James, in his epistle, rightly reminds his readers that the ministry of teaching God’s Word isn’t for everyone. Paul writing to Timothy and Titus emphasizes the characteristics of a Christian leader. The title of the book Character Matters: Shepherding in the Fruit of the Spirit suggests that the author addresses pastors and Christian leaders. Therefore, the character of a shepherd matters and shepherding God’s people as God’s under-shepherds is a work that requires great responsibility.
As David Murray rightly said, “the minister’s soul is the soul of his ministry.” Many times, pastors focus on the structure and doctrine of the church. Both are important for a church to be healthy. Pastors invest time in preparing good sermons, teaching people, counselling church members and a lot more to keep a healthy functioning church. Too often, in their course of ministry, a pastor fails to nurture his own soul. According to the author, when we pastors neglect personal spiritual nourishment, is when we start to let the weight of ministry rest on ourselves. As well, we tend to respond to people and situations in an unhealthy manner. Therefore, we must minister in the fruit of the Spirit. For that purpose, we pastors need to nourish our souls in the word of God, prayer, and need to live in continual dependence on the Spirit of God.
If pastors aren’t growing in the fruit of the Spirit, then there is another major pitfall they can experience in the ministry. Many times, Christian leaders may be doing a lot of right things for the sake of the ministry and the church. If not careful, they may end up doing these right things for wrong reasons or motives. One may teach rightly and invest a lot of time in the lives of people for self-glory. When believers do not respond appropriately, pastors may become domineering. The author points out in one of the chapters that pride and self-interest are the twin enemies in the ministry. Pride demands instead of encouraging and cares more about the leader’s significance than the congregation’s sanctification. On the other hand, self-interest seeks the leader’s convenience. Therefore, a leader needs to be filled and nurtured in the fruit of the Spirit to serve the church well.
Ministry isn’t smooth at all times, sometimes even strenuous. This could be because of many reasons: rejection, lack of fruit in the ministry, members leaving the church and many more. The author reminds us that in the economy of God, the metrics of success are not measured by the number of people, fame, missionaries sent, churches planted, or books written, but faithfulness alone.
In the first epistle of Peter, the apostle encourages the elders not to be greedy for money, and not to lord over the people, but to lead by example (1 Peter 5:1-4). Paul encourages Timothy to watch not only his teaching, but also his life (1 Timothy 4:16). Pastors with a lot of opportunities to speak to people may become experts at pointing out the sins of others while neglecting sin in their own lives. Whether a pastor or a church member, a Christian should grow in godliness. The author mentions that pastors should model the process of sanctification for the people in the churches they serve.Congregations need pastors who know how to rest in the finished work of Christ. This book serves as a solemn reminder to all Christian leaders to model a cross-centred fruit-bearing life.
This book is for all Christian leaders, pastors, deacons, or people who aspire to serve the Lord in any capacity. I am greatly encouraged by reading this simple, yet convicting book. The author refers to each fruit of the Spirit as a ‘piece’, and he devotes one chapter to each piece. He explains each ‘piece’ of the fruit very profoundly, relates it with his own experiences, applies it specifically to the lives of pastors and church leaders and at the end of each chapter, he suggests various steps to grow in that particular characteristic of the fruit. Hence, pastors need to focus on all of the ‘pieces’ of the fruit of the Spirit and not neglect any of them.When the Holy Spirit is at work in us, He brings forth the full fruit. Ultimately, this book reminds us that a pastor cannot serve well if he is not bearing and growing spiritual fruit. Therefore, let every Christian leader give equal attention to their calling and as well as to their character because character matters. The church displays the beauty of Christ when pastors and its members are growing in the fruit of the Spirit.