More Advice for Theological Students and Young Pastors
I don’t think I am all that wise, but I have made mistakes. I also know some of the ways in which I need to grow. So at the risk of overdoing it, here are twenty-five other things I wish I knew when I started out in ministry (and am still learning now):
21. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Get in touch with seminary profs. Try to get a top notch speaker in once in awhile. Make contact with churches your respect. Build a network and learn from others.
22. Keep reading. Please keep reading. Boldly ask for a book allowance. The rule is not absolute, but I question a man’s call to ministry if he does not like to read.
23. Man is not justified by preaching. Some sermons are a home run. Other times you’re lucky to bunt your way on.
24. Don’t preach your issues from seminary. I can almost guarantee no one in your church doubts the Pauline authorship of Ephesians. It says “Paul” in their Bibles so they’re good to go.
25. Sometime in your first two years, preach about prayer, evangelism, giving, and the authority of Scripture.
26. Figure out what you believe about divorce and remarriage, and figure it out soon.
27. Build consensus whenever possible, but when you have to make an unpopular decision that will be unpopular don’t insist that everyone like it. Take your lumps and move on.
28. Be comfortable in your own shoes. Preach through your own personality. Learn from, but don’t try to clone, your heroes.
29. Accept the blessings God gives (and does not give) you. Some pastors have two talents. Some of five or ten. That’s just the way it is. Don’t be jealous of those with more or look down on those with fewer.
30. Develop warm relationship with other evangelical churches in your area. Pray for these churches. Direct people to their ministries when the situation fits. Be happy for their blessings. I realized early on I didn’t really want revival unless I was fine with it starting at the church down the street.
31. Pray that the Lord won’t give you success until you don’t want it anymore.
32. Don’t assume the worst about people, even if you’re suspicions are right. Better to be a little naive than a lot cynical.
33. Make time to make friends. In the long run neither you nor your church will regret the hours invested in personal relationships with other pastors, old friends from seminary, and kindred spirits in the congregation.
34. Have low expectations for people this year and high expectations for people in five years.
35. Figure out the membership class and member care. Set the bar high for both.
36. Train and evaluate potential leaders. You can endure a lot of hardship if you feel energized and supported by your closest leaders. Ministry will be a nightmare if your leadership team lacks unity and maturity.
37. Focus on the basics. Don’t get distracted with the church website or the newsletter layout. The pastor who works hard at his sermons, genuinely likes people, and really loves the Lord will be used by God.
38. Don’t expect the search committee to have any clue what they’re doing.
39. Love your wife. Spend time with your kids. Be very afraid if you no longer look forward to going home at the end of the day.
40. Be generous in giving credit to others and stingy in passing around the blame.
41. Learn to ignore some comments, some controversies, and, yes, some people.
42. Never use the pulpit to settle old scores. Do use it to honor faithful saints and co-laborers.
43. Tell your congregation you love them and are glad to be their pastor.
44. What your people need most from you is your own personal holiness. People want a pastor who has been with God.
45. Keep your passions in proportion. Not everything matters as much as everything else. Keep the gospel front and center.