Pastors today are under tremendous pressure to succeed. But what does it mean to succeed?
The culture says, “You’re blessed if your church has more and more people attending and if you have great buildings, dynamic services, and large offerings.” Jesus teaches that anyone, rich or poor, who learns from him how to live in God’s kingdom and teaches others to do the same is blessed. The Lord says that anyone, popular or not, who is so permeated with agape love that it spills out of him or her to other people is blessed.
Jesus’ message is a great reversal of the world’s way of thinking. “Many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first” (Matthew 19:30). “The greatest among you will be your servant” (Matthew 23:11). This counter cultural philosophy is the key to understanding Jesus’ beatitudes, which then unlocks the treasure store of the Sermon on the Mount.
We who are pastors and leaders need to understand and live according to Jesus’ thinking so that we can teach this to others. We need to apply God’s word to clean our minds of misguided cultural thinking (Ephesians 5:26). To help in this regard I’ve paraphrased Jesus’ beatitudes to apply to some of the specific challenges that pastors, elders, and other church leaders talk to me about.
Jesus’ Beatitudes for Pastors from Matthew
Blessed are the pastors of small churches, for the kingdom of the heavens is large for them.
Blessed are the ministers saddened when people leave their ministry, for God is faithful to them.
Blessed are the leaders of meager events, for the fullness of the earth is theirs.
Blessed are the shepherds who are slandered, for the Lord makes them righteous.
Blessed are the caregivers of difficult people, for the Lord’s mercy is abundant for them.
Blessed are the plain preachers of the Word, for the Lord is smiling on them.
Blessed are the mediators in a church conflict, for they belong to God.
Blessed are the pastors who are mistreated even when giving their best, for the kingdom of the heavens is best for them. (Matthew 5:3-10 paraphrased for pastors)
Jesus’ Beatitudes for Pastors from Luke
Blessed are you pastors whose offerings are small, for yours is the Kingdom of God.
Blessed are you pastors who are deprived of affirmation from people, for God is your satisfaction.
Blessed are you pastors who weep that your church is not bigger, for you will laugh when you join with what God is doing.
Blessed are you pastors who are disliked, rejected, criticized, and maligned as you serve the Lord; be happy and leap for joy in the arms of Jesus — he is your eternal reward!
But woe to you pastors who rely on large offerings, for that will be your only blessing.
Woe to you pastors who fill yourselves on people’s affirmations, for you won’t have room for God.
Woe to you pastors who laugh because of your success, for you will weep when you miss out on what God is doing.
Woe to you pastors when all people speak well of you, for that is the way that worldly leaders are treated. (Luke 6:20-26 paraphrased for pastors)
May God help us to define ourselves and our ministries not by the world, but by the Kingdom of God where we can grow in righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit (Romans 14:17). My book, just published in 2016, will help you live as Jesus’ apprentice in your life and ministry: Your Best Life In Jesus’ Easy Yoke. (Follow the link to learn more about it!)