Loving God and Loving Others
What is the most important thing for a pastor to do? Simple: The pastor’s primary calling is to love God and love others.
For every single Christian, Jesus makes the calling of our lives simple. How do we spend our days? What decisions do we make to serve and worship the Lord? Jesus answers in Matthew 22:36-40:
36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
This two-fold emphasis on how we are designed to live our lives, to love God and love others, is the summary of every command God would have us live by. The flourishing and good life that God wants us to enjoy is had by loving Him and loving others. This is the call on every believer, including the pastor. The pastor’s call is never beyond this. At the heart of shepherding God’s people the pastor needs to love God and love others. This is the most important thing in pastoral ministry. Why?
The Pastor’s Love For God
If your pastor loves the Lord deeply, his call to minister to you will be a joy. Because he loves the Lord, he’ll gratefully and willingly love to serve God’s people. He’ll take the call of God upon his life and in communion with the Lord whom he loves, seek to obey all that God calls him to.
Without a love for God deeply in the pastor’s heart, ministry can become simply a lifeless job. It is the love a pastor has for the Lord that sustains him to be faithful to the call to serve God’s people day in and day out whether he feels like it or not. He serves because he loves the Lord. It is the love the pastor has for God that helps him know he is loved in Jesus and has nothing to prove. When a congregation knows their pastor loves the Lord, it becomes contagious, they will be drawn into the same love for God. Pastors need to model this love for their people in a real way. A pastor’s love for God is never wholly private, it is public for the well-being of the church. How blessed is that church that can say, “our pastor loves Jesus!”
The Pastor’s Love For Neighbor
So too, if your pastor not only loves the Lord, but out of that love cherishes and cares for neighbor, his call to minister to you will be a joy. Because the pastor loves the Lord, he will be obedient in worship to God to love His people. God knows that love for neighbor is needed in this world, and He calls Christians specifically to this task. A pastor, in order to minister well, must love the church and the community in which God has placed him. Without that love he’s being disobedient and the church suffers.
Our churches need pastors who truly love them and tell them regularly. Our churches need pastors who care for them and walk with them in love through the ups and downs of life. Because when a congregation knows their pastor loves them, they will know something more of the Shepherd’s love for them in the love of their pastor, an undershepherd.
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The most important calling in pastoral ministry is simple, to love God and love others. Pastors are not beyond this. Pastors need to model this. May our churches be blessed by pastors who have a contagious love for God and a warm love for God’s people.