In just a few weeks, our family will be answering God’s call and transitioning to a new ministry in Illinois. As I look back on the the past 14 years of ministry in Liberal, KS, God has blessed me abundantly with an amazing church to call home, and a wonderful pastor to call my friend. Pastor Bill Prater has been a mentor, an encourager, and a friend to me, for which I am thankful.
The life and ministry lessons I’ve learned from him are more than I could express here, but I want to give you a few of them that have shaped and made me a better pastor and ministry leader.
Here are 8 life and ministry lessons I’ve learned from my Pastor:
First and foremost, in ministry and in life, God deserves our best. Shooting from the hip in ministry may have been acceptable in previous generations, but in a world that expects excellence in every other area of life, they ought not be disappointed by failing to find it in the church.
Excellence in ministry makes God look good and desirable to a watching world!
One of the great traits of my Pastor is that he’s the same in private as he is in public. I’ve watched him live out in his life what he preaches from his pulpit. I’ve watched him give to the needy, pray with the sick, meet the needs of the hurting, and minister to the least of these.
He’s not just a “do as I say” kind of guy, but a “do as I do” exemplary leader. Ministry and leadership is more than just being able to talk the talk, but walk the walk as well, and nobody knows the pastor as well as his family and staff. I’m thankful to be able to say that my Pastor is “the real deal.”
If we fail to stay relevant, we fail to stay effective. The world is looking to see how spiritual things can be made practical in their daily lives. As churches, we’ve got to present the Bible as the living and life-changing book that it is. With that end in mind, we can be unique without being unbiblical, we can be stylish without being sinful, and we can stay relevant without being guilty of compromise.
Technology comes with it’s pros and cons, but if believers disregard it as completely irrelevant in the church, they potentially miss out on reaching a large number of people they could otherwise be more likely to influence for Christ.
Technology is neither right nor wrong in and of itself. It can be misused, overused, and abused, but it can also be an effective tool to further the cause of Christ through the local church when it’s used with caution, consideration and some good old common sense.
Watching my Pastor over the years has taught me that it’s okay to not always be the one in the drivers seat of every detail of leadership. Different people in an organization lead at different times, because everyone has something valuable to bring to the table.
There’s no shame in a leader allowing others on the team to step to the plate and utilize their strengths through leading in ministry. Every leader doesn’t need to be good at everything, otherwise, there’s no need for a team. But having a team requires that there be shared leadership at the appropriate times.
Also, wise leaders are not intimidated to surround themselves with other strong leaders, but rather, they look for them, and attract them. Because leadership is not about making sure I always look the best, it’s about multiplying effectiveness to accomplish the mission at hand, and often that best happens through the avenue of shared leadership.
On a similar note, Pastor has never been a micro-manager, which has proven liberating to those he leads to reach their full potential. Like Pastor always says, “That’s your baby, you rock it.” If you trust someone enough to hire them, trust them enough to let them do the job.
One of the keys to success at our church over the years is the passion and pursuit that our Pastor has had for church unity. Ministry is conducted with the end in mind of a church that is passionate together in the pursuit of truth and the priority of grace.
When people can rally around a unified cause through a place of grace where everyone can feel welcomed and loved, they can literally change their community and their world.
A great key to reaching your community is being involved in it. So many churches are guilty of reaching no farther than their four walls to their own detriment and that of the world around them as well.
Pastor has been intentionally engaged in our community in a variety of ways and positions over the years, and he has encouraged us as a staff to do the same. This has included serving on boards, opening up our church facility for community events, as well as working or volunteering in some capacity that allows us to regularly rub shoulders with other people who need Jesus.
We try to find ways to regularly engage in our community, and as a result, we’ve seen God bless and grow our church through it!
In the end, we love God by loving people. If there’s any legacy for us to leave, it’s found in the lives of the people God has used us to touch.
Pastor has always kept our focus on being mindful of the faces and names of those whom God has used us to reach. Because at the end of the day, if we haven’t impacted the lives of people, we’ve lost sight of our ultimate mission and calling. Loving people and regularly evaluating our influence in others’ lives has helped us to always keep first things first.
“When it’s all said and done, we should be able to say that sinners have been given hope, the saved have been given help, and the Lord has been lifted high.”
To my Pastor, I say “Thank You” for helping me to become the man of God that I’d not otherwise be without your vision, your friendship, and your leadership in my life. You will always have my greatest love and deepest respect, and I’m forever grateful for the past 14 years that God has allowed us to serve Him together.