The people who do their jobs best usually like their jobs most. And we like following people who like what they do. I’ve often wondered if the missing ingredient in many churches is simply an awareness by the congregation that the pastor is really happy to be their pastor—happy to be in the Word each week and happy to be in their lives.
There are a number of things I could list in a blog post with this title. I don’t want to suggest that the two requirements I’m about to mention are the only two requirements. Surely, there are many other things we can and should say about effective pastoral ministry. But in my experience, ministry won’t go well, and pastors won’t go far, without at least these two requirements:
We must like studying the Bible.
And we must like our people.
The word “like” may feel a bit squishy, but I use it intentionally. We all know that we should love the Word of God and love people. That’s a given. But if that’s all I said, we’d nod together in tedious agreement: “Yes, good reminder, Kevin. The Bible is important, and the church is important. We must be people of the book and shepherds after God’s own heart.”
True, true. But with “like” I’m trying to say something a little different than all that.
I mean we should enjoy learning, enjoy discovery, and (in places where literacy and resources are plentiful) enjoy reading books. Young men need to realize that preaching and teaching is not all pastors do in ministry, not by a long shot. But they also need to realize that with all the preaching and teaching they are going to do in a lifetime of ministry, they better like studying, or they won’t have anything true and interesting to say.
I’m sure there are terrible preachers who got A’s in school and amazing preachers who got C’s. The best graduate students don’t always make the best pastors. But over the long haul, the best preachers—the kind who faithfully feed the same flock Sunday after Sunday for decades—will be the best students of the Bible. You need more than a formal love for God’s Word. You need to really like staring at the Bible and reading about the Bible and seeing and sharing new things from the Bible.
By the same token, we must genuinely like the people with whom we serve and to whom we preach.