Years ago, while I was still in seminary, a man who mentored me gave me the best advice I’ve ever received.
He said you minister out of who you are.
At the time, I’m not sure I understood what he meant. Or at least I didn’t grasp the importance of it. But through the years in pastoral ministry, I have come to see the wisdom and value of his words.
On the one hand it’s a statement of fact. You can only fake it so long. You cannot give what you don’t have. So my mentor’s advice means that to be effective in ministry, I must prioritize my own spiritual health. I must, in the words of Proverbs 4:23, keep my heart with all vigilance, “for from it flow the springs of life.”
But on the other hand, my friend’s advice was a word of comfort as well as charge. In ministry, I do not have to be other than who I am. I do not have to be Tim Keller or Rick Warren or Francis Chan or any other pastor. God designed me the way He did for a reason. It’s not that I don’t need further sanctification–God knows I do. And it’s not that sometimes I don’t have to push myself out of my comfort zone and try things that are difficult for me–I do every day! But when all is said or done, I am who I am. I am an ISFJ. I am insecure. I am not good at telling jokes. I need notes in the pulpit. I’m a plodder, not a sprinter. I’m better with people than plans. I get nervous before elder meetings. I have a hard time seeing beyond the next couple of months. I’m a shepherd, not a fundraiser-motivator-debater-theologian-cheerleader-visionary.
And that’s OK. No, it’s very good.
Because I am needed in the battle, just the way I am.
It’s when I try to be someone I’m not, that all the life and energy go right out of me. I get pressured and stressed and worried and angry. And that’s not what God wants for me or His church.
You minister out of who you are. Take that to the bank. You’re a beloved child of God. Sure, you need to grow. There are areas of your life that are in serious need of improvement. Me, too. But in the meantime, the Lord your God is with you. He rejoices over you with gladness, quiets you by His love, and exults over you with loud singing (Zephaniah 3:17).
Be who you are, and you’ll be a better pastor. Not only that, you’ll enjoy being a pastor a whole lot more.