by Steve Bailey
Paul addresses Timothy and said these words in 2 Tim. 4:5, “But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” Every right thinking minister wants to “fulfill his ministry” but the question often comes back, “how do I do that?”
I fear even attempting this topic as it reminds me of the youth minister that was given the opportunity to preach one morning in the absence of the local preacher. Being newly married and having no children, but hired as the youth minister for the local congregation, he decided to preach a lesson on: “How to Raise the Perfect Child!” He really laid the law down to the congregation on what to do and what not to do by way of raising children. After a year or two, he and his wife had their first child—later he was given another opportunity to preach on a Sunday morning. The lesson was titled: “Some Thoughts on Raising Children!” Time passed, and a few years later his child was now a sixteen year old and a very active teenager. As you would suspect, he was called upon to preach. This time, he titled his lesson: “Some words from a fellow struggling parent!” It is with this same fear that I offer these suggestions.
Some may ask, well, Steve—“Who are you to write this article?” I have been “in the fulltime ministry” of the Lord’s Church since 1976, and I do not have all the answers; but I would like to attempt to share some suggestions for a young minister, a minister just coming out of school, or a minister just beginning a work with a local congregation.
First, do your work. Work is a four-letter word, but it is a good word. If you do not know your work, ask for an explanation of what is expected of you by the Elders. Set down with your Shepherds—they hired you, they know what they want from you, you have ideas of what to do—find some common ground. Each day is filled with more than enough work. Not a night goes by that I don’t lay my head on the pillow and think of things left undone or things that will be at the top of my work-list tomorrow. A minister should never be bored. I often say, I get tired “in the work,” but never tired “of the work!”
Second, plan your day with the Bible as an intricate part of your day. A lot of people are what we call “morning people.” That means some people are better suited to being “up and going” full steam ahead first thing of the day. Others are better at Bible study late in the day. Whatever your biological clock says about you, make the Bible a huge part of your day. This is where God will speak to you through the Word and help with insights into your preaching and teaching.
Third, make people a part of your day. Too many universities and colleges are trying to turn out “pulpit-teers” rather than ministers. These are the men that just preach and do nothing else. If you don’t know the membership, how will you know what the needs are of the congregation?
Fourth, make it part of your day to visit someone in the hospital or nursing home. It is always good to call and see if it is a good time to come for a brief visit. Often I find that the person I went to visit had a scheduled doctor appointment, beauty shop appointment, or may have gone out for any number of reasons. If you live in a small town, you may drive by the house and see that person is not home; you can come back later. But if you live in a metropolitan area, it is not unusual to drive 30-60 minutes to visit a hospital. A call first, could save you precious time as well as several gallons of gasoline.
Five, take some quality time to plan out your sermons for the year. Yes, I said, the year! Get away and spend one to two days of concentrated planning and get at least a “bird’s eye view” of what you will be preaching. I promise your year will go much better, less stressful, and more fulfilling! Personally, I take a couple of days in early December to look toward the next year, pray, plan, project my sermons, and schedule for the upcoming year. Try it; you will like it. If you need more information on how I personally do this, please contact me, and I will be happy to discuss this with you.
Six, pray. No preacher is powerful in God’s eyes if he is not a praying man. I read a church marquee once as I was traveling in the city. The sign read, “Prayerless Pews Make for Powerless Pulpits!” I thought to myself, “What a powerful message.” I also think the congregation knows if you are a praying man. When they hear your public prayers, it just comes out of us when we have been with the Father in prayer day after day.
Seven, look for ways to serve. Be a self-starter. Keep your eyes open, ears to the ground, and your nose in the Book. When there is a death, be the first one there to pray and grieve with the family. When a baby is born, be the first one there to welcome and pray with the parents. When a new family moves in to town, or visits the assembly, be the first to welcome and invite them to worship services.
Eight, be strong, be brave, and stand firm! I remember sitting in a Bible Class at Oklahoma Christian and listening to Brother Raymond Kelcy tell us one day a statement that will live with me till I die. “Boys, the Ministry is only for the brave!” When I heard Brother Kelcy say that, it lit a fire in me that has not gone out! There are times you will be called upon to teach or preach about a subject that is difficult. Be brave. You have been called to do the work of an evangelist…do that work! Know your audience and preach the Word in love, but do it with a conviction that no one misunderstands! If this ministry work were easy, everybody would be doing it!
Nine, encourage a young man to be a minister. Take someone under your wing and encourage him. I’ve been blessed to have several “older men” in my life that have helped to influence me and give me guidance. The least I can do is the passing on of that help to someone else.
Ten, don’t compare yourself all the time with other congregations doing a bigger work, or having more in attendance. A wise preacher once told me, “Steve, churches have personalities, just like people have personalities.” That was some of the best teaching I’ve received. Every congregation is different. Try never to compare yourself to another congregation down the road. Let the congregation you preach in have its own distinct identity! By that, I mean let that congregation be known for doing a great work, or having a great benevolence ministry, or being an evangelistic group, or mission-minded congregation. Be the best for God that you can be. Do what you and yours can do for the best of the Lord’s church.
Many more things could be added, and I am sure if you made a list of your own thoughts it might look similar. The admonition from Paul is: “Do the work of an evangelist!” Fellows, there is work to do—the work is plenty; but the laborers are few. Let’s get busy and do the greatest work of all. Amen?
Steve Bailey serves the Mesquite Church of Christ as her preacher and as one of the elders. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.