself wisely into “a few good men” and lead them to disciple others in turn.

Third, Paperwork.

What often distracts me from the more important ministries is the paperwork of the ministry. There will be an endless stream of minute tasks to be completed. The Pastor could easily fill all of his time on the phone, handling the business issues of the church, and printing and folding materials for distribution. The hard-to-find balance here is between achieving excellence in the details without allowing the details to dominate.

At the end of a given week, a Pastor’s goal should be to say that he’s given Himself first and foremost to God, secondly to people, and thirdly to the paperwork of the ministry. Prayer and sermon preparation will afford him authority before the throne of God. Peoplework will earn him a hearing with the flock. And paperwork will make the ministry merry-go-round keep going.

May God carry busy Pastors through busy weeks until we can all afford personal secretaries!