Part of living as a Christian is living as a witness to the reality of God in the world. For the pastor, there is this additional requirement: “he must be well thought of by outsiders” (1 Tim. 3:7). There are numerous ways to go about this, but ministers of the gospel ought to take great care to cultivating this qualification. Here are some practical ways to achieve this end:
1. Be involved in your community.
Do you have a third place where you can be a regular? The coffee shop, the café, the corner store, the gym, etc.? Be active, be present, and be friendly. Becoming a regular at a third place is a great way to stay tuned-in to the concerns and values of lost people.
Similarly, if your children are in school, be an active parent. Volunteer to chaperone field trips or to work lunchroom duties. Participate in school sports or on the school board.
Are there other ways to “get out” and be a regular presence? Take advantage of those.
In addition to helping you get to know your community and its needs, it’s also a vital way to build bridges for evangelistic engagement.
Make a commitment to seek and seize opportunities to share the gospel with others. In order to do this, of course, you will not just need to exist outside your home and office, but also engage with people outside those walls. Listen well and ask good questions. Try to connect. Look for openings to witness to Christ. Ask people if you can pray for them.
You will find that as a pastor, religious conversations are very easy to get into. They simply arise from the normal chitchat with outsiders because of your vocation.
3. Be charitable in your dealings.
Are you known as a miser when the fundraisers come around? Will you refuse to buy Girl Scout cookies or patronize the neighborhood lemonade stand? Do you complain or about poor service at restaurants? Are you the guy at the town hall meetings shouting down other leaders? Are you a complainer or constant critic on your neighborhood’s private social media network? Are you a bad neighbor? Is your posture toward the community—or your church’s posture toward the same—seen as antagonism? There may be valid causes to fight for and injustices to correct, but can you do this graciously?
4. Be circumspect online.
The world is watching. If you are the kind of pastor who is constantly arguing on Twitter or posting angry political rants on Facebook, you are bearing witness to your true hope, which is not Christ. Bear witness to the goodness of Jesus in your online life, not simply your pet theological or political projects.
Treat others with respect and kindness. Who you are online is who you are. You do not get a pass on biblical qualifications of gentleness and against quarrelsomeness simply because your venom is being mediated through a screen.
(This is an edited excerpt from my new book Gospel-Driven Ministry, which aims to give both pastoral and practical insight to the work of church leadership.)