The Productive Pastor
I want to be a productive pastor. Like everyone else, I recognize that God has given me a limited amount of time and energy, and I want to invest those resources to be as fruitfully productive as possible. Pastors—as well as farmers, bankers, lawyers, teachers, and stay-at-home moms—must develop their own system for personal productivity.
So, we should learn everything we can about how to use productivity tools, time-saving tricks, and life hacks as we seek to cultivate and keep what God entrusts to us. But, we should also recognize that we not all advice is equally applicable, because Jesus demands a specific kind of fruitful productivity: love.
Therefore, even if pastors preach extraordinary sermons, counsel people successfully out of the hardest places, and publish many bestselling books, if they have not love, then they have not truly been productive (1 Cor. 13). The following are the core convictions of the productive pastor who pursues true, abiding fruitfulness (John 15:16).
The Productive Pastor Prays
Prayer is not something bolted on to the side of our “real” ministry. Prayer is not the magical incantation that we recite in order to seek God’s blessings on our ministry.
No, prayer is our ministry. Ultimately, the work we do will be unfruitful unless God works, so we must ask him to work. Paul writes this to the Corinthian church: “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth” (1 Cor. 3:6). Planting and watering are important, which is why general productivity principles are important for us to keep in mind. But unless God gives the growth, everything we do is in vain.
If I am honest, I must confess that I tend to pit my “productivity” against my prayer life. When I’m squeezed for time, prayer seems like the less productive thing to do. In the battle to fight against my own drooping hands and weak knees (Heb. 12:12), it helps to remind myself that true, lasting, abiding productivity requires prayer.
The Productive Pastor Shepherds by the Word
Jesus teaches that his sheep know his voice (John 10:4). Jesus’ sheep will not follow strangers who do not speak with Jesus' voice, and the sheep will ultimately flee from such strangers (John 10:5). It is impossible to shepherd the sheep apart from the word of the Good Shepherd.
Furthermore, Jesus says that effective evangelism requires speaking his word: “And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice” (John 10:16). Just as it is impossible to shepherd the sheep of Jesus’ fold apart from Jesus’ word, so it is impossible to bring Jesus’ other sheep into the fold apart from his word.
While it is possible to gather crowds around all kinds of “ministries,” it is not possible to effectively shepherd God’s people apart from God’s word. The Bible is the productive pastor’s primary tool.
The Productive Pastor Produces Disciples
The goal of productivity is to produce something. Let us never forget that Jesus sends us to produce disciples (Matt. 28:18–20). People are the product that God sends us to harvest (John 4:35–38).
This means that the productive pastor cannot spend too much time alone. We must be with people, teaching and training people to learn to lead so that they can become disciple-making disciples.
Additionally, the productive pastor cannot spend too little time alone. If a pastor is always surrounded by people, he cannot spend time in prayer nor in the study of God’s word—and apart from prayer and the word, a pastor cannot truly be productive, no matter how much time he might spend “doing life” with them.
The Productive Pastor Lives for the Praise of Jesus
Jesus chose us and sent us to produce abiding fruit (John 15:16). For this reason, he will calls us to give an account of how we have invested the time, energy, and other resources that he entrusted to us.
The chief desire, then, of the productive pastor is to hear the commendation of his master on the last day: “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master” (Matt. 25:20, 23).