Jim Savastio, Pastor of the Reformed Baptist Church of Louisville and a fellow student at Trinity Ministerial Academy, spoke on the theme of Pastors loving their flocks at the 2014 Trinity Pastor’s Conference. He agreed to let me post the nine points of practical cultivation of Pastoral love that follow:
III. CULTIVATING PASTORAL AFFECTIONS
A. Prayer— Obviously part of this exhortation is that you will pray for your people. Don’t just pray for them, let them know that you have prayed for them. Ask them how you can pray for them.
But I am here referring to your prayerful desire for the Lord to increase your affections for all the people of God…especially that one who is most difficult for you to love from the heart. The Lord is giver of every good and perfect gift. The scriptures promise us that when we ask anything according to his will we know that he hears us and we will have the things we request. This is God’s will for us.
B. Experiencing, embracing, and then imitating the greatness of Christ’s love for you. Every exhortation to love in the NT is predicated upon Christ’s love. How does the Lord Jesus treat me? How does the Lord Jesus feel about this person I am struggling with? He is my pattern.
C. Personal pursuit of holines. 1 Thessalonians 2:10 “You are witnesses, and God also, how devoutly and justly and blamelessly we behaved ourselves among you who believe;” keeping your integrity is one of the most loving things you can do for the flock. Don’t break their heart.
D. Commitment to a lengthy pastorate. Some of you will have to deal with the reality that folks won’t trust you, they’ve had pastors who viewed that little flock as a platform for their gifts to be seen by a greater flock. Preaching is a job, those folks in the pew, if they are there or not there, hearing or not hearing, growing or not growing, they don’t care….the bible calls men like that hirelings.
E. Cultivate relationships. Part of this is being among the people of God. Shepherd the flock which is among you…they are among you, you are among them. How well do you know the flock? Do you know the names of the children of the church? Do you know who belongs with who? Do you know something of their personality and trials and tribulations? Commit yourself to get to know the men of the church. Take them out to breakfast or lunch or coffee. Play on the softball team or basketball team, have folks over for a game night or for pizza. Find out when their kid is playing that soccer game or volley ball game and attend a time or two. Remember the names of their children…if possible birthdays. Remember big events—graduations, anniversaries, a card, a text, an email, a phone call—Remember and refer back to conversations about things that obviously matter to this family…how is the college hunt going? How is your mother? A call or email to let them know you where praying for them that day.
F. Demonstrate approachability and genuine humility…be open to concerns and critiques. Has it ever amazed you how bold certain people were to approach Jesus and demand things of Jesus? How people were not afraid to say things, tell her to help me, don’t you care that we perish, not so, Lord…Have you ever thought, I would never let someone talk to me that way…especially some woman…then you are saying, I would never be like Jesus! The first command in the book of Ephesians is to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord…and that is fleshed out in terms of lowlimindedness…God says that he dwells among the lowly and so do godly people.
G. Showing hospitality. 1 Peter 4:9 Be hospitable to one another without grumbling. Open your home…not just to strangers and fellow pastors visiting, but to the folks in your church. Invite the people you struggle with. When you have pastors over invite some of the folks who you think will benefit from the fellowship. These things don’t have to be extravagant…I knew one brother who had chili dogs every Sunday…made sure he had plenty to invite as many as he could.
H. Speaking in terms of affection. Jesus did this, God does this, Paul did this….how often do the apostles use the word beloved? Sometimes they mean, God loves you, but many times they are saying, I love you. I see what you do, I appreciate you. I see God’s grace in you. This is generally the first portion of every epistle…this is what I see God doing in you and I am going to actually let you know how I feel about and how thankful to God I am for you. How do you think the church in Thessolonica felt when Paul wrote to them, 1 Thessalonians 2:19-20 “For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Is it not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming? For you are our glory and joy.”
I. Appropriate Physical Expressions. Four times we read about the holy kiss and then once what Peter calls the kiss of love. I love the natural display of affection that is recorded in Acts 20:36-38 “And when he had said these things, he knelt down and prayed with them all. Then they all wept freely, and fell on Paul’s neck and kissed him,sorrowing most of all for the words which he spoke, that they would see his face no more. And they accompanied him to the ship.”
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