Oklahoma Conference of the United Methodist Church

What should a pastor do?


NOTE: Bishop Hayes is calling each of us to action in the Oklahoma Conference. This is the third in a five-part series, following "Closed on Sunday?" and "Is church high on your list?"

"I can’t impress this on you too strongly. God is looking over your shoulder. He is about to break into the open with His rule, so proclaim the Message with intensity; keep your watch. Challenge, warn, and urge your people. Don’t ever quit. Just keep it simple. Keep your eye on what you’re doing; accept the hard times along with the good; keep the Message alive; do a thorough job as God’s servant." (2 Timothy 4:1-2; 5. The Message Bible)


Every time I enter one of Oklahoma’s churches, one of the first things I do is take a long look at the worship bulletin. I can tell a lot about what’s going on in the life of a congregation by what’s in that.

In addition to the order of worship, I usually find a listing of events, meetings, and ministry opportunities for the upcoming week. Often, those sick or homebound
are named, and there may be a space to write notes from the sermon.

Church contact details are included, and beneath the pastor’s title and name I sometimes see the designation Ministers. Beside that I often read the word Everyone.

This is a noble attempt to remind the people of that church that all are engaged in this sacred work, along with the pastor. That is true. I keep this in mind when I write each newspaper column; I pray that what I share is meaningful in some way for everyone.

As I prepare this particular article, however, those who stand behind pulpits or who hold the title of pastor fill my thoughts. Perhaps that is because I have entered the final year of my 45-year Spirit walk.

I feel that I must direct this column toward those whom God has called and set apart as clergy of the Church.

I have been thinking about what, for me, makes my clergy career meaningful and significant. I ask myself:

What can I pass on that might inspire or be helpful to others called into this work?

What experiences that I identify as transformational moments have occurred to me along the way?

What key can I offer that could open doors to fuller, more satisfying ministry for other clergy?


Can I share these despite the risk of sounding like someone who has all the answers?

There is no doubt that the saving grace for me during more than four decades of ministry has been the passion and enthusiasm God gave me when I began this journey. Without a deep thirst and an excitement for this occupation, a time comes when a clergy person feels it is impossible to continue. If you don’t love what you do, at some point you will begin to dislike why you do it.

I find clergy who have stopped looking for God, the One who called us and set us apart to this special undertaking.

Passion keeps holy fire burning within you. Enthusiasm carries you forward to the full joy of knowing that you are living out what God wants you to be!

Long ago I discovered that God who called me into this enterprise always has been present with me in the midst of it. God has been present in every worship service; each baptism, wedding, hospital visit, and funeral; in every challenge and success I’ve experienced.

Not every transformational moment has a burning bush or a mountaintop encounter. Remember that God is found in the simple, often-overlooked everyday experiences of ministry.

Mrs. Daniels, the widow of a preacher, told me to "keep it simple and preach Jesus" after I gave my first sermon in my first appointment. That moment forever changed my life!

And when I was sent to what I expected to be my most difficult assignment, little did I realize what was to come. It was one of the greatest blessings I have received.

Our lives are governed and guided by a loving God, who not only knows us better than we know ourselves, but also has placed us where He wants us to be. This is important advice from me for your ministry: Stay in love with God!

  • Develop and maintain an intimacy with God that will weather the storms of bad times and bring peace to your soul and spirit at other times.

  • Pray and study with others also called to this task, and develop friendships that will give support and encouragement.

  • Be authentic and open to what God has in store for you. There are no pedestals or special places in ministry as clergy, and the seat you are called to occupy is most often the least important.

  • Be truthful with yourself, acknowledging pain when it invades your life and your humanity when you stumble.

  • When you trip or collapse, get back up! Dust yourself off and press on, as Paul urges, to win the prize in the race to which God has called you.

In his letter to Timothy, Paul reminded him that ministry has urgency and intensity. Look at the words Paul used to describe this calling: proclaim, challenge, warn, urge!

He concluded by saying, "Keep the Message alive! Do a thorough job as God’s servant!"

Therein lies the most important word that I can place before you: servant! That is who you are and what you are called to be. Don’t ever forget that.


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