Perry Noble posted this in January, 2009 as a series of four blog posts. I thought he made some great points that should be preserved somewhere as a continuous text, so I created this page, which I’ll leave untouched for many months.
Eight Questions I Believe Pastors Should Wrestle With
by Perry Noble
The further along I get into this pastor gig…the less answers I have & the more questions that I ask. Recently I made a list of eight questions I feel like I always need to keep in front of me…its helping me and I pray it may do the same for others.
#1 – “What if this Sunday was the last sermon I ever got to preach?”
Dear pastor, STOP…and read that again. Think about it…wrestle with it, seriously, allow that question to consume you for the rest of the day.
If THIS SUNDAY were the last time the Lord allowed you to preach…what would you say? How would you say it? What fear would you let go of? (Hmm…maybe someone needs to scrap the sermon they had originally planned for this Sunday & just go for it!)
Two weeks ago I made the decision that I am going to preach every sermon like it is my last…because…reality is I don’t know when my last sermon is going to be…and I don’t want to EVER leave the platform full of regret.
My prayer every Sunday is that God will absolutely set me on fire…and that I will speak clearly and full of conviction. Galatians 1:10 is very real to me…and I want to honor Jesus by saying everything I feel like He’s put in me to say.
Pastor…if Jesus puts it in you…you’ve got to speak it…otherwise you are “burying your talent,” and all of us know how that story ends!
One more thing…the goal of a message like this should be to lead the sheep…not beat them. Just something to keep in mind.
#2 – Am I waiting on God to do something for me that He has clearly asked me to do?
Let me be very clear…the term “waiting on God” really ticks me off because…well…it basically says, “I am so fast that I outran God…and now I am waiting on the Almighty to catch me!”
Uh…that has NEVER happened!
We don’t wait on God…He waits on us! (By the way…He’s outside of time…He doesn’t have to wait!)
So many pastors use the term “waiting on God” in order to remain passive in their leadership decisions. It may work with others…but not so much with Him!
I was reading the book of Joshua the other morning when God told Joshua, “Hey man, the land is yours…but I am not going to ‘do it all’ for you…you’ve got to TAKE IT!” Joshua was NOT waiting on God…but rather had to get to a place where He could embrace all that God has planned for him before he was even born.
Pastors…leadership requires that we take action, not be passive and hope that by some miracle that God will handle the situation that He has given us clear direction on.
God told Joshua to go in and take the land…and went ahead of him as he moved in obedience to God’s direction…and He expects the same from us as well.
When we “wait” on things to happen…we play defense…and God has called us to play offense.
#3 – Are you willing to make uncomfortable decisions?
One of the things I have discovered in leadership is that LOTS of people can identify the problem, talk about it, discuss it, pray about it…HOWEVER, there are VERY FEW PEOPLE who are usually willing to actually DO SOMETHING about the problem…
…BECAUSE…stepping up and being the leader OFTEN means we are willing to embrace the fact that God is going to require us to embrace uncomfortable situations.
This question really stood out to me the other day when I read Joshua 5:1-3. Let me ask you a question…do you REALLY think the guys were excited when Joshua dropped this bit of information on them? Do you think THIS was the picture of leadership Joshua had always dreamed of?
NOPE…but, Joshua clearly heard from God, was willing to be unpopular…and God honored his obedience.
One of the WORSE things we could ever embrace is a passion for being comfortable in leadership. Leaders make tough calls…period.
#4 – Are you pursuing God’s heart?
One of the things I’ve been asking of God lately is that He would allow the things that bother Him to bother me.
WARNING…do NOT pray that unless you are SERIOUS. He’s messing me up right now…and revealing Himself to me in ways that are absolutely blowing my mind.
I cannot be a good leader of others unless I am a passionte follower of Jesus…and to REALLY pursue Him means that I am begging Him for HIS agenda rather than trying to convince Him to buy into mine.
NewSpring is HIS church…not mine. I am a steward, NOT an owner. The church is HIS Bride…not mine. And the things that keep me up at night with worry…if I will just make it my passion to seek Him I will begin to understand that HE’S GOT IT ALL FIGURED OUT…HE’S NEVER WORRIED ABOUT NEWSPRING, so neither should I!
This peace ONLY comes as a result of seeking His heart.
#5 – Are you trying to do this alone?
One of the things I’ve tried to do quite unsuccessfully in the past is solo ministry…thinking that I really didn’t need the help of God or others.
STOP…no pastor would admit they would try to do ministry without God…but here’s a question…how much personal time do you spend in the word…sermon prep NOT included.
In order for me to lead publically I need to have a passion to meet with Him privately as often as I can.
AND…pastors, we need the help of others! We will never be able to do EVERYTHING in our church well…and we should stop trying. God uniquely designed you for a purpose…and when we embrace trying to do everything we often wind up accomplishing nothing.
I used to HATE asking people to do things because I falsly assumed that because I hated doing something that others would hate doing it as well…until I heard Andy Stanley talk about how there are people who actually LOVE to do the tasks that I can’t stand. (Organizing, etc.)
Pastors…there are people all around you just waiting on you to ask them to do what you hate to do. They know you are horrible at it…they’re praying that you will stop!!! SO…ask for God’s help…and embrace Ephesians 4:11-12 and get others involved as well.
#6 – Do I care more about my sermon for this Sunday…or the people who will hear it?
This one FLOORED me because…there have been times that I crafted the “perfect sermon” and completely forgot about the people who were going to hear it.
Pastors…we are called to honor God by giving Him our best. (II Timothy 2:15) And we should desire to preach great sermons…but our passion should be for the people that hear them to be transformed by the Gospel…and for their lives to be radically different.
People MATTER to God…the sermon MATTERS to God, but it should NEVER be our goal to hear “great sermon pastor” at the expense of us forgetting to love and lead the very people whom God tells us we will be held accountable for.
BOTH MUST MATTER…one does not have to be sacrificed for the other…just something the Lord is teaching me.
#7 – Am I being faithful or looking for a formula?
REALLY need to spend some time here! In the fall of 2002 our church grew from 504 to 1,600 in a period of six weeks. In 2006 our church went from averaging 4,000 a weekend in the spring to averaging around 8,000 a weekend in the fall.
When I tell pastors and church leaders that they all ask the same question, “What did you do?” (After all, God probably had NOTHING to do with it, right?)
SO MANY pastors out there want a formula to make their church grow…and so they hop from conference to conference trying to figure out what might work rather than BEGGING God for a white hot vision that will change the community that they are in.
Here’s the deal…we didn’t “do” anything during those amazing times of growth. (We did move into a new facility in 2006…but still didn’t expect that type of growth!!!) We didn’t launch a new program. We didn’t really change anything…we just simply kept doing the vision God gave us week in and week out…and He blew us away as a result.
My job as a pastor is NOT to find the latest, greatest church growth methods…but rather to be completely faithful and obedient to the vision God has poured inside of me.
One more thing…yes, we SHOULD go to conferences…we should learn as much as we can from others…however, our leadership should be DOMINATED by REVELATION from God rather than INSPIRATION from others.
#8 – Am I trying to be the Messiah in my church…or lead them to the REAL ONE?
Pastors…STOP trying to be perfect.
Our goal should be to make much of Jesus…and that means embracing John 3:30 and, at times, being honest with our people about our trials and struggles.
People can identify way more with our mistakes than they can our successes. AND they don’t need US to be the Messiah…but rather to LEAD them to Jesus.
Paul was honest with his struggle in Romans 7:15-20…we should always be willing to be honest as well.
My church doesn’t need me to be their hero…they need to know about Christ and how, without Him, I would be completely screwed when it comes to life and eternity.
One more thing…I am NOT saying to confess your sins every Sunday to your church…what I am saying is don’t be afraid to tell them about the time you were insensitive to your wife, you got angry when someone cut you off in traffic, the seasons with which you struggled with porn…
Leading with integrity is embracing honesty! We should always use our weaknesses to point others to Christ’s strength.
One more thing…when you do talk about your struggles you will have people criticize you. Just remember that when that happens people usually find delight in finding fault in others so they don’t have to deal with their own mess. They want you to be perfect…but they are not perfect…which makes them a hypocrite. Love them through it and always be honest!
Senior Pastor, NewSpring Church, Anderson SC