25 Years of a Godly Pastor’s Ministry by David Dunham

Most readers will have never heard of my pastor. He’s not a famous, at least not in the sense that he is a celebrity pastor. On January 18th, however, our church celebrated his 25th anniversary. It was an occasion not merely to express thanks for his legacy and leading, but an occasion for me to reflect on what makes a quality pastor. As I think about my senior pastor’s 25 years four qualities stand out. A godly pastor is devoted to the Word, humble before the Lord, consistent in character, and committed to longevity.

Bob sized and croppedFor most of his twenty-five years I have not been a part of Cornerstone Baptist Church.  I am the newest staff member at our church, having been here now less than two years. But I was overwhelmed by the testimony Bob has with our congregation. On that particular Sunday the church lived out the content of 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13. Though I have not been under Bob’s ministry for the preceding years, I reap the benefits every week of being part of the church that he has led for that long. This is a church that loves their pastors, and it is in part because Bob has been a pastor worthy of his position.

As pastor he has been devoted to the Word of God. Titus 1:9 tells us what kind of men overseers are to be:

He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.

The godly pastor commits himself to the Word of God. He does not build a ministry on fads, trends, and personality. Rather, he stands firm on the very Word of God. The backbone of Bob’s ministry has been the weekly exposition of God’s Word. Sermon series after sermon series, Sunday and Sunday Bob faithful expounds the text of Scripture. People come to our church because they want to hear that Word. Twenty-five years of preaching to the same people has paid off too. God has done a mighty work in many hearts and lives because of this faithful teaching. Godly pastors cling to the Word of God.

Godly pastors also humble before the Lord. I have never met a man as humble as Bob Johnson. He would not write this about himself, and he knows his own heart. But before us he reflects, week in and week out, a man who know he is a sinner in need of much grace. He did not remind us of his 25th anniversary. He did not plan any events for himself. In fact, the entire celebration on that Sunday was a surprise to him. He was going to do the same thing he does every Sunday: get up and preach through the next passage of Scripture. Bob does not make much of himself. Even after all these years of ministry, after all his degrees, studies, and sermons preached he does not believe himself to be beyond criticism or learning. He invites feedback on his sermons every Monday morning. He never assumes he is right, or that he knows what is best. He listens carefully to congregants, complaints, and his fellow pastors. It is this humility that has endeared him to our church. His humility has been inviting and attractive to each of us.

One of the other recurring themes of the weekend was Bob’s integrity. If it was said once it was said a hundred times: Bob is the same in the pulpit as he is out of it. What he says he means. How he urges us to live is how he strives to live. He is not a man of pretense of falsehood, but rather is a consistent in his character. There are far too many men who fall prey to blatant and recurring hypocrisy in ministry. There are countless moral failings in ministry because men hide behind a pulpit persona. But even Bob’s own children stood up to proclaim his consistency at home before them. Godly pastors are men of integrity.

Finally, if I may conclude this hagiography, I would praise Bob’s commitment to longevity. As pastor of one of the largest churches in Michigan, Bob has had many opportunities to advance his career. He could have gone other places, used our church as a stepping stone to something “bigger.” His heart, however, has always remained true to the calling given him by God. He has never sought new opportunities, but even when he was hired at 29 years old he determined to stay at Cornerstone for the long haul. The average length of a pastorate these days is something like three to five years. Long-term ministries don’t exist like the once did, but Bob saw the immense value of staying put. Influence takes time to build, but if you were to look around our congregation you would see Bob’s influence everywhere. It was echoed that recent Sunday morning in the words, the jokes, and the love of our people. It was echoed in their worship of King Jesus. Godly pastors are committed to longevity.

As a young pastor I am taking it all in. Day after day I look at what God has done in and through my senior pastor’s life and I marvel. I think to myself, “How  can I have that kind of impact.” I think these four qualities are a start. I think they mark out what a godly pastor looks like and the men who pursue such qualities will serve a church well. Perhaps they’ll serve in their locales for 25 years too.

David Dunham is an associate pastor at Cornerstone Baptist Church in Roseville, Michigan. He is a graduate of Ohio University (BA) and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (MDiv).

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