...I just began preaching at the church where I served for 4 + years as youth minister. Do you have any words of wisdom for a young preacher? ...
Yes, I do - much of it comes from my own failures, I don't claim to have it figured out but I do have a few things I'd say:
➥ You will fail. You’ll disappoint the brethren, your family, yourself and God. When it happens you will feel sick. BUT don’t be harder on yourself than God is. Ask Him to forgive you and He will, then forgive yourself and try to live on - if others don’t that is between them and God.
➥ Money. I wish I knew the number of guys who get out of preaching because of money issues (not enough-the man who will not take care of his family is worse than an infidel, no raises so they can’t keep up with inflation, money mistakes with taxes, insurance, and mishandling). I’m not the guy to talk about money, I’ve made about every mistake a person can in this area. But money problems will hurt your influence and more than that will get under your skin and make you feel, well, less.
➥My dad didn’t give us boys a lot of preaching advice. Not as much as I wish he had. I think he wanted us to be us and he wanted us to learn how to do this thing called ministry without having someone always holding our hands. So when he did give advice it was powerful. Here are two things that stood out to me:
- Take on projects and responsibilities that make you study: A radio program, a special class, continued education. You are going to fill your time with something and you have to study so if you have responsibilities that force you to study you’ll be better for it.
- Take someone with you on visits and home Bible studies: Dad was the master of evangelism (he’d be embarrassed by that statement, but it’s true). He was always crying out of preachers to get out and study the gospel with people! That was his mark of a good preacher: Do you love the lost? I remember one night he told me - I always try to take someone with me. That way it forces me not put it off and not to get out of the habit, it disciplines me. It also gives me a chance to train others how to teach others. And there’s the added benefit of getting closer to a member.
➥Be careful with counseling: You will have counseling opportunities because people are going to come to you with their struggles and problems. There are several dangers you need to keep in mind: One, you are not a professional counselor! Always be willing to listen, but be quick to refer. Don’t think you are superman, there will be many times when people need more professional help and your “keeping on with them” will drain your time and will not help them either. If you are not careful you will find yourself spending all of your time counseling and leave off so much of your ministry! Another danger to be aware of is that of dealing with members of the opposite sex. Guys, YOU ARE HUMAN! I know MANY good, good men who’s lives have been torn up and effective ministries have fallen to sexual sin. That never happens on purpose. NEVER counsel a woman without MANY thought through precautions. And NEVER counsel one in any totally private setting. You may not fall but they could cry foul anyway.
➥Be aware of those who would hijack your ministry: There are those who will try to get your attention on some hobby, or some issue or some position. One of my mentors, Glenn Posey told me about a very well known preacher who got so wrapped up in trying to deal with the institutional issue that the local church was neglected. Don’t let people define you by things that are not your ministry. I remember the day a guy came into my office years ago and asked if I’d help him in the local “right to life” work. Of course I oppose abortion, so I agreed. I found out over the next three weeks or so that he wanted our church to be his headquarters and wanted everything we did to be about that one issue. Yes, we must speak against that issue, but we are not about that issue. We are about Christ and His sacrifice and God’s love for His people and sharing that news with the world and encouraging those who have accepted that news!
➥Be a door opener, not an obstacle! There’s a better way to say that but that is what kept coming out on my keyboard. This story may or may not be true but it made an impact on me: A member at a church I preached at when I was younger came and told me what a previous preacher (Side note: always be leery of what people tell you the previous preacher did or said) had said to her husband before they married and that he would never become a Christian because of that. Again, I don’t know if that is true or not but I do know that in my dealings with others I want to have a “long view”. I may never immerse that person into Christ but in my dealings with them I want to treat them with such Christlikeness that I will leave the door open for someone later. I’ve baptized people who more than 40 years before had a brother or sister who was good to them - they left the door open!! Leave doors open all over town for the future when you move on.
➥Spend time with people so you will know their hurts - spend time with God’s Word so you will know how to heal them! Nothing will fuel your sermons like these two things. Drink coffee and the local watering hole at 5 and sit at the local Starbucks and eavesdrop on the conversations around you.
➥In local work become a part of any good thing you can in that community. This will feed the reputation of the church and will provide you with numerous contacts that you will find opportunity to teach and reach as well as opening the door for the church to do so very much.
➥Don’t use your family as an excuse to be lazy but don’t neglect your family. God gave you these souls. If you convert everyone in Podunk but lose the souls of your children life will not be nearly as sweet and you will be soul sick yourself. With your children you have a mandate to teach and train them - do it proactively!
➥Make sure they know what you believe early! Don't make the mistake I made in one place of trying to talk to the younger people so much that 3 years into the work there were important matters that the church didn't really know what I thought about them or how I would approach them. Make your first, or at least a VERY early series something like: "On This I Stand!"
➥Love! Leonard Johnson (neat obit at http://www.therestorationmovement.com/alabama/johnson,cl.htm) spoke in chapel at FHU my Junior year. I remember it as vividly as if it were yesterday. His humor, his energy at age 70 was powerful but most powerful were his instructions to young preachers. “Love! Love the Lord, love His people, love the lost, love your elders, love your enemies, love you wife. Love.” Brothers, protect your heart from bitterness, it will take root and spread and it will be ugly! Learn to forgive and keep on loving regardless. If God loved me when I killed His perfect Son then I surely can keep on loving anyone else!
➥Obviously, preach the Word. I’d encourage preaching in series and from texts, but that is just how I think. More than that I’d encourage you to learn from the best of any preacher you ever hear and then be YOU! Don’t be them, God didn’t make you to be them - He made you with your skills and gifts and talents to be YOU!
That’s what I’ve got today. I’m sure the comments will be better than the post. What advice would you give a young preacher?