A Charge to the Pastor

On Sunday, February 20, 2011, I was officially installed as Senior Pastor at Christ Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Winterville, NC. On that Lord’s day morning, a friend and fellow soldier in the work of the ministry, Cole McLaughlin delivered a charge to me which was very encouraging to me and others present. Below is a transcript of that charge:

John, my friend, my brother in the gospel, it is now my privilege to give you a solemn charge to persevere in your duties as pastor of Christ Presbyterian Church. To do so I want to give you three simple exhortations. The first is this: John, as you minister to the congregation of Christ Presbyterian Church, Be Unshakably Confident. Now, confidence will sometimes come fairly easily to you. You have a sharp mind, a pithy tongue, and, let’s face it—you even have great hair. But those things don’t bring unshakeable confidence. Because sometimes that sharp mind will get confused, or that eloquent tongue will be tied. And sometimes, criticism will come. And during those times, especially, it will be easy to doubt, to be discouraged. In those times you’ll need to remember, especially that Jesus didn’t come for you because you are a great preacher, or a perfect husband, or the pastor of the year. Jesus came for you because you, like me, are a great sinner. A great sinner who in Christ, is more deeply loved than he can even imagine. In Christ, John, you have God’s highest approval. In Christ is all the confidence that you will ever need. So be strong in his favor. Be strong in his love. Be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. Be unshakably confident.

Secondly, Be Uncomfortably Honest.  John, we Christians don’t always like the truth, but we need you to tell us the truth. I remember you gently rebuking me a few years ago, as I complained about some people who I felt were causing problems for me. You said, “Cole, those people are a problem, yes. But they are not your biggest problem. Your biggest problem is your sinful heart, and that is what God, by his grace, wants to change.” It was honest. It was uncomfortable. It was what I needed to hear. As you minister, be uncomfortably honest. Tell people the truth about their sin. And tell them the truth about Jesus. And I think you find that when you do, they’ll desperately run to Him.

Finally, John, Be Unapologetically Limited.  John, you can’t do everything. People will ask you to. But you can’t do it all. Even you, the man with more capacity for work than perhaps anyone else I know. Even you, the master of multi-tasking, who can write a great sermon, have a meaningful phone conversation, coach a little league team, and eat 10 of the hottest habenero hot wings known to man, all in one afternoon—even you cannot do it all. So you will need to say no. A LOT. You will need to sleep. You will need to rest. So do it. Say no. Say no a lot. And know that as you say no, the gates of Hell will not prevail against Christ Presbyterian Church, because the Lord, not John, is the one who is tasked with bringing to completion the good work he’s started here. Remember that, and say no. Be unapologetically limited. So there it is, John. Be confident in Christ, tell the truth, and recognize your limits. That is my charge to you as you carry on this work. I look forward to watching as the Lord empowers you to do it well.

- Rev. Cole McLaughlin is an ordained Teaching Elder in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) and serves the ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ as Director at Duke University.

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