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The Rev. Dr. William H. Willimon The Rev. Dr. William H. Willimon

The Rev. Dr. William H. Willimon is Professor of the Practice of Christian Ministry at The Divinity School, Duke University. He is recently retired after serving eight years as Bishop of the North Alabama Conference of The United Methodist Church.

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Bishop Will Willimon: Four Questions for Pastors

January 11, 2010

In a recent conversation with my friend Lloyd John Ogilvie, he said that in his fifty years of ministry he has learned to ask himself four pastoral questions:

  • What sort of people does Christ want to deploy in the world?
  • What sort of church do we need to produce those people?
  • What sort of leaders do we need to produce that sort of church
  • What sort of pastor do I need to be to produce that sort of leaders in that sort of church?

What wonderful questions I like the emphasis here on disciple-making as the point of pastoral work. Paul would probably call it "edification" of believers, but I like Lloyd's stress on performance, enactment, and witness to the gospel as the purpose of it all. Ministry is known by its fruit and the test of my ministry is not only my fidelity to the gospel but also the production of saints. Truth to tell, fidelity to the gospel requires the calling and equipping of disciples, church turned inside out.

In our churches today I sense a new spirit of accountability, evaluating ourselves by holding ourselves accountable to the mission of Christ and his church. Too often we have spent our energy planning and organizing without regard to results. Our Dashboard, along with NCD and other means is really helping us to focus on results, on the fruit of our work. Ogilvie's questions seem to be in the spirit of our determination to focus on results.

In my own ministry, as we enter another new year, I am going to try to do a better job of holding myself accountable to ask these four questions.

William H. Willimon

[Taken with permission from the Bishop's page on the website of the North Alabama Conference of the United Methodist Church.]


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