“When I got into ministry, my philosophy was, moving me was God’s business, not mine.”
In his 36 years of pastoral ministry, John McCallum has pastored just two churches. That’s an average of 18 years per church. In a day where the average is 1/3 of that, Pastor John has much to share about why he has been able to stay so long. At the recording of episode 47 of The Grind, McCallum brought in two pages of notes that included no less than 10 reasons for why he has been able to have longevity in his pastoral ministry. Here are a few that stand out.
1. Assume God has you where he wants you
McCallum asks, “God called you to where you are didn’t he? Then assume he has you there for a reason and don’t look to go anywhere else unless he calls you.” In all his years of ministry McCallum has never sent his resume out. He has always operated under the assumption that if God has something else for him to do then he knows where he lives! He concludes, “I think a lot of guys could stay longer than they do. In fact, I believe most of them are likely about to turn a corner if they would just hang in there.”
2. Stay close to Jesus
Walking with God in close relationship is another key to longevity. Pastor John has developed a pattern of getting up early every day to meet God. In fact, he rises precisely at 4:17am to ensure he has adequate time to connect with the Father. He spends time reading the word, praying, and listening to God. “It’s much easier to deal with the day to day issues of leading a church when you have met with God every morning.”
3. Love the church
“When you love the people you lead it is harder to leave them,” McCallum said. “Some people say pastors shouldn’t have friendships in their churches, but I’ve never practiced that. Some of my closest friends in life are people I have pastored. This is also an incentive to stay. If you were to leave you wouldn't just be leaving an organization but friends.” 1 Thessalonians 2:8 confirms this mindset, “So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.” When you love the church you have, there is a contentment that God brings with being there. I love the church as they are not as I wish they were. I feel like God has called me to help change the church I’m in, not simply change churches.”
4. Build a strong team around you
Another great insight from this podcast regarding longevity is team building. Having a strong team of deacons and other leaders enables the pastor to lead out of his strengths. Knowing your limits and what you aren’t good at helps you build a team around you. Longevity is cultivated when the ministry doesn’t depend on just one person.
5. Deal with conflict head on
Lastly, McCallum offered the advice of dealing with conflict head on. “Don’t let conflict go. Deal with it. Go to one another in love but don’t sweep it under the rug.”
If you are a pastor or planter and you are discouraged, thinking about moving on, assume the Lord has you where you are. Who knows, maybe you are just around the bend from a breakthrough.