Life Ministry

From Shepherding to Spreading


For Carly and me, our call to ministry came long ago. Before marrying, we both sensed that the best hours of our days and weeks would be devoted to introducing people to Jesus and equipping them in their faith. We’ve been doing that in various ways for all of our seven years of marriage.

For the most part, ours has been a shepherding kind of ministry. We’ve led small groups, taught classes, led in youth ministry, and for the past three and a half years, I’ve been a pastor.

Yet we sensed Jesus moving us to shift focus. Last spring, when Carly and I contemplated a change from my current role as a pastor, our greatest desire was to be more engaged with people who were either unreached or unengaged with the gospel. That was perhaps the single greatest reason we became missionaries with Cru. I’ve tried to communicate it this way: we are moving from shepherding work to spreading work.

Now, what does one do when they sense a call from the Lord to a new role in ministry? Google it, of course. I followed suit and searched for “transition from pastor to missionary.” Do you know what I found?

Not a whole lot.

I’m not sure what I was looking for. Perhaps a little encouragement or guidance as to how to navigate these transition waters. But evidently, this is uncommon in our context. Growing up in North America and even while a pastor in a North American context, I was convinced that pastoring was the most distinguished, important part of Christian work. A quick scan of the current Evangelical landscape proves this. How many celebrity pastors can you name? How about celebrity missionaries? Even more, how often are pastors expected to do the work of shepherd and teacher and missionary (and eventually burn out)? Far too often, unfortunately.

Yet when I look at the Scriptures, what I see is that there are leaders in the church who shepherd the flock and there are others who spread the gospel among those outside the flock, in hope that they become a part of the flock. It takes a diversity of gifts and calling, multiple kinds of leaders.

Ephesians 4:11-12 is one passage that speaks to this: “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds, and the teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.” Not only shepherds and teachers (i.e. pastors), but apostles, prophets, and evangelists. In order for the gospel to go out people need to go out from local congregations to broadly spread the seed of the gospel and bring in a harvest of people whom God is drawing to himself. Then, churches get planted, more shepherds are raised up, and more missionaries are sent out. This is how God has designed his church to function. This is how it must function if we want to reach every tribe, nation, people, and language.

As Carly and I leaned into this clear biblical truth, God calling us to spreading-type work became clear. What a joy it was and has been for us to discover! Personally, it’s been so freeing discover I don’t need to be suck in a “pastor or bust” mentality when it comes to full-time Christian service. Spreading is not better or worse than shepherding. Both are essential. Spreading is simply what we are called to do. I think I speak for both Carly and me when I say that I can’t think of doing anything else with our life together.


Ministry Theology

Why Ordo Salutis Matters for Preaching

Ordo who? Ordo Salutis is the Latin phrase for “order of salvation,” which refers to the logical (not chronological!) order of events in a Christian’s salvation. It’s an important thing, and not just a theoretical thing. For me, past Sunday, it was a sanctifying thing.

Typically, Ordo Salutis goes something like this: election, calling, regeneration, conversion, justification, adoption, sanctification, perseverance, glorification. God is sovereign in all of this–from point A to Z. He does it all in a Christian’s life. He gets all the glory. (Check out this graphic on the order of salvation via Tim Challies and this one–much more detailed–from John Bunyan).

Now, when a pastor is in the middle of a sermon, unless he is preaching about this topic, he typically is not thinking about these things (at least I’m not!). But it makes all the difference when the sermon is over. Ordo Salutis can particularly be an immense comfort after what the preacher believes to be an average sermon.

This past Sunday was such a moment for me. I finished preaching and simply, I felt downcast and uneasy. I thought I sounded like a babbling, incoherent fool during the message. I thought the congregation had a deer-in-the-headlight look on their faces.

But then God gave me a gift. One of the older men in our congregation (whom I consider a mentor), is a former pastor and now trains pastors. I told him how I felt, and he did not say that I was an incoherent, babbling fool. He said the sermon was “spot on” and helpful. I shrugged my shoulders. I still wasn’t encouraged. But what he said next was encouraging as well as illuminating. He said, “Ordo Salutis. Remember that the verbal call of the gospel comes first, followed by the effectual call. You don’t know what is happening in people’s hearts based on their faces. Preach and move on.”

I nodded my head and said, “Yes. Thank you.”

I was downcast when I was focused on me–my style, my delivery, my ability to say what I thought needed to be said. But when this dear friend directed my eyes to the sovereign God who draws people to himself, my fears were lifted. You see, in that moment, I was worshiping the idols of achievement and ministry success. I was not worshiping Jesus and trusting his Spirit to work in the hearts of people. I was putting in all on my shoulders. By God’s grace, Ordo Salutis brought comfort and kept me from a self-absorbed Sunday afternoon.

Theology is not solely for the seminaries or “famous” pastors. It is for normal pastors like me, who need my idols exposed and my spiritual eyes redirected on God and his gospel of grace.

Later in the day, as I reflected on what happened, I tweeted:

I’ve heard it many times before: a less-than-great sermon can still proclaim the great gospel. But Sunday it became real. God is sovereign in salvation, and the gospel, not my sermon, is the power of God for salvation for all who believe. I may preach an average sermon, but I will never preach an average gospel. That’s one lesson this young preacher was delighted to learn.