3 Secrets to Pastoral Longevity

Twenty-nine years ago this week, following God’s call to our lives, my very young family and I moved to Northwest Arkansas. I would have never imagined that one day I would be writing about my pastoral longevity here or anywhere else.

This past Sunday, I was preaching at the Olive Baptist Church in Pensacola, Florida, honoring my dear friend, Dr. Ted Traylor for his twenty-five years of pastoral longevity there. Over dinner, he and Liz remarked to us how fast the years have gone.

Observing and Reflecting
While observing the Traylors this past weekend and hearing them reflect over their ministry, I was reminded of the power of reflection. Obviously, pastors who stay anywhere long enough will reflect on their own journey toward longevity.

Some pastors stay long effectively, while others stay enduringly. The former is much greater than the latter.

3 Secrets to Pastoral Longevity
In my own reflection upon life and ministry, I want to share three secrets to pastoral longevity:

1. Living with the conviction of God’s calling
Staying somewhere a long time can be extremely difficult for a pastor and his family. There are moments when leaving would be much easier than staying. There may be times when you beg God for somewhere to go.

Yet, one of the secrets to pastoral longevity is living with the conviction of God’s calling upon your life and location. This conviction must grip your life and the very essence of who you are. Without it, you will not be able to stay anywhere very long.

2. Learning to surf the seasons of ministry transition
Pastors must understand that ministry is filled with many seasons. Just like a team, there are winning seasons, mediocre seasons, and losing seasons. This is why you cherish the seasons overflowing with fruitfulness and faithfulness.

If you do not cherish the seasons, when the tough times hit, you move to the depth of despair. You get down on ministry as well as the church you are called to serve. This is why it is imperative to learn to surf the seasons of ministry transition. Otherwise, you feel you are drowning. Hang on. Give it time. Keep your head up and soon you will feel the Spirit of God carrying you.

3. Changing your life and ministry practices continually
Pastors promote change within their church, but at times, the greatest need for change is within the pastor himself. Pastors have to experience continual sanctification, becoming more like Jesus continually.

We do this willingly, or the Lord, at times, may do it with us purposefully. This is not always easy to go through for any of us. But if we have a genuine desire to be used of God powerfully, God knows what needs to happen to get us to the point of becoming surrendered and useable.
Therefore, we must be like new wineskins: flexible, filled with elasticity, and conforming to what God is doing within us, through us, and around us. This results in our ministry practices not being something we worship, but something that adjusts to what God is doing at the time.

Cling to 1 Corinthians 15:58
God does not call every pastor to stay somewhere a long time, but He does call every pastor to be faithful and fruitful. What does this mean? Perhaps the following verse will address this question. In fact, if you want pastor longevity, cling to 1 Corinthians 15:58, “Therefore, my dear brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the Lord’s work, knowing that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”

Pastor, rise up in this hour. Be willing to give your life to a place God calls you and simultaneously, be willing to leave tomorrow if God so wills. I have and I will. Our allegiance is to God Himself and His calling in our lives.
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