By Dennis Wiggs
The first years in ministry are learning times. Almost every opportunity is a challenge, and behind every challenge is a decision. Some preachers quit. Some change paths. Some stay in despair. But many others accept the challenges, grow, and develop into productive preachers. Here are seven Ws to guide the young pastor through his foundational years.
First and foremost, worship the Lord every day. Call it devotions, quiet time or whatever, but spend time with the Lord every day: A consistent Bible reading program, a planned prayer time, and a designated time for personal praise of God. This is the foundation for a satisfying, fruitful ministry.
Rise early. Schedule this daily event. Let no one or nothing detour you around these moments (or hours) of worshiping the Lord. Here is where spiritual strength is gathered to face the challenges of the day.
Laymen often wonder what a preacher does. Some make critical comments about the pastor’s workload. So make up your mind to stay busy in the work of the Lord! The critics will eventually hush if you devote each day to active ministry. Get up early, dress appropriately, and head to your study. If you live in a parsonage next door to the church, drive your vehicle to the church parking lot.
Preachers do not punch clocks, but it would be wise to serve as if you are placing a time card in a machine. I read recently that the average preacher works 50+ hours a week. But you and I both know that the man of God is on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Always be ready to serve those who need your spiritual assistance.
Pray for wisdom. Often the young pastor encounters a congregation that’s had plenty of experience in “handling a preacher.” At least one individual in every congregation seems led of the Lord to keep the preacher humble. Pray first. Speak second. Ask the Lord for the ability and knowledge to handle every situation. Think through every statement made by a church member. Remember that your words and actions will usually be repeated.
Don’t feel that you must give an answer to every accusation, suggestion or plan. Promise to pray about it. Seek God’s wisdom first.
The young preacher is called to preach, pray, and present the gospel of Jesus Christ to sinners. Place great emphasis on leading others to Christ. The best method for building a church is to win the unconverted and train them in the ways of the Lord. Approach each new day as an evangelistic opportunity. Talk to people about Christ. Visit with the purpose of evangelism. Make outreach the focus of your entire ministry.
Practice Proverbs 3:5-6. Young pastors often rush into ideas without waiting upon the Lord. How many programs have failed because an eager, young preacher failed to count the cost? God’s timing is best.
A good method for pastoring is to write in your prayer book one-year plans, three-year plans, and five-year plans. Soak the plans in prayer. Seek the Lord’s guidance. When you are convinced that the new program or building or idea is ordained by the Lord, take action. Seek the Lord’s blessing before the project is begun rather than rush ahead, get into trouble and then call upon the Lord.
Or sing or pat your foot to the chorus, “This is the day that the Lord hath made. I will rejoice and be glad in it.” Don’t get so disturbed over church responsibilities. Never forget that this is the Lord’s work, not yours. It is His church, not yours. Some young pastors think the work will fold up if they do not have their hands on everything. Nothing is further from the truth.
The congregation can replace you today and forget about you tomorrow. (That is a humbling statement, isn’t it?) Go to work with a song in your heart. Whistle while you work. Go home singing. Developing an ulcer, dying of a heart attack, or driving your wife crazy just isn’t worth it. The young pastor should be the Lord’s servant, accomplishing the Lord’s work by the power of the Holy Spirit. Life is just too short to burn the candle at both ends, die prematurely, and be forgotten quickly.
Exercise the mind in the study, the soul in the prayer closet, and the body on the pavement. Exercise every day. Engage in strenuous cardiovascular activity for a half hour at least three times a week. Park on the opposite side of the hospital. Walk the stairs. No one will take care of your body except you!
About the Writer:Dennis Wiggs retired in 2004 after many years in ministry.
Adapted from Contact magazine, July 1999.