This month, I celebrate my 45th birthday. More importantly, this month marks 29 years since Christ did a marvelous work of salvation in my life and called me into the ministry. As I reflect on 29 years of ministry, I want to offer some advice to those who are in Christian ministry from a guy who has learned the hard way by making about every mistake one can make. Here are five tips for every young preacher (and old preachers too).
- Crucify the Ego Since I have started my YouTube channel, I get smart-aleck comments daily telling me that I am power-hungry, attention seeking, and trying to build a following. Ironically, all of those comments come from people who have no idea who I am outside of an eight to 10-minute video. I started this channel to be a blessing to others — not to build fame for myself. Those that know me well, know my burden. My motto is this: I am to preach Jesus until I die and then be forgotten. There is coming a day when what is done in secret will be rewarded openly. If you need your name in lights or on a big sign, you are in the wrong business. Yes, there are those who find great fame and riches by profaning that which is holy under the pretense of serving the Lord, when in fact, they serve themselves. Our duty is to be faithful — not famous. There are some who Father has appointed to great fame and notoriety. We are not to envy those men. We are to pray for those men. It is not easy to live with the spotlight constantly on everything you and your family do. I heard a very wise man say it this way: “bloom where you are planted”.
- Trust But Verify Everyone needs faithful people to learn from. But blind trust is dangerous. I have heard pastors over the years teach their people not to listen to people outside of the approved list provided by the pastor. While I encourage everyone to respect their pastor, please don’t follow along blindly. Even the most faithful men can be wrong at times. Ask questions when things don’t make sense. Ask why when you don’t understand. Do it respectfully, but you owe it to yourself to verify what you hear. I have told my people so many times that they have added it to a list of common phrases that I repeat often. It goes like this: “Don’t take my word for it. Look it up and see if I am telling you the truth.” It sounds a little like Levar Burton from Reading Rainbow: ::insert clip from Reading Rainbow:: If your pastor doesn’t like that, that’s concerning. How do I say that with confidence? Because it is biblical: Acts 17:10 “And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews. 11 These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.” Have you ever heard someone say “amen” when the preacher says something and you know they have no idea if what was just said is correct or not? But because they trust the person who said it, they take it as gospel truth. Don’t affirm something you don’t know for sure is correct.
- Education is a Good Thing Sadly, I hear too many say that the only education you need is what Moses got on the back side of the desert. Experience is a great educator. And yes, you are to spend time in study and prayer. But I think that is reflective of a great problem we have in the church today. Too many people have their own interpretations of Scripture and everyone thinks everyone else is wrong. But there is no private interpretation. What it means to you ought to be consistent with what it means to someone else. And what should that meaning be? It should be exactly what the author intended to communicate. Nothing more and nothing less. I think some of this goes back to the last issue of “Trust But Verify”. Some pastors don’t want their people getting “corrupted” and so they shun education. This is not a straw-man. This is very real in the camps I have been affiliated with over the years. Every student of the Bible needs to know how to study his Bible. Learning systematic theology and hermeneutics will ensure help you have a solid foundation of Bible doctrine and how to correctly interpret scripture. Learning to exegete and exposit a text will help guard you from critical mistakes such as reading things into the text and preaching things that are not in the text. Frequently, I have people send me preaching clips asking for my commentary. One of the biggest things I see is a preacher bragging about how the only education one needs is the Holy Spirit. Then, they proceed to preach something that is absolutely not in the text. Verses should never be lifted out of their context. You should never preach something that is not in the text. Recently, I listened to a famous preacher who preached about how the mother was missing in the life of the Prodigal Son. I’m not trying to be offensive or controversial, but that is wrong. The reason why his mother is not mentioned in the text is because she was not relevant to the parable being told by the Lord. That is eisegesis or reading into the text. Another example that I saw just in the last week or so was with regards to Eutychus, the young man who fell asleep while Paul was preaching and fell out a third story window and died. That preacher went on to preach about how his parents were bad parents for not watching their child. But any student of the Bible5 tips should know that Eutychus was a “young man” and not a small child. He was a young adult, not an infant. Study. Build a library. If you can go to school, go. Wherever you go, you may hear something you disagree with. Swallow the meat and spit the bones out. Watch sound preachers online. At the risk of sounding prideful, watch my other videos — but verify everything I say. Those that say education is not necessary or a bad thing are most likely being overprotective. This usually results in a group that parrots what they hear without being able to think independently and rightly interpret scripture.
- Correctly Measure Success One of the biggest things I hear from young preachers and pastors of small churches is that they feel like a failure. For some it is a lack of opportunity to preach. For others it is a small attendance, few conversions, and other discouraging things. I will keep this one short because I have another video on How to Measure Success on this channel. Remember this: Jeremiah preached faithfully at a time of great discouragement. He suffered greatly for his faithfulness. If we were to measure Jeremiah’s success the same way we try to measure our own, we would have to consider him a horrible failure. But no one thinks that of Jeremiah. Why? Because he was faithful. That’s all God calls you to do. Preach. God must give the increase. Now you may disagree with me, but I believe that we serve a sovereign God and when the gospel is preached, it always has the intended effect. After Pentecost, the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved. Don’t forget that you don’t save anyone. You do your part and let God do his part.
- Be Yourself Learn from your heroes. Don’t try to mimic them. If God wanted two of that person, he would have made two of him. But he didn’t. He made you. And you are fearfully and wonderfully made. Find your unique style. Find your unique delivery method. Be yourself. God called you. God will equip you. Never forget that we are to be conformed to the image of his Son — not the image of your favorite preacher. Be yourself. And one day, there may be a young man who wants to pattern his life after you — a faithful servant. I hope you found these things to be helpful. If you did, leave me a comment and tell me which one hit home. If you have another tip, let me know down below. I doubt this will be the only list we do on this subject. Last week, I buried a faithful preacher, deacon, and friend. He had a saying that I want to leave you with: “Keep on keeping on”.
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