There comes a point in pastoral ministry when people stop referring to you as the new, young pastor. Youthfulness is fleeting and along with the greying of hair, stiffening of joints, and a few more "smile lines" comes, hopefully, some wisdom.
I am encouraged at this stage of ministry when others seem to be lamenting the perceived fall of the church in our culture. As I visited a church last week, and joined the senior adult men's Bible study class, one gentleman stated his dismay at how the world is and how bleak the future appears.
I imagine every generation since Adam (or at least Noah) has said similar things.
Nevertheless, be encouraged. Of course, our study last week was on Barnabas. How appropriate.
There are many young men who have answered God's call into pastoral ministry. Many young men and women are committed to living as disciples of Jesus Christ, on mission for Him. Though the rise of the "nones" continues to make headlines (or at least becomes sermon fodder or religious discussion points) the fact remains that God has not changed and, in case you have forgotten, is still on His sovereign throne.
That being said, once you step over the line into "older adulthood" or at least "median adulthood" (those designations change depending on who is looking back in the mirror) perspectives shift. Wisdom of the ages is garnered, at least we hope so.
Every Timothy needs a Paul. The wise pastor realizes that at some point he, too, becomes a Paul for another Timothy. This is a daunting and wonderful role not to be ignored.
So, as I stand here at this point in pastoral ministry, I have many years behind me. I have no idea how many ahead (though I'm planning for many.) I have learned some things. I have much more to learn. Oh, and some of the things I have learned, I am still attempting to put into practice. In other words - I have not arrived and I know it.
H.B. Charles, Jr., pastor of Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church in Jacksonville and Orange Park has written an excellent book for pastors that features a chapter titled "Lessons I've Learned Along the Way." As I read these, I find myself agreeing and even laughing because I know each statement has a deeper story behind it. H.B. is a friend and has been and is being greatly used by God as His pastor to those at Shiloh and beyond. As I read these tips from H.B., I thought of the young men in our church and network and those I have come to know, at least in passing, and I offer his tips, others I've found and mine as well. H.B.'s are marked. Get the book here for his full list.
For the young pastors and ministers out there...
- Don't plant a church with only people your age and younger. You may be cool, but that "wisdom of the ages" thing is missing and that's dangerous. (David K. Tarkington)
- You may have to serve as a bi-vocational pastor for a season. That season may be decades long. (DKT)
- Arrogance is not a spiritual gift. (DKT)
- Sometimes when God closes a door, he doesn't open a window. He wants you inside when the building collapses. The Q: Will Christ be enough? (Jared C. Wilson)
- Be a friend to other pastors, even if they're not friends to you. (H.B. Charles, Jr.)
- Don't assume anything. (HBC)
- Contextualization is great, but dress like an adult. (Dean Inserra)
- You hopefully won't be the last pastor at your church. Live and lead so you leave a godly legacy, even if most of the members of "your" church have no idea who you are thirty years after you're gone. (DKT)
- If they don't trust you, you can't lead them. (HBC)
- Before you ask someone why they didn't share their struggles with you, ask yourself first if you've shown yourself to be a safe person. (JCW)
- If we’re more concerned with our standard of life than God’s intentions for our family, God has a harsh word for us. (J.D. Greear)
- Ecclesiologically speaking, a lot of stuff that counts can't be counted. (JCW)
- What good is it to be a "good Christian neighbor" if you don't care enough to share Christ with those neighbors? (DKT)
- Do not read anonymous mail or unsigned letters. (HBC)
- Sometimes, you need to not read signed letters. (DKT)
- Never vent online or on social media. (DKT)
- The pastor who is always available will be of no use when he is available. (HBC)
- If you can keep from preaching, do it. Christian ministry is a calling you receive, not a vocation you choose. (HBC)
- There is nothing new under the sun, but that's no excuse for plagiarism. (DKT)
- You have to say the hard things. Yet, you must do so in love. (DKT)
- If pastoral ministry was easy, everyone would do it. (DKT)
- Discipleship is a process. (Jimmy Scroggins)
- Love and affirmation are not the same thing. (DKT)
- If you guard your character, your reputation will take care of itself. (HBC)
- Pray. Journal. These are verbs. (DKT)
- Wherever you go, you represent Jesus and the church. (Grant Ethridge)
- When given the opportunity to preach the Gospel, do it. Be ready at all times. Keep sermons with you. (DKT)
- If you have a church building with a built-in baptistry (some churches are plants and borrow facilities) keep water in it for every service. Don't miss those "Ethiopian Eunuch" moments. (DKT)
- Network with other pastors and churches in your area. This helps eliminate the competitive nature that we all have. (DKT)
- People do not give to needs. They give to vision. (HBC)
- Every young pastor needs an old mentor. (Sam Rainer)
- Studying for your sermon is not the same as spending time alone with God in prayer and devotion. (DKT)
- No politician is either your messiah or the enemy. Don't put your hope, or your ultimate fear, in the political domain. (Micah Fries)
- Avoid hero worship. Everyone God uses is a jerk and a sinner. (HBC)
- If you come to a new church after serving in another, remember - no one cares how you did it at the previous church. The longer you live in the past, the less you will be able to lead to the future. (DKT)
- If you give someone responsibility, give them the authority to carry it out as well. (HBC)
- You cannot farm out all the pastoral care to the associate pastors and deacons. However, you cannot do all the pastoral care either. This reality will anger just about everyone in your church at some point. (DKT)
- Don't burn bridges. (DKT)
- Don't plant a church out of anger. That's not a plant. That's leading a church split. (DKT)
- Don't blame God for your bad decisions. He may not have "called you" to do what you did. (DKT)
- Dig your own wells so you don't have to steal other people's water (HBC)
- You need to be a "Timothy" before you're a "Paul." (DKT)
- A cynical pastor is an oxymoron. (HBC)
- Don't outsource discipleship of your children to others in the church. Lead them. Love them. They may become prodigals, but if so, wait patiently as you pray for them, remembering God loves them more than you. (DKT)
- All transgressions begin with sinful thinking. (Billy Graham)
- Make sure there are windows on the doors to your office. (DKT)
- Avoid the appearance of evil. (Paul)
- You can't know a man until you know his story. So, go eat lunch with "that" guy in your church and let him tell you his story. (DKT)
- When it's all said and done, you want God to say "Well done, good and faithful servant." You also want your wife to say "Well done, good and faithful husband." No, they're not equal statements, but God's calling is not just at the building down the street with the crosses on it. In most cases (not all) pastors were married before they became pastors. Your faithful wife loves God, too, but while your calling is to serve the church, hers is to you. Too much to unpack here. (DKT)
- You're not cool. Come to grips with that. Even if your Instagram filter is amazing and your logo is lit (is that the right word?) I know I said you may be cool in the first point, but you're not. Jesus wasn't either, so you're in good company. (DKT)
There are hundreds more insights from hundreds more pastors. Men like Johnny Hunt and Mac Brunson have much to offer younger pastors. So too do the pastors like Mike Wyatt (my pastor when I surrendered to ministry back in the 1990s) and Allen Harrod (my pastor at FBC Orange Park who offered leadership and friendship when I first graduated seminary.) Some of these pastors and mentors do not have books for sale at Amazon. Some may not be known outside their congregation or small town, but listen up, there's much to learn. Young pastor, remember...leaders are learners. Never be that guy who can't take advice or encouragement. Maybe one day when you're greyer and even less cool than you are now, you will have words to share with that young pastor (who is likely in fourth grade right now) that God calls for His glory and good.