1. Give priority to your personal communion with God. Put your own soul first: your maintaining communion with God is a prerequisite for being an effective pastor to your people. ‘Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers’ (Acts 20:28).
2. Give priority to prayer and holiness. Undertake no sermon, no pastoral work, no task of the ministry without seeking God’s face in Jesus Christ. Follow John Bunyan’s advice: ‘You can do more than pray after you have prayed, but you cannot do more than pray until you have prayed’. Personal holiness is not only a necessary pursuit but a joyful one, and is usually inseparable from divine success in the ministry.
3. Be bibline all your life. Be like Bunyan, of whom Spurgeon said that, if you pricked any vein, the blood would flow out bibline. Read the Word, study the Word, believe the Word, pray over the Word, love the Word, live the Word, memorise the Word, meditate on the Word, sing the Word and practice the Word.
4. Remember that preaching is the primary task of the ministry, and that, to do it rightly, you need the Holy Spirit two times for every sermon: once in the study and then again in the pulpit.
5. Be profoundly thankful and humbled for the honour of being an ambassador of Jesus Christ. Remain convinced all your life that you have a crucial vocation, for you are dealing with never-dying souls for a never-ending eternity.
6. Preach Christ to the full. Be determined to know no man after the flesh — including yourself — and to glory in nothing except Jesus Christ and him crucified, exalted and coming again! Be a self-forgetter and a Christ-preacher. You can never preach him enough. Devote the best energy of your life into preaching him biblically, doctrinally, experientially and practically. Resolve, like Thomas Boston, to leave the savour of Christ behind in all that you do.
7. Love. Love the triune God; love your wife and children; love people; love your work.
8. Maintain a radical sense of dependency on the anointing of the Holy Spirit in all that you think, say and do. Lean upon the Spirit at all times.
9. Ask God to give you a few, very close pastoral friends with whom you can hold each other accountable. Love your brethren in the ministry, and do not compete with them.
10. Live every day with an eternal perspective that fuels evangelistic urgency for the lost and pastoral love for the saints’ maturation. Keep eternity in view in all that you do, so that on the great day you may give a good account of your ministry and may hear your Master say, ‘Well done, thou good and faithful servant … enter thou into the joy of thy Lord’ (Matthew 25:21).
Joel R. Beeke is Professor of Systematic Theology and Homiletics at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary, pastor of the Heritage Reformed Congregation in Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA, editorial director of Reformation Heritage Books, and editor of the Banner of Sovereign Grace Truth