Shepherding with Patience

Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. – 2Timothy 4:2

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When I was in seminary it seemed like the one constant piece of advice from the professors for being a pastor in the local church was, “All you have to do is preach the Word. Just preach the Word.” Don’t get me wrong, the preacher must preach the Word. However, the pastor of the local church has a two-pronged job: preacher and pastor. One’s preaching ministry will always be stronger when one’s pasotral ministry is strong. This does not mean that the pastor has to make every hospital visit, wedding, funeral, etc. It does mean that as the pastor seeks to lead his congregation he must do so with a servant’s heart.

In trying to lead a congregation to embrace a biblical vision for fulfilling the Great Commission, don’t just cast the vision and wait for the people to catch it. Go with your people in the process and go with them patiently. The tendency is for the pastor to cast a strong vision for the church. He has spent hours and days and weeks and months prayerfully formulating God’s vision for the ministry of his local church. He then unveils this vision in a series of sermons intended to unite the church and motivate his people to great Kingdom ministry.

The challenge comes in the following weeks when it seems as if the people didn’t get it. The reality is that most of them did not get it. This is not because they do not care or because they are incapable of grasping the vision. It is because they will not fully digest the specifics of the vision in one sermon series. Rather than getting mad at the people because they seemingly refuse to embrace the vision the pastor believes God has for the church, the pastor must continue preaching the word “with great patience and instruction.” Instruction means “careful teaching.” Faithfully preach the Word and love the people while allowing the Spirit of God to use the Word of God to develop His people to fulfill His vision.

BOTTOM LINE: When you feel like you have shared the vision over and over and over to point of overkill, only then are some of your people starting to catch on. This is not the time to give up on the vision or the people. It is the time to demonstrate “great patience and instruction.” Spend the necessary time one-on-one and in small groups sharing the vision, listening to the people grapple with the vision, directing the conversation to God’s conclusions and allowing the people to grow along with you in the process.

In 2Timothy 4:2 the word for patience literally means to “abide under” or “persevere.” In the context of Paul’s encouragement it has to do with patience in dealing with people. Remember that patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness & self control are all dynamics of the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23). And this is not a minor dose of patience; rather, Paul teaches us to preach the Word with great patience. The preacher must be willing to go with the congregation and show them how to embrace the vision.

The preacher didn’t get it overnight when God was burning it into his heart and neither will the congregation. Therefore, when the pastor is preaching his heart out, casting vision and trying to lead his church to faithfully fulfill the Great Commision … it is not enough to just preach the Word. Rather, preach the word with great patience and instruction.

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