By Dennis Wiggs
The young preacher will face challenges in his first pastorate that were not discussed in college or seminary. Educational institutions just don’t teach classes like Gossip l0lor Upset Deacon 101 or How to Preach Four Times a Week 101. Every young preacher wants to do his best, but the pressures are overwhelming.
That first or second pastorate will thrust the man of God into the arena of many lions—preaching several messages a week, dealing with members experienced in church politics, learning the names and relatives of everyone in the congregation, keeping the family happy, paying bills on an insufficient salary and more.
I drank Pepto Bismal™ straight from the bottle between Sunday School and morning worship at my first pastorate. The bottle stayed in the glove box of our car. I slipped out after teaching the adult class and took a swig. Didn’t help much . . . that country church voted me out after six months! I was devastated. Thank the Lord for another chance to serve.
The second pastorate was a mission work. The deacons declared that they would close the church if it did not succeed under my ministry. I walked, drove, worked as if I were going to a fire . . . and visited the doctor every few months. The discomfort in my chest was nothing to worry about, he calmly stated. I wish he had been a psychiatrist and told me that I was burning the candle at both ends.
Nervous jitters are part of the physical makeup of most young preachers. This emotional stress is not lack of faith. The young preacher just wants to do a good job, but doesn’t always know how to get it done.
I learned a few things as the years went by. I stopped drinking stomach relaxer between church services. The visits to the doctor grew fewer and fewer. I stopped waking at night thinking that the death angel was standing beside my bed.
Confirm Your Calling
Settle your calling to the ministry. When that first church voted me out before all of our furniture was unpacked, I moped around for days. My wife finally declared, “l wish you’d make up your mind what you’re going to do!”
I hastily responded, “l will.”
You see, I wish my former employer had not said to me when I was finishing seminary, “Dennis, if you don’t make it preaching, call me. I’ll give you a managerial job with a great salary.”
That invitation haunted me when that first congregation decided to look for another pastor. So, l went to the church building and got on my knees in one of those little rooms. Praying and fasting that day, I received God’s confirmation of His calling in my heart and mind.
That same week, a deacon from another state called and asked if I would consider pastoring their little church.
Make up your mind to stay at a church until you absolutely must leave. Some churches will vote to dismiss you. Others will have a few members who feel called to test and try you regularly. A few churches just don’t want a pastor to stay more than a year or two. But most churches want the pastor to nail his furniture to the parsonage floor and stay put.
Determine to stay where you are presently ministering just as long as the congregation and the Lord allow. Display satisfaction. Don’t call pulpit committees of churches looking for pastors. Give the impression that you plan to stay at that church through thick or thin, whether the attendance is up or down.
Seek the wisdom of seasoned pastors. Don’t tell them what you are doing. Listen to them talk. I thank the Lord for long-time pastor friends who encouraged me throughout my ministry.
You probably won’t be able to share your burdens with many preachers. Find one you can trust to keep your conversations confidential.
Don’t go to a preachers’ meeting and unload your burdens. Try to present encouraging words about your congregation. Describe what God is doing among your flock. Share the good; dispel the bad. Whatever you say about your congregation may get back to one or two of them. Don’t brag.
At that preachers’ meeting will be a brother who is really disheartened. Be optimistic in your spirit, careful with your words, and encouraging to your brother pastor.
Pastor Your Flock
Don’t expect to pastor a perfect church. The congregation the Lord has given you is made up of all kinds of people. Love them for what they are. Work to establish them in the Lord. Tolerate their quirks and shortcomings. Remember that you are a tool in God’s hands to minister to these people just a few years of your life. Do your best. Relax in the Lord. Pray about everything. Realize that your ministry is really the Lord’s ministry. He will reward your faithfulness.
About the Writer:Dennis Wiggs retired in 2004 after many years in ministry.
Adapted from Contact magazine, October 1997.