The good news of Jesus’ life, death, resurrection, and ascension is the foundation of the Christian life (1 Cor. 15:2). The truths of the gospel sustain, empower, and motivate believers so that no believer—including pastors—ever outgrow their need for the gospel. To remain effective and faithful in ministry, pastors must do more than minister the gospel to their people; they must live in the gospel themselves.
Pastors Need the Gospel
Every week, pastors preach and teach the gospel, pray the gospel over their people, counsel hurting people with the gospel, and minister the gospel in other ways. Ironically, the gospel can be at the center of our ministry and still not be at the center of our lives. Sometimes we forget how desperately we need the gospel too.
While God calls pastors to shepherd His people, pastors are first and foremost, children of God in need of the good news of Jesus. Ministering the gospel to others is no substitute for the gospel’s work in our own lives. Studying to preach the gospel is not the same as daily preaching the truths of the gospel to yourself. Counseling a married couple in the gospel is not the same as receiving help to fight against your own struggles. For pastors, the gospel must be more than a truth we minister to others; the good news of Jesus Christ must be a priority in our own lives.
Now, no pastor I know would ever downplay their need for the gospel, and yet, many pastors—myself included—admit struggling to keep the gospel central in their own walk. How is this possible?
A common struggle for pastors involves our identity. If we do not remain grounded in our identity in Christ, we will find our identity elsewhere. A place many pastors turn to in their identity crisis is their ministry. Unfortunately, when our position becomes our identity, we begin looking for satisfaction and fulfillment in ministry rather than finding it in our union with Christ. Naturally, we then prioritize ministry over our own relationship with God. As pastors, what we do for God must never supersede who we are in Jesus.
We can also become so focused on helping others fight against sin that we overlook the sin in our own lives. We know the importance of godly character, but as we constantly teach and preach about holiness and how the gospel helps believers overcome sin, we wrongly assume ministering the gospel is enough for our own hearts and minds. But we also need the truths of the gospel in our pursuit of holiness. Preparing a sermon on how the gospel helps Christians fight temptation is not the same as applying the truths of the gospel to yourself.
As pastors, we need the gospel every day. Our people need the gospel for encouragement, and so do we. Our people need the gospel for correction, and so do we. Our people need the gospel to mature in Christ and to be faithful in ministry, and so do we.
Making the Gospel Our Foundation
Countless times I’ve pleaded with my congregation to make the gospel their foundation for life. I’ve even given them simple, practical ways to remain focused on the gospel throughout the week. Ironically, I’ve not always followed my own advice. I’ve learned the hard way that it’s not enough to prioritize the gospel in my ministry to others; I must make the gospel my foundation too. Here are three practical ways pastors can stay grounded in the gospel.