By Marissa Postell Sullivan
BRENTWOOD, Tenn. – Pastors live under relentless pressure to be “on-target.” And it’s not good enough to be “on-target” once. Pastors face daily demands of hitting targets of success in every area of life—for the long haul. How are pastors ever supposed to finish well?
In his new book, “Start to Finish: The Pastor’s Guide to Leading a Resilient Life and Ministry” releasing June 6, 2023, Mark Dance, director of pastoral wellness at GuideStone Financial Resources, helps ministry leaders find guidance to run the race well from start to finish.
Dance says finishing well requires pastors to keep the main thing the main thing in every aspect of life and ministry. Over the years, Dance struggled to know what the main thing was. It seemed to be different in different places—preaching, discipleship, fellowship, worship, ministry projects. But about a decade ago, Dance stubbled across a familiar passage of Scripture that solved the mystery for him—loving God and loving neighbor are the greatest commandments (Mark 12:28-31).
Necessarily, Dance says, being a Great Commandment pastor leads to being a Great Commission leader, compelled by their love for God and their neighbors. Dance says the pastor who keeps the main thing the main thing will be a pastor who loves those Jesus loved—sinners.
“‘Neighbors’ means ‘nearest ones,’ which suggests proximity,” Dance said. “My nearest one sleeps on the other side of the bed. For 20 years our kids were nearest, but in this season of life, our parents need us more than our children do. When this command was originally communicated in Leviticus 19, the first application Moses made was with the family. But it’s also a call to global mission, starting literally with our next-door neighbors.”
The secret to a faithful finish in ministry? There is none, Dance says. And there are no shortcuts either. There is only daily walking with God, learning to love Him with heart, soul, mind and strength and to love neighbor.
“Healthy pastors are Great Commandment leaders who practice a whole-life discipleship which is comprehensive in nature, not compartmentalized,” Dance said. “Someone who is loving God well will want his neighbors—near and far—to know and love Him also. Every Great Commandment pastor I’ve met practices the Great Commission, but the converse is not always the case. You don’t have to look far to find a pastor who is better at reaching people than loving them.”
Learn more about Mark Dance’s book “Start to Finish” and order your copy at StartToFinishBook.com.
Marissa Postell Sullivan is a writer for Lifeway Christian Resources.
About Mark Dance
Mark Dance served as a lead pastor/planter for 27 years before launching Lifeway Pastors, the Care4Pastors Network, and Oklahoma’s Ministry Pipeline. He currently serves as the director of pastoral wellness for GuideStone Financial Resources. Mark earned a B.B.A. from Howard Payne University, an M.Div. from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and a D.Min. from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He speaks at conferences and seminaries and regularly contributes to books, blogs, and magazines. He and his wife Janet have two grown children and live in Dallas, Texas. They enjoy backpacking and leading ministry marriage conferences together across North America.
About B&H Publishing Group
B&H Publishing Group, an imprint of Lifeway Christian Resources, is a team that believes Every Word Matters™. We seek to provide intentional, biblical content that positively impacts the hearts and minds of people, cultivating lifelong relationships with Jesus Christ. We publish (print and digital) in the trade, church and academic markets, as well as the CSB translation.
About Lifeway Christian Resources
In operation since 1891, Lifeway Christian Resources is one of the leading providers of Christian resources, including Bibles, books, Bible studies, Christian music and movies, Vacation Bible School and church supplies, as well as camps and events for all ages. Lifeway is the world’s largest provider of Spanish Bibles. Based in Middle Tennessee, Lifeway operates as a self-supporting nonprofit. For more information, visit Lifeway.com.