Pastor, your spiritual health matters to your church. Your pursuit of Christ impacts your people. You know this, of course, but does your daily schedule reflect it? When you allocate time and energy toward the spiritual disciplines, do you do so with a view toward what is at stake? God’s sovereign purposes are not dependent on your maturity, of course, but the New Testament often speaks of the significance of a pastor’s spirituality to the health of his congregation. Consider the following seven reasons motivation for the pursuit of godliness and guides to praying for your own growth.
7 motivations for pursuing God:
1. God is holy and he will not be mocked.
Personal holiness is indispensable because you serve a holy God (1 Peter 4:14–16). But your growth in godliness must be rooted in faithfulness to Christ, not the pursuit of fruitful ministry. Your motivation has to rest on the character of God because no other incentive will be constant. Your people may not know if you falter in your private devotions, and you may not be a pastor forever. But he who called you into holiness will always be holy and he will not be mocked (Gal. 6:7–9).
2. Godliness is good for you.
The pursuit of godliness is not at odds with your hopes for happiness. In fact, as Paul reminded Timothy, godliness “holds promise for the present life” (1 Tim. 4:8). Pastors who are growing in their faith can take comfort in a clean conscience. You may not always know what to do in your ministry, but you can know with certainty how to do it—with Christ-like character. Moreover, godliness holds promise “also for the life to come” (1 Tim. 4:8). Your regular efforts to discipline yourself are daily deposits into that moment when you hear your master declare, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matt. 25:21).
3. Your spirituality can inspire or impede the salvation of others.
The apostle Paul once told a young pastor to keep a close watch on his life and teaching because “by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers” (1 Tim. 4:16). Paul was not suggesting that a pastor’s lifestyle alone will bring salvation to his congregation. Rather, he seemed to be pointing to the power of preaching the Word of God and living a life that makes it more believable. When others observe a life transformed by the gospel, they are inspired to consider the good news for themselves. Your life is not the means of salvation for anyone, but it can be used by God to point them in the right direction. Likewise, it can be a distraction from the truth you preach each week.
4. Your conduct impacts the effectiveness of your communication.
A brilliant sermon can be silenced by a lifestyle that contradicts it. As leaders, we must strive “to keep the commandment unstained” (1 Tim. 6:14), so that “the word of God may not be reviled” (Titus 2:5). You put hours into studying the text so that you can faithfully expound upon its meaning. Do not short-circuit your efforts by forsaking your own spirituality. Your prayer life is more important than your sermon prep. If you want to point your people faithfully to the power of the Word, start by persistently consuming it yourself.
5. Your people learn discipline from you as well as doctrine.
Paul’s example with Timothy reminds us that the people we lead and serve will inherit more from us than simply our sermons (2 Tim. 3:10). In fact, God commands them to do so (Hebrews 13:7). As a pastor, you can help your people grow in spiritual maturity by living a life worthy of imitation. This kind of leadership cannot be accomplished as you breeze past the pews on your way to the pulpit each week. You have to know your people and they have to know you. You ought to be able to say to them, “Be imitators of me as I am of Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1). Then you must live a life that will give you no regrets if they do.
6. Your enemy wants to destroy you.
Wise pastors know their enemy well, and they recognize their daily peril as preachers of God’s Word (1 Peter 5:8). The enemy would love to see your study of Scripture become a professional skill rather than a personal discipline. He will coax you toward using the text as ammunition against your congregation rather than applying it to your own heart. He will draw your attention to the specks of others while distracting you from the log in your own eye (Matt. 7:3–5). Pastors, “Keep watch on yourself lest you too be tempted” (Gal. 6:1).
7. A reckoning awaits.
Pastors are stewards of the mysteries of God (Col. 1:24–25) and will some day give an account for their work (Matt. 25:19, James 3:1). The prospect of this day ought to humble us to seek the Spirit anew every morning. As a pastor, you have not merely received a job to do but souls to guard (Heb.13:17). Therefore, pastors must pursue spiritual maturity for their own sake and for the sake of those entrusted to their care. “Let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up” (Gal.6:9).
Whether you are a pastor or future pastor, there are critical things at stake in how you live your life.
Matthew D. Haste, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor of Ministry Studies at Columbia International Seminary and School of Ministry in Columbia, SC, where he serves as Faculty Mentor for the 5-year B.A./M.Div Program. He is married to Cheyenne and they have three kids: Haddon, Anna, and Adelyn. He is co-author, along with Robert L. Plummer, of Held in Honor: Wisdom for your Marriage from Voices of the Past (Christian Focus, 2015).