Why a Pastor’s Spiritual Life Matters

The pastor’s inner spiritual life is critical to the spiritual development of his people.

Pastor, your spiritual health matters to your church. Your pursuit of Christ impacts your people. You know this, of course, but does your daily schedule reflect it? When you allocate time and energy toward the spiritual disciplines, do you do so with a view toward what is at stake? God’s sovereign purposes are not dependent on your maturity, of course, but the New Testament often speaks of the significance of a pastor’s spirituality to the health of his congregation. Consider the following seven reasons motivation for the pursuit of godliness and guides to praying for your own growth.

Seven motivations for pursuing God

God is holy and he will not be mocked.

Personal holiness is indispensable because you serve a holy God (1 Pet 4:14—16). But your growth in godliness must be rooted in faithfulness to Christ, not the pursuit of fruitful ministry. Your motivation has to rest on the character of God because no other incentive will be constant.

Godliness is good for you.

The pursuit of godliness is not at odds with your hopes for happiness. In fact, as Paul reminded Timothy, godliness “holds promise for the present life” (1 Tim 4:8).

Your spirituality can inspire or impede the salvation of others.

The apostle Paul once told a young pastor to keep a close watch on his life and teaching because “by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers” (1 Tim 4:16). Paul was not suggesting that a pastor’s lifestyle alone will bring salvation to his congregation.

Your conduct impacts the effectiveness of your communication.

A brilliant sermon can be silenced by a lifestyle that contradicts it. As leaders, we must strive “to keep the commandment unstained” (1 Tim 6:14), so that “the word of God may not be reviled” (Titus 2:5). You put hours into studying the text so that you can faithfully expound upon its meaning. Do not short-circuit your efforts by forsaking your own spirituality.

Your people learn discipline from you as well as doctrine.

Paul’s example with Timothy reminds us that the people we lead and serve will inherit more from us than simply our sermons (2 Tim 3:10). In fact, God commands them to do so (Heb 13:7).

Your enemy wants to destroy you.

Wise pastors know their enemy well, and they recognize their daily peril as preachers of God’s Word (1 Pet 5:8). The enemy would love to see your study of Scripture become a professional skill rather than a personal discipline.

A reckoning awaits.

Pastors are stewards of the mysteries of God (Col 1:24–25) and will some day give an account for their work (Matt 25:19, James 3:1). The prospect of this day ought to humble us to seek the Spirit anew every morning.

Whether you are a pastor or future pastor, there are critical things at stake in how you live your life.

Matthew D. Haste is associate professor of ministry studies at Columbia International Seminary and School of Ministry in Columbia, South Carolina. He also serves as faculty mentor for the five-year B.A./M.Div. Program. He is married to Cheyenne and they have three children: Haddon, Anna, and Adelyn. He is co-author, along with Robert L. Plummer, of Held in Honor: Wisdom for your Marriage from Voices of the Past (Christian Focus, 2015).