This is a guest post by our summer intern, John Pendleton. He gives two things that impacted him greatly over the summer. Perhaps these would be helpful to others as well. Consider applying for the FBC Gadsden Gospel Ministry Internship next Summer if you think you’d like to hone your gifts in these areas!
After just two weeks at The First Baptist Church of Gadsden, I wrote a blog post highlighting three observations I had made at the time. While all of those things still hold very true, I would say I’ve learned a lot more in the last 7 weeks. I’ve learned so much and will inevitably take away more than I would ever be able to fit in one blog, but I think there are two areas in which I learned the most about the pastorate. In fact, I would argue that these two areas would encapsulate most if not all of what it means to be a pastor.
Preaching and Teaching like a Pastor
The first area I probably learned the most in would be preaching, but not just how to preach, but what it’s like to preach as a pastor. Although a pastor does much more than just preach every Sunday, preaching every Sunday is one of the main responsibilities a pastor has. In fact, many would argue that faithful, sound preaching is the most important aspect of a pastor’s ministry in the long run. A Preacher is not always a pastor, but a pastor is always a preacher. Ultimately, a pastor must strive to consistently deliver faithful and engaging sermons. Sermons that are faithful convey the original meaning of the text, and engage the listeners. It matters what you say, and also how you say it. Over the course of this summer some of the most impactful experiences I will take away were the many opportunities to teach and preach. Along with being able to preach on a Sunday morning, I was also given the opportunities to teach the Wednesday night prayer meeting, teach the pastors Sunday school class, and preach in the youth service Midway. Although I had preached before, I had never preached from the perspective of a pastor. Although I wasn’t actually the pastor, Pastor Mat wanted me to think like one when preparing my messages. Preaching as a pastor means being faithful to the full council of God’s Word; even the parts that are hard and uncomfortable. It means knowing where your people are in order to make relevant application. It means showing your people Christ in every text and how every verse is pointing us to trust Him more and us less. This is especially important in preaching and teaching from the Old Testament. There are often so many lessons and principles to learn from the Old Testament that we often fail to realize that the Old Testament is just as much about pointing to Christ as the New Testament is! This is one important lesson I learned from teaching the Pastor’s Sunday school class on Genesis. Visiting the same people in the hospital that you preach to week in and week out also makes a difference. Your hearers aren’t an audience, or just a congregation, but real people with real lives that need to be pointed to the one thing that gives hope in this life, and that’s the gospel of Jesus Christ! If I take away anything this summer I’ll take away what it meant and looked like to preach and teach like a pastor.
Leading like a Pastor
I’ll never forget one of my favorite movie scenes of all time in the movie Remember The Titans; where the linebacker and team captain are in an intense argument after a practice over the racial tension on the newly integrated team. The team captain and fellow linebacker; Gary, is telling another linebacker; Julius, how bad his attitude is, and Julius simply retorts “Attitude reflect leadership, captain.” I love this quote not only because it’s a perfectly timed and calculated comeback, but also because it’s true! This summer Pastor Mat tried his hardest to instill in me leadership principles that would stick with me forever, and he did. As part of the internship program I read The Conviction to Lead by Dr. Mohler. This book along with Pastor Mat’s experience served as a great foundation for a philosophy of how to do leadership in the context of pastoral ministry. A leader is often required to make sacrifices, hard decisions, and in some ways be the face of the organization (or church in this instance). How a leader does this is crucial. A pastor must be a leader, but the way a pastor leads is distinct. A Pastor must often lead by example. A pastor often sets the tone and attitude of his people. If you are not excited about your church, about the bible, about people coming to Christ, why should your people be? Everybody at First Baptist Gadsden, including me, knew that Pastor Mat was excited about being there and excited about the church. Pastor Mat made a point to get invested, involved and excited in everything going on within the church. A practical way of doing this is by knowing your people and your church, its history, its strengths and weaknesses, who it is and where it has been. Letting your people know you love them, and are a genuine part of them. Being a good leader and a good pastor is about knowing and loving first and foremost. This also helps in making decisions. If you don’t know and love your people, how could you possibly handle making big decisions on their behalf? Leading like a pastor means being a shepherd that walks in the direction that he wants others to follow in. It means making hard decisions, but in a loving, caring, and positive way.
Preaching and leading are probably the biggest things I took away from my internship and First Baptist Gadsden, but not the only things. I think the other things I learned would be able to fit into one of these two categories pretty easily. Overall, I think spending my summer at a church learning about things like leadership, theology, pastoral ministry, and preaching was the best way to prepare myself for the seminary journey ahead. This internship has definitely shaped me as a pastor for the better in multiple ways.