In the spirit of the Reformation and Martin Luther nailing his 95 Theses to the door, here are 75 Theses on church planting and pastoral ministry. After 10 years of pastoral ministry in the same church, I’ve compiled a list of things, or theses, I’ve learned, wish I had learned sooner, and I simply pass them on to you.

  1. You are planting a church, not a service. Know the difference.
  2. You don’t have to impress anyone. You are a servant of Christ.
  3. Quit the comparison game now. Work the field God gave you.
  4. Don’t bank your joy and happiness on giving and attendance.
  5. The people are the ministry, not a platform for ministry.
  6. Pastoring is more than preaching.
  7. In the early years, any more than 25 percent of your week on sermon prep is unwise.
  8. Sermon prep reading is 80 percent Bible and 20 percent commentaries.
  9. Do not neglect the renewal element of your ministry.
  10. Do not neglect your spiritual formation.
  11. Do not neglect the prayer meeting.
  12. Get plenty of sleep. A 20-minute nap can work wonders.
  13. Get a sabbatical plan in place for pastors and staff.
  14. Pray often for future leaders and planters.
  15. Marvel that Jesus has invited you to be a coworker.
  16. Consider not telling your wife all about your sermon. Give her some semblance of normal church life by letting her hear it on Sunday with everyone else in the body.
  17. People are more sinful, wounded, and tempted than you can imagine.
  18. And the gospel is more powerful than you can fathom.
  19. We need the truths of the gospel more than we realize.
  20. We need the Holy Spirit more than we realize.
  21. We need community and friends more than we realize.
  22. Incorporate creeds and catechisms into the church’s liturgy and discipleship. Teach the church her history.
  23. Plan a steady diet of preaching from both testaments.
  24. Be a lead repenter.
  25. Pastors are worship leaders, too.
  26. You really don’t need a green room.
  27. Don’t forget about deacons—install them and unleash them.
  28. Your title doesn’t shield you from people disliking you.
  29. Some people will have no problem sinning against you.
  30. And you are still called to love and shepherd those people.
  31. Many will love you with a sincere affection.
  32. Others just want to be in the “know.” Learn the difference.
  33. There is a monumental difference between thick skin and a calloused heart.
  34. Encourage others often.
  35. Thank others even more often.
  36. Empower leaders sooner than later.
  37. Don’t be afraid to say, “I don’t know.”
  38. Tell the church you love them.
  39. You will preach terrible sermons and it won’t be the end of the world. God uses them.
  40. Preach the living Jesus every Sunday.
  41. People will fall asleep while you preach. A lot of times it’s their issue. At least they are there.
  42. Very few preachers should preach for longer than 40 minutes. Less is more. You have years ahead of you.
  43. God will go to great lengths to choke out pride and cultivate humility.
  44. Be incredibly quick at resolving conflicts. You’ll regret slowness.
  45. Work hard at unity. Monitor it. Don’t watch it drift.
  46. Take Titus 3:10 seriously.
  47. Listen to the membership. They are filled with the same Holy Spirit, so listen to them, consider their counsel, and have the guts to change course if needed.
  48. Keep communing with God. Rust can develop overnight.
  49. Be intentional at dating, loving, and serving your wife.
  50. Your kids only have one dad. Be there for them.
  51. People will criticize just about anything and everything. Get used to it.
  52. Listen to your emotions but don’t wholesale trust them.
  53. Don’t fall into the trap that fruitfulness rides on us. “He gives the growth.”
  54. I need the sweetness of Jesus Christ to rock me every day.
  55. It really is the kindness of God that leads people to repentance. Not us, our preaching, or raising our voice while preaching.
  56. Biting your tongue can either be wisdom or foolishness.
  57. You need your wife to be ridiculously honest with you in all areas: ministry, family time, tone, exercise, food, sermons, etc.
  58. Remember that gospel ministry is a seed. It takes time.
  59. Fruit that springs up quickly might be “fruit” and fall or fade away.
  60. Church discipline is much more than a theoretical discussion. It is incredibly painful and difficult and needed.
  61. Don’t obsess over tomorrow. Think long-range. Pray for 40+ years of faithful and fruitful ministry.
  62. Meet often with other pastors for encouragement, counsel, and partnership.
  63. Show up to every Acts 29 event, meeting, or conference that you can. Put a premium on your development as a pastor.
  64. Create space to read the Bible for your formation and nothing else. Read without teaching in mind.
  65. Live in the Psalms. Pray through them regularly.
  66. Learn to lament. Suffering, grief, and pain are unavoidable.
  67. Get a dead mentor or two. Read everything from them.
  68. Keep reading theology. You are a pastor-theologian for your people.
  69. Make time for fun.
  70. Make time for exercise.
  71. Don’t be afraid to go to counseling. You’re a human, too.
  72. You will be okay.
  73. Always make it about Jesus.
  74. Jesus is amazing. Always.
  75. Jesus loves you. Forever.
Jeff Medders
Written by: Jeff Medders on November 1, 2021

J.A. Medders serves on staff at Risen Church and the Risen Collective in Houston, Texas. He’s a Ph.D. student in biblical spirituality at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He also hosts The Acts 29 Podcast and serves as the director of assessment. Jeff is the author of Humble Calvinism and Gospel Formed. You can follow his writing and monthly newsletter at spiritualtheology.net.

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