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Friday, March 8, 2013 | Comments (5)

by John MacArthur

Based on the enormous volume of available material, pastoral ministry would seem to be very complicated. Pastors face a bewildering number of choices as they seek to lead their people. They read books, attend seminars, follow programs promoted by church-growth gurus, and pattern their leadership style after successful pastors. But all too often, the programs, methods, and gimmicks fail to achieve spiritual results, cheating both pastors and congregations of the true blessings of God.

In actuality, however, pastoral work is confoundingly simple. The principles and directions for successful ministry that are laid out in Scripture are sufficient to fully equip the man of God (2 Corinthians 3:5-6, cf. 2 Timothy 3:16-17).

Instead of studying demographics and marketing techniques, or searching for cultural hot buttons to push, church leaders need to understand and obey biblical truth. Methods and trends come and go, and today’s sensational new programs will be tomorrow’s failed experiments. But the principles of godly truth and virtue that characterize an effective minister are timeless. Power and effectiveness in the ministry come from a heart that is right before God and passionately concerned about His plan and His people.

Nowhere is there a better model of a godly spiritual leader than the apostle Paul. His success in the ministry was the overflow of his godly life. He was a man who was focused on the right goals, driven by the right passions, and motivated by the right desires.

In the face of assaults on the Corinthian church by false apostles, Paul was forced to defend himself by presenting his apostolic credentials. And in the midst of his passionate and humble self-defense (2 Corinthians 12:12-19) we see the true marks of an excellent pastor—each one in contrast to the characteristics of false teachers.

The first mark is faithfulness. Unlike the false teachers in Corinth, who sought wealth, fame, and power, Paul’s goal was to be faithful to the Lord. Because he was determined to be loyal to God’s will no matter the cost, he performed the work of an apostle “with all perseverance” (2 Corinthians 12:12). Despite all the hostility, opposition, and persecution from the world he faced throughout his ministry, Paul remained faithful.

Paul ministered faithfully in the midst of constant duress and relentless persecution. As he wrote in his first inspired letter to the Corinthians, “I affirm, brethren, by the boasting in you which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily” (1 Corinthians 15:31). He lived every day knowing it could be his last; the mob in the next town he preached in might take his life, or one of the numerous Jewish plots against his life (Acts 20:19) might finally succeed.

God’s spokesmen have always faced opposition and hostility. He warned Jeremiah, “Now, gird up your loins and arise, and speak to them all which I command you. Do not be dismayed before them, or I will dismay you before them. . . . They will fight against you, but they will not overcome you, for I am with you to deliver you” (Jeremiah 1:17, 19).

The Lord charged Ezekiel, “And you, son of man, neither fear them nor fear their words, though thistles and thorns are with you and you sit on scorpions; neither fear their words nor be dismayed at their presence, for they are a rebellious house” (Ezekiel 2:6). John the Baptist was the greatest man who had lived up to his time (Matthew 11:11), yet he suffered imprisonment (Matthew 14:3) and martyrdom (Matthew 14:10).

And while most pastors and church leaders today won’t ever face physical persecution or the threat of death, they still endure opposition. To begin with, they’re facing off against a sinful culture bent in defiance of God’s Word. The world hates those who bear the message of truth and light because they hate the Truth and Light (John 3:20).

On top of that, biblical shepherds are charged with leading and protecting flocks full of sinners—each one with his or her own sinful habits and patterns to break and spiritual growth to nurture and stimulate. It’s a joy and privilege to shepherd God’s people, but it’s also difficult, sometimes discouraging work. And from the world’s perspective, there’s little reward for faithful shepherds’ labor.

The truth is the world has nothing of lasting value to offer them. Instead, God’s true servants seek an eternal reward. Jesus told His followers, “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great” (Matthew 5:11-12). At the end of his life, Paul triumphantly wrote to Timothy, “In the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Timothy 4:8).

False teachers work for earthly rewards; true preachers work faithfully for a heavenly reward. Paul was determined to remain loyal to his calling despite the hostility from the world, knowing that “momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison” (2 Corinthians 4:17).

Excellent servants of the Lord aren’t hindered, swayed, or overwhelmed by difficult circumstances—they faithfully press on with their focus fixed on their heavenly reward.

(Adapted from 2 Corinthians: The MacArthur New Testament Commentary.)


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#1  Posted by Janice Noland  |  Friday, March 8, 2013 at 10:31 AM

Excellent post, Pastor MacArthur!

I would add that it is very difficult for a pastor to faithfully fulfill his duty to shepherd and feed the flock of God when the members of his church do not understand what his calling truly is. It is very joyful for a pastor to shepherd a flock who

1. Wants him to feed them with the whole counsel of God (not just feel-good sermons)

2. Knows he is not responsible for numerical growth (God is)

3. Knows he is not there to draw in and appease the unregenerate

4. Knows he is not responsible for the work of the ministry but that the sheep are. The pastor is called to equip the sheep to do the work of the ministry (Ephesians 4:11-13).

It’s a rare and beautiful thing when both the shepherd and the sheep are in agreement on this.

#3  Posted by Michael Kennedy  |  Monday, March 11, 2013 at 6:06 AM

I, too, think this is an excellent blog. I must say, although not a pastor, I do teach at certain times. Let me tell you, if you pray, "Lord, make me into the man You want me to be in order to do this..." I do know that He will answer that prayer and... I needed some making; with my character. Without the Lord changing a heart that needs changing and keeping those changes in the forethoughts of his purpose, that teacher probably won't withstand any persecution in a manner worthy of approval from God or the pupils and find it hard to get his message to stick. I'm speaking about the anger that rises in a person and they react emotionally instead of acting rationally; in the"self- controlled" fruit of the Spirit " aspect. Because some people are raised without learning self control, it is not easy to go through that sanctifying prossess.

It would be better for a person to come to grips with him or herself about the inner emotional problems that they have and seek the Holy Spirit's help to change them first, than to try to circumvent that problem just to say that they have it all together, lose it emotionally and stop doing what God wants them to do. Like the ol' cliche'....Live it, and THEN if you HAVE TO...use words.

I'm saying God has been dealing with me and showing me His inner peace I still don't possess, but desire to do so. But little by little I have learned and I know God will continue to show me how to love like Him, so I can be faithful like Paul and others. Thank you.

#4  Posted by Brad Kennedy  |  Monday, March 11, 2013 at 2:01 PM

Michael (3)

The obedience of the slave purchased by the blood of Christ produces love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self control (Gal. 5:22-26). Be thankful that God is dealing with you as a son. When you mature and realize that you are as much a slave as a son, you will manifest all of these fruits for HIS glory and your joy. May the LORD produce in you a steadfast heart!

#5  Posted by Michael Kennedy  |  Tuesday, March 12, 2013 at 9:03 AM

Brad (4)

from one Kennedy to another, thanks for the positive words regarding my comment. ( I'm out of St. Louis...where you?)

I AM grateful that God is correcting me, but it still is difficult sometimes. Like, how does something finally sink in when you don't realize it's happening, but it is and does? I guess if a person really wants to do for God, the Holy Spirit knows and knows what to do?.....Hmmm, obviously.

Like the time I asked for some help to cure my cursing. One day I lost it at work; couldn't do something that was difficult and shouted a whole lot of expletives.... making me feel better, but also feeling bad about what I just did. In trying to apologize to the guys around me, I IMMEDIATELY bit my tongue and cheeks in about 6 places as soon as I opened my mouth! While holding my mouth open with my hand covering it, I said, "AAahhhhhh... I KNOW Who did that!" Man,that hurt!!

Oh, yeah, He will use your body to teach us too, I think. Like, on another test, He allowed me to hit my head on some pipes overhanging off my truck.... and BAM, down I went! But this time, as hard as it was NOT to say more stuff, I actually didn't because I was more aware of trying not to... I guess. But that didn't stop me from just yelling AAHHH! 3 times with my mouth shut!! Someday maybe I'll just be quiet, I don't know. But, yes, some sanctifying processes are a real BIG test sometimes. ( I did claim that last one a VICTORY though).

I know, too, that God is no respecter of persons and I think He will use any way to get His job done in us. Problem is , I'm just too slow of a learner! (I thank God for His constant mercy, too)

Please pray that for me regarding this as I do want to be a better example for Him. Thanks again for the support. God bless you, sir, and all who may have read this. Thanks GTY and God, forever!

#6  Posted by Brad Kennedy  |  Tuesday, March 12, 2013 at 3:23 PM

Michael, I live in Montgomery, AL. I will remember you in prayer. As a fellow believer, I encourage you to remember that Jesus taught us that whatever fills a man's heart will come out of his mouth whether good treasure or vile. Meditate on the gospel of Matthew, chapters 5 thru 7 to begin replacing the vileness with good treasure. Memorize Ephesians 4:29-30, and Romans 12:1 to start. Read and meditate on Scripture daily. Go to and you can listen to Scripture as it is read to you. Do not seek the ungodly for counsel. What fellowship is there between darkness and light? Serve the Lord with all your might in your local church. Seek others who love the Lord and be a friend. Psalm 51:17. Listen to Pastor John's sermons from this site. If you are a child of the living God, do not profane His holiness in the presence of others with the murmuring words of a fool. Exercise self-control for His glory and your witness. I will pray again, may the LORD grant you a steadfast heart. "Stand firm in the faith, act like a man, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love."