When I graduated from seminary and was about to start a pastoral career, people around me encouraged me to become a competent pastor. They told me if I want to be a great pastor, I ought to acquire skills. Since that day, I asked myself the following questions. What are the skills? What does it mean to be a great pastor? How are the skills developed? How are the skills accumulated? For what do I need to acquire skills and for whom do I use those skills? These questions are not only applicable to me, but likely in any career field.
We are told that in order to survive, we need to be competent and excellent. We hear that we need to acquire skills and strength. These are burdensome words to be taken in. As a matter of fact, it is not easy to achieve excellence in any field we are in. Who wouldn’t want to be an outstanding person? Who wouldn’t want to be a competent person? If it is such an easy thing to do, why do we think our lives are so hard? And is it good to be competent? Is it good to be capable? In contrast, I have never seen people who are not competent and capable cause big problems. Yet I have seen people who think that they are smart and capable, make big mistakes. Then do we need to give up being outstanding? It is important that we need to have a balance here. We ought to have a balance between character and capability.
If a pastor preaches well but has some flaws in his character, people say, "What use is it to preach well? His character must be flawless as a pastor." If his character is good but his sermon is not likable, people say, "His good character is not enough. A pastor is a person who preaches the Word. If he cannot preach well, how can he be a great pastor?" If he preaches well, he gets invited often to other churches. People then criticize that he only likes to preach for other churches but neglects his own church. If his sermons are mediocre, he doesn’t get any invitation from other churches. People would say that he is incapable to lead revival events for other churches. So what are the standards for a good message and what kind of character is a likable one? It is so difficult to walk the path of a minister. On top of that, ministry in the immigrant church context is even harder.
We cannot describe it with words but we know what good character looks like. We also know which kinds of sermons please God. The Bible says that a pastor whose heart is after God’s heart possesses knowledge and understanding. Then I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will lead you with knowledge and understanding (Jeremiah 3:15). In order to be a great pastor, he must have knowledge and understanding. For pastors, knowledge and understanding are the skills. In that sense, pastors must become scholars. He also has to have leadership because he needs to nurture people with love.
Then how can we cultivate good character, acquire skills and develop capability? The secret is to do little tasks in repetition.
Great character is formed when we are diligent with insignificant things. The basics of good character is to take care of a little child with respect. Capability is also being developed when we are diligent with insignificant things. Jesus emphasized faithfulness to little things in the parable of the talents. This is the principle and the secret of the kingdom of God. Jesus taught that a small mustard seed contains the secret of the kingdom of God. When a mustard seed was planted, it became a tree and birds came and perched. The secret of my life is also to repeat little tasks every day.
I never thought that I am great or outstanding. I always thought that I lacked in certain aspects. The more I learned, I found more unknowns. The more I worked, the work got even harder. Work always seemed new. When I work, it feels like I'm traveling on a road that I never traveled before. I cannot anticipate what will unfold next. I will never know what kind of obstacles lay ahead. However, I feel that cultivating characters and acquiring skills little by little every day do help. A great tree does not grow overnight. A great tree gradually grows from a small seed.
I think that humans are limited beings but God bestows limitless potential in us. In order to develop the potential, one must practice little tasks in repetition every day. Just like when we exercise daily, we become healthier. When we study daily, our capability grows. Any capability you repeat daily will develop more depending on how hard you try. Character grows also the same way. Don’t be anxious. Continue to add on small efforts. This is what I wanted to tell you on how we achieve excellence.
The weather has been hot -- Please take care of yourself. I pray that God’s blessings will fill and overflow in your family.
Reverend Joshua Choon-Min Kang is the senior pastor of New Life Vision Church, located in Los Angeles. This is one of the weekly letters he writes to his congregation. For the original, visit www.nlvc.org.