I studied what scripture teaches about spiritual leadership. And my eyes were opened about how the Lord governs his church.
But I hit a sticking point. I had not seen what I was learning done in any church that I knew. I needed some advice.
So I made an appointed with a pastor I respected. I told him what I learned and asked how he viewed the issue. He agreed with me, clarified my thoughts on some points, and affirmed that I was headed in the right direction. In fact, I discovered his congregation was operating according to the principles I had just learned.
I was so grateful for his perspective and excited to get back to my church to start making changes. But he warned me not to move on what I learned any time soon.
I didn’t understand. If this was the truth, why wait?
The seasoned pastor cautioned that if I tried to make changes too quickly, he would have to hire me once my congregation put me out!
But what should I do with what the scripture clearly teachers? He pointed me Paul’s exhortation to Timothy:
“Preach the word, be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.” – 2 Timothy 4:2 (ESV)
I did not know why he pointed me to this verse. In fact, I was a little offended that he felt the need to quote this verse to me. In my mind, this verse made my case, not his.
What did 2 Timothy 4:2 have to do with what we were talking about?
Then he hit me with a right hook. I had my defense up against the first part of the verse. But he threw a knock out punch from the end of the verse.
As pastors, we submit to the charge to preach the word. We even embrace our duty to reprove, rebuke, and exhort. But we struggle with carrying out these sacred tasks with complete patience and teaching.
“Complete patience” is longsuffering. It is patience with people. And “teaching” implies doctrine. In other words, change does not happen by “casting vision.” It happens by faithfully doctrinal truth. This is an essential but neglected key to faithful and effective pastoral ministry.
I have complete confidence in the sufficiency of scripture. The word of God works! It just does not work according to our timetables.
Truth is not a weapon for us to wield. It is a seed for us to plant. And the cultivation of truth in the life of believers and congregations take time.
Harvest doesn’t happen in a hurry!
So as you lead your congregation to be a biblically functioning community of followers of Jesus Christ, heed the wise advice a godly pastor gave me years ago…
“Teach it. Then wait. Teach it again. Then wait. Teach. And wait.”