Faithfulness not fame should motivate ministry, says Louisville pastor
Christian pastors and leaders should build their ministries soley upon the foundation of the unmerited grace of the gospel, said West Louisville pastor T.C. Taylor in an Oct. 22 chapel message at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Taylor, who is lead pastor of New Breed Church in Louisville, Kentucky, said the Christian minister should be well-grounded in the gospel to avoid pride, self-sufficiency, and worldly ambition that often accompanies pastoral ministry.
“If you’re going to do ministry effectively, you have to serve out of the gospel of Jesus Christ,” said Taylor. “You have to serve out of the reality that, ‘I’m serving, not to be saved but because I’m saved, and the fact that God saved me has motivated me to want to see many, many, many more people saved and forgiven from their sins. That’s got to be your motivation, because if your motivation is anything else, it’s not going to stick.”
Much of contemporary evangelicalism gets weighed down by a “rock star” mindset, Taylor said, with some pastors misusing their influence to increase their own celebrity platform. Referencing 2 Corinthians 4:1-6, Taylor noted the Apostle Paul saw his apostleship challenged by Corinthian opponents who expected him to be more outwardly impressive. In contrast to false teachers, Paul recognized that his ministry was not successful because he was intelligent or well-read, but because he was the recipient of the grace of God.
“If you’re in ministry, it’s only because of God’s mercy in Christ,” Taylor said. “You have to come to a place where you recognize that, because if not you’ll be a prideful fool.”
Taylor said pastors must not water down the message of the gospel but faithfully preach the whole counsel of God without the trickery or manipulation that often characterizes contemporary church ministry.
“Brothers and sisters, whatever you do to get people into your church, you’re going to have to keep doing to keep them in your church,” Taylor said. “So let it be the pure preaching of God’s Word, because that’s something that you can control by God’s Spirit within you.”
It is only the text of Scripture, faithfully interpreted and and exposited in the pulpit, that bears fruit that honors God, Taylor said. The Word preached is imparted to the heart of each listener only by the Spirit of God, not by careful strategizing by the pastor, he said. Only the Spirit can generate faith.
“You know how you know if your Reformed theology is really Reformed? When you can stand flat-footed and preach God’s Word and trust God with the results and not think that you have to do something to actually manipulate people into believing,” Taylor said. “That’s how you know if you really believe in the doctrine of election and effectual calling and all these wonderful, beautiful doctrines.”
Pride is an ever-present and common vice in Christians, Taylor said, and pastors and even seminary students are not immune. The student is not insulated from the addictive quality of fame and recognition, he said — whether it is expressed in getting a good church, landing a book deal, or increasing one’s Twitter following.
The way to fight such pride is through whole-hearted service, Taylor said. While some may enter the ministry for the popularity, that motive will not last long. A Christian minister must be fundamentally motivated by serving others, he said, not being served.
“If you want to be served, I don’t know why you’re here reading all these books and doing all this,” Taylor said. “Go try your luck at being an actor or something.”
This service is only possible through a genuine realization that one is not good or impressive enough to be a good pastor. God-honoring ministry only flows from a personal experience of the grace and mercy of God, Taylor said, and a rich faith in the gospel.
“We have to be continuing to cultivate a heart that pursues God above all else,” he said. “In those moments when we catch ourselves wanting to minister out of how big we are, we need to go back and remember the gospel, we need our brothers and sisters to remind us of this gospel.”
Audio and video of the chapel message is available online at sbts.edu/resources.