But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.Galatians 5:22-23
Before coming on staff at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, I served as a Lead Pastor at a normative size church in South Carolina. Words cannot express all the lessons that I learned in this pastorate, but I want to share one truth that I wish I would have learned more effectively before stepping into my first ministerial leadership role–the Holy Spirit’s fruit of patience. Perhaps what I learned during my first Lead Pastor position will help you in whatever ministry context God has you serving in right now.
Galatians 5:22-23 reads, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” Paul lists for his readers 9 fruits of the Spirit. When Christians think of fruit, our minds probably move to Jesus’s teaching on false teachers. King Jesus warns his followers to watch the fruit of ministry leaders because their fruit determines their faith. In other words, good fruit equals a true faith, but bad fruit equals no faith. Jesus says it this way, “So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:17-20). My prayer for young pastors reading this is that we would all be recognized by the ripening fruit of the Holy Spirit in ministry.
When I use the word “young” in the title of this post, I am specifically talking about experience in ministry and will continue to hold that meaning throughout this blog. Young pastors have many good traits. A zeal for evangelism. A passion for church growth and health. A heart to influence their congregation for the glory of God. An energy for ministry that has not been jaded by the pangs of pastoring. However, like any Christian, they are still in the midst of growing in their calling. If you are a young pastor, I want you to know that I appreciate you and hope this post will help you grow as a pastor and church leader.
With our zeal as young pastors, we can sometimes push our people to unhealthy ends. Lead Pastors with little experience are still learning this particular fruit of the Spirit. We see a problem or a theological issue within the church, and we immediately jump to action in order to correct the deficit. Sometimes (albeit every time) we should step back and pray about the issue we have observed in the church. Is this an issue that needs to be tackled immediately? Should I spend time teaching through the Word of God to let it do its work and change the hearts and minds of the people? Should I let this problematic area go so that I can take care of other more pressing issues the church I serve is facing? These are prayerful questions we should go to God with as we seek to determine which areas need immediate assistance and other areas that need more time.
Pastors, remember that there are no perfect churches out there. As one of my professors once said, “Every church is being revitalized because all churches are (should be) continually growing towards biblical health.” This proposition is true. Churches with solid evaluation techniques are constantly looking at areas that need to come under the authority of God’s Word. And if we are honest with ourselves, every church has many areas to bring under the lordship of Christ. Plus, if a church is constantly reaching people for Christ, health and growth will be a continual pursuit in the local church by both leaders and members. To put it bluntly, the churches we serve will never arrive to the state of perfection found in Scripture until Christ returns and makes all things new.
With that in mind, I think we are in a better position to practice the Spirit’s fruit of patience. Young pastors, we don’t have to change everything all at once, and I know the pressure you feel to push everything in the church you serve towards biblical health. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you discern what areas to push and what areas to exert spiritual patience. Also, remember the Holy Spirit’s work in bringing about health in a local church. The Holy Spirit will illuminate the Word of God that we preach faithfully week in and week out, and God’s Word will change the people so that he can change the spiritual trajectory of the church. Sometimes we need to stop pushing and starting praying for patience.
When I contemplate some of the mistakes that I made in my first pastorate, I realize that majority of them came from a lack of patience. Instead of waiting on the Holy Spirit to do his work, I pushed the people on issues that probably should have been tackled 5 or 7 years into my pastorate. The temptation to move quickly for results and to establish my credibility as a pastor sometimes overshadowed the fruit of the Spirit in the area of patience. Young pastors, learn from my mistakes, and be patient as you wait on the Lord to do his work in the local church you serve.
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