10 Disciplines of a Godly Pastor
1. Discipline of Purity
Sensuality is the biggest obstacle to godliness among Christian leaders. The fall of King David should not only instruct us but also scare the sensuality right out of us! Fill yourself with God’s Word—memorize passages like 1 Thessalonians 4:3–8; Job 31:1; Proverbs 6:27; Ephesians 5:3–7; and 2 Timothy 2:22. Find someone who will help you keep your soul faithful to God. Develop the divine awareness that sustained Joseph: “How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” (Gen. 39:9).
2. Discipline of Relationships
To be all God wants you to be, put some holy sweat into your relationships! If you are married, you need to live out Ephesians 5:25–31. For those who are fathers, God provides a workout in one pungent sentence: “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4). Relationships are not optional (Heb. 10:25); they enable us both to develop into what God wants us to be and to most effectively learn and live God’s truth.
3. Discipline of Mind
The potential of possessing the mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2:16) introduces the scandal of today’s church—pastors who do not think Christianly, leaving their minds undisciplined. The apostle Paul understood this well: “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Phil. 4:8). You can never have a Christian mind without reading the Scriptures regularly, for you cannot be influenced by that which you do not know.
You can never have a Christian mind without reading the Scriptures regularly...
4. Discipline of Devotion
Reading God’s Word is essential, but meditation internalizes the Word and responds, “I delight to do your will, O my God” (Ps. 40:8). Beyond obedience to instructions such as those found in Ephesians 6:18–20, there are two additional great reasons to pray. First, the more we expose our lives to the white-hot sun of Christ’s righteous life, the more his image will be burned into our character. Second, prayer bends our wills to God’s will. Many pastors never have an effective devotional life because they never plan for it; they never expose their lives to his pure light.
5. Discipline of Integrity
We can hardly overstate the importance of integrity to a generation of Christian leaders so much like the world in ethical conduct. Integrity’s benefits—character, a clear conscience, deep intimacy with God—argue its importance. We must let God’s Word dictate our conduct. Our speech and actions must be intentionally true (Prov. 12:22; Eph. 4:15), backed by the courage to keep our word and stand up for our convictions (Ps. 15:4).
6. Discipline of Tongue
The true test of a preacher’s spirituality is not his ability to speak but rather his ability to bridle his tongue (James 1:26). Offered to God on the altar, the tongue has awesome power for good. There must be an ongoing prayerfulness and resolve to discipline our tongues.
7. Discipline of Work
We meet God, the Creator, as a worker in Genesis 1:1–2:2. Since “God created man in his own image” (1:27), the way we work will reveal how much we allow the image of God to develop in us. There is no secular/sacred distinction; all honest work ought to be done to the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31). We must recover the biblical truth that our pastoral vocation is a divine calling and thus be liberated to do it for the glory of God.
8. Discipline of Perseverance
Hebrews 12:1–3 presents a picture of perseverance in four commands.
- Divest! “Lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely” (v. 1a).
- Run! “. . . with endurance the race that is set before us” (v. 1b).
- Focus! “Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith” (v. 2).
- Consider! Our life is to be spent considering how Jesus lived (v. 3).
9. Discipline of Church
You do not have to go to church to be a Christian; you do not have to go home to be married. But in both cases, if you do not, you will have a very poor relationship! As pastors we need to remind our flock that they will never attain spiritual maturity without commitment to the local church. We need to encourage Christians to join the church and participate wholeheartedly, giving their time, talent, and treasure to God.
10. Discipline of Giving
We escape the power of materialism by giving from a heart overflowing with God’s grace, like the believers in Macedonia who “gave themselves first to the Lord” (2 Cor. 8:5). Pastor, make sure you are giving to your local church, to missions, and to those in need! Giving disarms the power of money and reaps the spiritual blessings of God. As Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).
Only by God’s Grace
As we sweat out the disciplines of a godly pastor, remember, with Paul, what energizes us to live them out: “not I, but the grace of God that is with me” (1 Cor. 15:10).
This article is adapted from a contribution to the ESV Pastor's Bible by R. Kent Hughes.
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