After 25 years in ministry, traveling to 32 countries, and preaching to folks in every conceivable setting and denomination, I have concluded that the best, most helpful advice I can give to pastors and leaders is 3 simple words:
PREACH THE GOSPEL
There are other important things I could suggest. Take a vacation. Pray more frequently. Guard your health. Love your family. All good advice, to be sure, and we must do these things. But the gospel is essential and eternal. It stands over and above every other consideration for a leader’s life because our love of, and devotion to the gospel frames and fuels every decision we make and every passion we pursue in life.
What is the gospel? Though there are various ways we live out and proclaim it (patience, gentleness, longsuffering, preaching, teaching, witnessing), the gospel is essentially two things.
1. A story to tell– It is the story of what God did (and is doing) for humanity through Jesus Christ. As the early church declared, “Christ has died. Christ has risen. Christ will come again.” It’s the testimony that Jesus loved us enough to take our place on the cross and that He rose from the grave defeating death. People cannot resist this story.
2. A Person to know– The gospel is the Person of Jesus Christ. He is loving, forgiving, gentle, and compassionate. He is the best friend we could ever have. He protects us, guides us, grieves with us, and stands by us. Knowing Him is “eternal life.” (John 17:3)
Why must we center our lives around the proclamation of this good news?
1. Jesus told us to– Jesus made His ministry about the gospel. He Himself was and is the good news. He says in Luke 4:18, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor.” He also commanded His followers in Mark 16:15, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.”
2. People need it– Ministry is about meeting peoples needs (plain and simple). And the greatest need a human being will ever have is to be redeemed from sin reconciled to God. The gospel speaks to all needs and issues; addiction, financial ruin, depression, discouragement, divorce, anxiety, bitterness, disappointment, identity, direction and destiny.
3. It’s our only hope– The gospel is the story of God’s love for humanity fully expressed in Jesus Christ. It tells us that our sins can be forgiven, we can start over, and we can live a new and better life. It promises us a relationship with God, a community of love with our sisters and brothers, and eternity in heaven. There is no political party, social program, or financial system that can even come close to what the gospel can do.
We are people of the good news! We must receive and believe this good news every day for ourselves, then live out and proclaim it to those God has called us to serve.