The Gospel and Pastoral Identity

by Jared C. Wilson March 1, 2021

The glory of Christ is our only power for ministry. Therefore, the glory of Christ is our true strength as ministers.

Pastor, do you know that Jesus does not need your help? In fact, you need his . . .

. . . on Sunday nights when you are bone tired and yet can’t sleep.

. . . on Monday mornings when you’re weary and just feel bruised, having been broken open before your people the day before.

. . . when the emails sit there in the inbox, and the voicemails pile up.

. . . when you’re looking at the ministry week ahead of you, and the boulder you rolled up the hill the week before has rolled back down to the bottom.

In all of these moments, what do pastors need? A beholding of the glory of Christ, who comes with might (Isa 40:10 ESV). Second Peter 1:3–4 tells us, “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature” (ESV).

Pastors, when the breath of dying people is in our nostrils, the flimsy spirituality of popular religion will be of no use. It will fail to comfort or provide hope. The couples whose marriages are failing, the addicts, the victims of abuse, the doubting and hurting and broken, and the dying need to know that “the Lord God comes with might”—that he is mighty to save!

It is amazing how many pastors waste their ministry, and even their lives, seeking to be impressive, to be seen, to be celebrated, to be themselves followed. Others may never see tremendous growth, exterior success, or the status that comes with platform, but if they are bringing glory to Christ—if we are getting up on the mountain to say over and over again, “Behold Your God!”—not a thing about them is wasted, because the mission of the Spirit of God is to maximize the glory of Christ over all the universe. It is not our giftedness or our achievements that make us strong but submitting our weakness to the mighty Christ!

So, we don’t need to get our own way. We don’t need to be a big deal. We don’t need to be the smartest or most spiritual one in the room. When we take to the pulpit, we don’t need to “bring the fire” or “bring the thunder” or whatever; we simply need to bring Christ! We must not be like the rooster who thinks the sun is coming up because he’s crowing. The sun of righteousness, the radiance of God’s glory, is not commanded or conjured. He is worshiped; he is obeyed; he is proclaimed. Pastor, Christ is your true strength. Yes, the strength for the gospel-centered pastor is in the very pastoring of Christ.

He will tend his flock like a shepherd;

he will gather the lambs in his arms;

he will carry them in his bosom,

and gently lead those that are with young. (Isa 40:11 ESV)

What a comfort this is to those who are uncomfortable with themselves and discontent with their own power. Never forget, shepherd, that you are—first and foremost—a sheep yourself. There is not a single one of us who is too big, too strong, too gifted, or too well-regarded to be one of Christ’s little lambs.

The older I get, the more I long to sit on the lap of Jesus Christ and have him hold me. I don’t care what that makes you think of my masculinity or maturity—I want to be held by my shepherd. I want him to carry me in his bosom and gently lead me. This is the picture of the true shepherd that we enter into as pastors. There are times when a shepherd needs to get out in front; there are times when the rod of correction must come in, when the sheep need to be driven; but the big portrait—the tone and texture of biblical shepherding—is comforting, carrying, and gently leading the sheep.

On what will you place your trust this very moment for the vindication of your ministry? What are you worshiping right now? When we are angling for platform, for recognition, for pats on the back, for reverence, for validation and fulfillment and justification in anything but Christ, it’s like a squirming in his arms, trying to break free. The only result is that we will fall.

John Calvin says of Isaiah 40:11, “We must therefore lay aside our fierceness, and permit ourselves to be tamed . . .” This is, in fact, the overarching qualification embedded in those biblical qualifications listed in 1 Timothy 3, Titus 1, and 1 Peter 5. What those characteristics compose is a man who has been won by, submitted to, and formed in Christ’s very self.

Are you bucking against the gentle arms of the shepherd? Are you kicking at his tender leading? The Lord your God loves you with an unfailing love. He will be your comfort. He will be your strength. He will be your power. Now you don’t have to worry about what they think of you so much. Now you don’t have to define yourself by your stats. Now you don’t have to measure your validation by your best sermon or your high attendance or your giving campaign or your PR among the congregation. He will be your vindication too! He will be your validation. Your identity is secure in him purely by grace.

This is an edited excerpt from my new book Gospel-Driven Ministry: An Introduction to the Calling and Work of a Pastor, which releases tomorrow (3/2). Here is what some people are saying about this book:

“There are certain books that a pastor should read once a year to regain his gospel sanity, clarity of calling, passion for his Savior, love for his people and a renewed sense of what his daily work is. Gospel-Driven Ministry is one of those books. It holds the gospel forward, not just as a preacher’s core message, but also as his model and motivation for who he is to be and what he is called to do. Pastor, buy this book and put it in your yearly reading rotation.” — Paul Tripp

“Current and future pastors – and those who love them – need to read this book.” — Harold L. Senkbeil, Executive Director Emeritus, DOXOLOGY: The Lutheran Center for Spiritual Care and Counsel, Author of The Care of Souls: Cultivating a Pastor’s Heart

“If you know one thing about Jared, it’s that he has an unwavering passion for gospel-centrality. Gospel-Driven Ministry reads like a greatest-hits of Jared’s wisdom and experience from years of pastoring both local congregations and local pastors. A must-have for every pastor and ministry leader who desires to keep the gospel at the core of their ministry and practice.” — Ronnie Martin, Lead Pastor, Substance Church, Ashland, OH

“I’d recommend this book to any pastor, especially those just starting in their ministry, and any others desiring to understand what faithful leadership in God’s church looks like. Saturated in the gospel-depth that has characterized his other books, Jared shows us that a church leader is not just a defender of truth but a servant of people. I was particularly moved by Jared’s challenge that we represent the love of God to people who walk through our doors. What an incredible and weighty privilege. May God use this book to raise up a generation of faithful servant leaders!” — J.D. Greear

“In Gospel Driven Ministry, Jared Wilson invites us to sit down and reimagine the call of pastor ministry in biblical terms, as a supernatural stewardship. You hold in your hands a book that will not only recalibrate your heart but will also reenergize your hands to navigate the practical day to day work among the people God has called you to serve. Again, and again, Jared’s writings set him apart as a true pastor to pastors. You will do well to apply his wise and experienced counsel.” — Matt Capps, Senior Pastor, Fairview Baptist Church, Apex, NC

“Whether you are new pastor or a seasoned veteran of many years, Gospel Driven Ministry will educate, instruct and encourage you in your service to the Lord and His people. Combining personal experience, theological understanding, and a deep love for Christ’s church, Jared Wilson offers timely wisdom for those called, in these challenging times, to shepherd the flock of God.” — Brian Brodersen, Senior Pastor, Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa, California

“With clarity and the requisite pastoral experience, in Gospel-Driven Ministry, Jared Wilson seeks to bring us back to the gospel roots that drive faithful pastoral ministry. If you’re considering pastoral ministry or are in the habit of training up gospel ministers, pick up this book and use it as a “gospel primer” for ministry.” — Juan R. Sanchez, senior pastor, High Pointe Baptist Church, Austin, Texas

Gospel Driven Ministry is an honest, practical, instructive, and comprehensive work on pastoring that I wish would have been available to me twenty-five years ago.”  — JR Vassar, Lead Pastor of Church at the Cross and author of Glory Hunger: God, the Gospel and our Quest for Something More

“In Gospel-Driven Ministry, Jared Wilson provides a timely and necessary reminder of the transformative power of the gospel as the cornerstone of all effective pastoral ministry. With the warmth and wisdom of a seasoned pastor, Wilson calls the reader to consider not only the shape of their ministry, but more importantly their motivation for it.” — Dr. Malcolm Gill, Director of Postgraduate Studies, Lecturer in Greek, New Testament, and Homiletics, Sydney Missionary & Bible College, Sydney, Australia

“Absorbing this book will yield more of Christ in you and his Church.” — Jonathan Dodson, Lead Pastor of City Life Church and author of Gospel-Centered Discipleship, Here in Spirit, and Our Good Crisis: Overcoming Moral Chaos with the Beatitudes

Buy the book via Amazon or wherever you buy books today.