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“Do you want to be a great pastor for God?”
“Don’t quit, don’t fornicate, you will be the only one left and you will be great.”
I was stunned by those words.
Is that all it takes to be great for God as a pastor?
I heard these words for the first time in my Historical Theology class at Dallas Theological Seminary in 1994 from Dr. John Hannah when I was a twenty-three-year-old seminary student studying for the pastorate.
I am now fifty years old and realize how difficult it is and seemingly at times impossible to do these two simple things:
You will be the only one left.
And … well … you’ll be great.
For some of you reading this, this statement is incendiary to you. Maybe you have had a moral failure in the ministry, and have gone through the process of properly being restored, and you are serving God’s people again. If that is the case, please know that this is not a book about bashing those who have quit or had moral failures. I am extremely grateful for those choice servants of the Lord who did the very difficult task of allowing others to dig deep into their hearts and help them be restored to the pastorate. I wish them nothing but the best and I cheer them on, but this book is not about that.
This is not a book about moral supremacy in the ministry. This is not a book about how “perfect” someone can be while serving God’s people. This book is about very good men and women who early on in life dedicated their lives, their entire lives, to serving the Lord and His people as a pastor but do not have the necessary disciplines, principles, and commitments in place to help them do this. Somewhere along the way, their sincere desire to serve the Lord gave way to a lesser desire in their flesh that led to devastating pain, shame, and embarrassment that they never intended to be a part of their bio for God.
This book seeks to answer the question of “how do I set out on a journey to live for God my entire life as a pastor and cross the finish line of life without having prematurely quit or fornicated along the way?”
I have now served at the same church for almost twenty-five years. In 1996, my wife and I traveled to Colorado Springs, CO, with the Southern Baptist Convention and started Vanguard Church. Vanguard was one of thirty-four church plants at the north end of Colorado Springs that year. Almost two and half decades later, I am the only founding pastor still at the church they started. Don’t quit. Don’t fornicate. You will be the only one left and you will be great.
But here’s the problem, I don’t feel great. I pastor a church that has only averaged over 1000 people for one year and that was almost a decade ago. Matter of fact, one year, 23% of the church left in seemingly one week. I really felt “great” that week.
The Good Pastor
by Kelly M. Williams
My professor would tell me I’m great, but my heart tells me I’m average at best. I had grandiose illusions of what the church I planted could become. I had grandiose illusions of who I could be for God. Thirteen years into this journey I was lost, discontent, deeply wounded, confused, angry, hurt, betrayed, and forced to face the reality that I too had created a church with problems. It was not perfect. It did not ring the bell and solve all the dilemmas the modern church is facing. Matter of fact, as I look around, most of my church is just like your church. As a church planter, I wanted to create a unique church, but the problem with that is the church is made up of other people besides me and eventually someone other than yourself has to win out or you get to do it all by yourself. And as I reflect on the church I planted twenty-plus years ago, I realize 80% or more of the church I planted is probably just like every other church. We are not as unique as I thought we would be.
So, the dilemma of this book is that it is a book for pastors who are pastoring churches, but it is not about how to grow a church. This book is about how to keep growing spiritually with God as a pastor while pastoring others to grow spiritually with God. It sounds simple and it is. But after almost twenty-five years, I have discovered what my teacher already knew. Simplicity doesn’t equal easy.
In all of these years of church planting and pastoring, I have discovered four D’s that have anchored me along the way and have enabled me so far to remain faithful to my calling and to my Savior, Jesus. I don’t pretend to have perfected these, matter of fact, I am downright fearful to even put them in writing. I have battled the enemy and his ploys long enough to know I do not want to become more of a target for his anger and rage. I tread very cautiously on what I am going to say in this book because I know I will give an account to my God for how I attempt to lead HIS choice servants who have dedicated their entire lives to serving His people.
Please know I am not an expert. Please know I don’t feel great for God. Please know I don’t even feel significant, but so far, I have attempted to heed my professor’s words and in the pages that follow I am going to attempt to show you how I and others are doing just that. Please take what is helpful for your ministry and life and use it to bring more glory to Jesus and, whatever you find unhelpful, remember this is not the Bible, it is just a book.
My favorite prayer to pray after I preach, teach, or counsel others is this: “Lord, whatever they have heard from me that is of you, help them never forget it. Whatever is of me, I pray they forget it the moment they walk out of the building.”
I am just a servant like you. But I am more convinced than ever that after two plus decades of ministry that these words of wisdom, which I will outline through a series of “Ds” throughout this book, have guided and protected me along my journey. More than I can emphasize with my native tongue, these four Ds have anchored me along the way and allowed me to live out the calling God has placed on my life.
It makes me nervous to say these four Ds will “make you great for God.” But what I do feel comfortable saying is these four Ds can help you be a good pastor for Jesus. And with that said, I think these Ds are good enough. May they anchor you as they have me and may you be able to say at the end of your life these words:
“I didn’t quit.”
“I didn’t fornicate.”
And may you then hear from the Lord…
“Well done, good pastor.”
And you, my friend, will be known as GREAT for God by your spouse, your children, and God’s people in your lifetime!