Dying to Self in Ministry
Scripture's Description of a Ministerial Duty

Jesus, who laid down his life for his sheep (John 10:15; 17), calls every pastor likewise to die to self and to lead Christ’s sheep to die to self as well. But no one likes to die. My flesh shuns self-sacrifice and pursues selfish ease. How can any merely human shepherd freely choose to die? Fortunately, Jesus offers bountiful supply by which he makes ordinary men sufficient for the self-dying ministry to which he calls (2 Corinthians 2:16; 3:6).

A Bountiful Supply

Jesus called you (John 15:16; 1 Timothy 1:12), bought you with his blood (1 Corinthians 6:20), and equips you to serve as his ambassador (2 Corinthians 5:20). He stands with you (Matthew 28:20; Hebrews 13:5), for his call to pastoral ministry demands more from you than you have to give (Luke 17:10). After all, he commissions you to watch over and to tend his sheep (Hebrews 13:17: John 21:15-17). But he also, by his Spirit, furnishes you with gifts for ministry (1 Timothy 4:14) and causes supernatural fruit to attend the merely human things you do (1 Corinthians 3:6-7). When you pray, he freely bestows Spirit-wrought boldness (Acts 4:29-31). Jesus has, in fact, supplied everything you need, making you “sufficient” to minister for him (2 Corinthians 3:6). His call is daunting, but his supply is bountiful.

Die to Yourself

With that bountiful supply in mind, here’s how Christ calls you to die to self:

Kill your “old man” (Colossians 3:9), “put on compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience” (Colossians 3:12), flee sin (1Corinthians 6:18; 10:14), and “pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, [and] gentleness” (1 Timothy 6:11). “Train yourself for godliness” (1 Timothy 4:7) and “set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, [and] in purity” (1 Timothy 4:12). Willingly “share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God” (2 Timothy 1:8) and “wage the good warfare” (1 Timothy 1:18). Shun “foolish, ignorant controversies” (2 Timothy 2:23), and instead “teach what accords with sound doctrine” (Titus 2:1). Moreover, “[k]eep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching” (1 Timothy 4:16), never straying from the “pattern of sound words” (2 Timothy 1:13) the Scripture provides. “[G]uard the deposit entrusted to you” (1 Timothy 6:20) and “contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). Keep watch over the souls under your charge (Hebrews 13:17), withholding no hard truth from your sheep (Act 20:20) and brooking no fear of offending the goats (Acts 4:9-12). Work hard “to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15), growing ever more “competent in the Scriptures” (Acts 18:24). Preach the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27), making it your ambition always to preach “Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2). Resolve to “reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching” (2 Timothy 4:2) no matter the personal cost (2 Corinthians 11:24-29). Abhor “cunning,” “disgraceful, underhanded ways,” and every form of “tamper[ing] with God’s word” (2 Corinthians 4:2), crucifying your lust for applause and your desire for human praise (Matthew 6:1-5). Reject “lofty speech” (1 Corinthians 2:1) and “plausible words of wisdom” (1 Corinthians 2:4), instead adorning your pulpit with an “open statement of the truth” (2 Corinthians 2:4). In short, “be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, [and] fulfill your ministry” (2 Timothy 4:5).

Each gospel minister must, in these ways, learn to die to self, for no man who is unwilling to die to self can lead Christ’s sheep to do the same.

Lead Your Sheep to Die to Self

Keeping in mind, then, that Christ supplies bountifully, here’s how the Lord calls you to lead your sheep to die to self along with you:

Exhort your sheep with the Word (2 Timothy 4:2; Titus 2:15), pressing Christ’s demands upon their time, priorities, and choices (1 Corinthians 6:19-20), for you represent the Chief Shepherd of their souls (1 Peter 5:1-4). When you see in them a lesser discipleship than Jesus requires (Luke 9:57-62; Matthew 10:37-39), correct them gently (Galatians 6:1), seeking in love to discipline them for their good (Matthew 18:15-20). Teach them that the purity of the Church and the reputation of Jesus demand personal holiness from them (1 Peter 1:13-17). Call them willingly to embrace the cost of discipleship (Matthew 10:24-25; 34-39). Exhort them freely to choose “to be mistreated with the people of God [rather] than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin” (Hebrews 11:26), for “all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12). Strive more for the holiness of your sheep than for their happiness (Romans 13:14). Slay their sacred cows (Exodus 32:19-20) and hold up a mirror to their sin (James 4:1-4), teaching them that a “cloud of witnesses” ran this race before them (Hebrews 12:1). Remind them that Christ called them “out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9), granting them heavenly citizenship (Philippians 3:20). Exhort them neither to “trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation” (Psalm 146:3), nor to confuse the Kingdom of God with a political party (Matthew 22:21). Call them to strive more for their own holiness than for the holiness of “the culture” (1 Corinthians 5:9-13), and to look for sin in their own hearts (Matthew 15:19) rather than nit-picking the lives of others (Matthew 7:3). Lead your sheep to the Rock who is Christ (1 Corinthians 10:4), drinking deeply together as you sojourn through this dry and weary land to “the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God” (Hebrews 11:10).

Your Source for Courage?

How can any man freely choose this daily dying? By nature, I serve myself, I shun self-sacrifice, and I pursue my own comfort. Every fiber of my being resists self-death. But if I would faithfully serve and emulate Christ, who “came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45), I too must die. So must you.

Therefore, I urge you to turn again to our Heavenly Father. He alone makes men faithful “servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God” (1 Corinthians 4:1). He alone leads his people willingly to die to self for Christ, who first died for us (2 Corinthians 5:14-15). He alone equips his shepherds “to commend ourselves in every way” (2 Corinthians 6:4), such that “death is at work in us” (2 Corinthians 4:12) for the salvation of others and for the glory of Christ.

So, join me in asking our Father for courage (Matthew 7:11), both to die to self and to lead Christ’s sheep to do the same. Confess any cowardice (2 Corinthians 3:5). Ask for strength to kill the Old Man, mortifying sin and striving for holiness (Hebrews 12:14). Pray that your fear of God overmasters your fear of man (2 Corinthians 5:11). The Lord’s grace stands sufficient for you, for me, and for our sheep. So, ask him. Seek him. Find him (Matthew 7:7-8).


The simple truth is that no one likes to die, but Christ calls his chosen shepherds to do just that. May he equip you daily to die to self and to lead his blood-bought sheep to do the same.