After reading over the list I think I should have called this “top ten mistakes this preacher made when he was a rookie and sometimes still does." 1. Taking himself too seriously: I thought a preacher was supposed to wear a suit even if he didn't want to. This hit it's Zenith one day when it snowed and some of the kids were getting together to sled and I...yes...wore a coat a tie to ride down the hill on old pieces of plywood and shovels! Be real, not a poser. Someone apologized to me for the "Coke" being flat they served me and rather than just saying "it's OK" or "I pass" - I lied. I told them I liked flat Coke. Well, it wasn't fully a lie, I did like flat Coke more than telling them otherwise. Thank you Eva church (and most Johnny and Diane) for putting up with me.
2. Not spending the “extra time” before he backpack gets full studying: David Harmon told me in my first few months at Hamilton (I was 26 I think) that to be careful how many stones I let people "put in my backpack." I didn't have a clue what he meant but what he meant was how many responsibilities and appointments I let accumulate. Monday night here, Tuesday morning there, a weekly thing over there and before you know it you have overloaded and don't have time to study, pray, visit, conduct Bible studies, etc. I remember sitting in Eva praying that someone anyone would come by and visit or need something. I should have been praying about other things or spent the time studying. Years later I still regret that pattern.
3. Not letting the church know his core beliefs: The temptation is to preach your favorite three or four series that first year in a work. Unless it's a first principles series people will not know what you believe and it will come back to haunt you. In every work since H'ton I've started with "This I Believe - Unquestionable Beliefs." Trust me on this one.
4. Courting the younger “set.” It's only natural, we tend to understand and want to be around those closer to our own age. We also have bought into the concept that younger families are most attractive for the Work. While a healthy church needs younger families and it speaks well for it's future, there is no intrinsic value of a young soul more than an older one. In fact there are a couple of reasons why the older would have a benefit for the Kingdom (Typically: experience, wisdom, more serious about serious things, more ability to support the work). But you try to court the younger families. Now, here's the little secret: They will like you anyway. There is not need to do it. They will be naturally drawn to you just as you tend to be to them. And many of the older folks, if you are very young, will tend to be a little suspicious of you. Work hard to win them, it will be worth it many times over.
5. Neglecting his family: I know, you think you will save the world. And that's gonna take A LOT of work. But if you win them all and your wife and kids are lost you will be miserable! Don’t use your family as an excuse not to work but if the church won’t accept that you need to fulfill that responsibility - you got your hands full! Teach them. If you lose your family it will affect your effectiveness with many folks. Wendell Winkler always said “there are three parts to every day: Morning, afternoon and evening. No person can work all three of those and have a successful family life.
6. Trying to do it all: When you do this you are wearing yourself out. You are also robbing people of their chance to grow and become more for the Lord. I remember when I first started I was afraid to admit I slept. Someone would call at 5 in the morning and ask: “Did I wake you?” Well, they didn’t, I had to get up to answer the phone. I would sprint like Flash to get to the phone or door before the second ring.
7. Not being himself and finding his own voice: There are a lot of good preachers out there and in 2,000 years of Christendom there have been many. And you will hear a guy and want to preach just like him. For me it was Van Vansandt. Though only two years my senior I thought no one could preach like Van (still feel that way). I tried everything to imitate him. But, alas, I’m no “Jap.” But I am Dale and I can be the best me I can be. I’ve tried to learn from and take elements from guys who preach with passion and excellence but you be you. You have stuff to give to the Kingdom no one else does.
8. Not learning to live within his means: I’ve repented many times for the many foolish things I did with money. My problem 9 times out of 10 was I was too generous - so generous that I wouldn’t have anything left to share. It left me behind and at times seriously harmed my reputation. If you make $300 a week, you can live on it, but you must discipline yourself and not try to live on $500 if you only make $300. And, don’t count your chickens before they hatch. Don’t spend money you don’t already have. I could talk about money a lot because I’ve learned a lot about it by the mistakes I’ve made. One more thing. Be honest with your leaders. If you need more, show them why in clear terms and see if they will help. But don’t go to that well too often.
9. Not keeping leaders informed: I said it in a post a couple of days ago but it bears repeating. Elders do not like surprises. It is rarely easier to get forgiveness than permission. I don’t know who started that lie but they weren’t in ministry. If you are going to try something you’ve had time to think it through and play out the implications - they have not - present it to them and let them ask questions. Better them asking you before and you realizing it was unwise than after and you looking for another job.
10. Not realizing his significance in effecting change. It has taken me years and I’m still learning but many people do see you as different. They expect you to have direction and to plan and to dream and to do something big! They will respond when you are excited about something and communicate it to them. Frankly, it’s sorta a neat little blessing. Don’t abuse it but be aware of it.
11. OK, I’m giving you a bonus - I love bonuses: Over reaching his significance in effecting change. This is the converse of #10. The church is bigger than you or any other person on earth. When you go down the road in a van, be it moving or hearse, it will go on. Dad preached for 43 years at Roebuck Parkway and then died suddenly. He baptized, married or “birthed” most every member there. The Sunday after he died, you know what they did? They met together and worshipped. Someone preached. And they worshipped the Lord. I had a young pup tell me the once that he was thinking of leaving where he was and if he did - it would all fall a part. It didn’t, won’t and wouldn’t. Be thankful you get to touch lives, to effect positive change, to push people forward, yes, to lead. But aren’t you thankful the future of the church doesn’t depend on you. The church has a Savior and He’s not you - - - but if you do your work well - people will see Him in you and want to be like Him.