What Every New Minister Needs to Know
It has been my privilege to preach a number of Ordination services for young men who have felt the call of God upon their lives. I have had the wonderful joy of seeing about thirty people enter the ministry while they were a part of my personal ministry. It has been a joy to be a part of launching them into the calling God has placed upon their lives. The following is a collection of thoughts that I have presented at ordination services. They are only a few of the things that one could tell a young man who is just beginning his ministry but they are some very important things that everyone should remember.
Remember to have a genuine call, God had to do the calling. You cannot call yourself or be “called” by anyone on earth. Too many people have been called by their father, mother or grandmother. Some favored aunt may have also been the genesis of someone’s “call.” Someone’s grand- mother may have said: “Look, here is little Johnny my little preacher boy. Doesn’t he look like a little preacher?” Sadly, the person believed what he had heard and assumed that being a preacher was just what he needed to do with his life. Only God knows who He has laid His hand upon to occupy the high office of Pastor. Only God knows who He has gifted to preach the unsearchable riches of Christ. When a person is called by God there is nothing else they can do but answer the call. I have often told a young preacher this: “If there is anything else you can do in life and be happy then do it, but if God has called you to preach, then there is nothing else you can do.” You will never succeed at any endeavor in life and be happy if God has selected you and you have refused the call upon your life.” “You might as well give up.” I also believe that the wife of a truly called man has a call upon her life whether she realizes it or not. God has selected her to stand along side His man and that is a high calling. It did not take Him by surprise when she married the man God called. And, the success of the Man of God will depend largely on who he has for a wife. She will be a vital part of what God will do through him. Remember, God has to do the calling.
Remember, you are not in the ministry for you. You are in it for Jesus Christ. If one is genuinely called then he will have the impulse to expend himself for the church or for the ministry God has placed him into. Too many men who are pastors today see the church as a means to actualize themselves. It gives them a place to preach. It gives them their living. It gives them exposure and makes them a notable person. In short, they think the church is there for them. They are the focus and they basically use the church for the advancement of their own agenda. In past generations, God’s men saw themselves as being expendable for the betterment of the church and the ministry in general. They were consumed with the call of God and saw themselves as a tool for God to use in achieving His Will. Too many today see the church as the tool and themselves as a separate entity which will use that tool to achieve what they desire. Christianity is worse off for this development. This approach turns the preaching of the Gospel into a show which is meant to promote a preacher and satisfy his own ego. One can easily see this on television. If one’s ministry is viewed as some- thing which satisfies them and their elevated opinion of themselves, then it will never satisfy God. God’s people are cheated when they are “treated” to a performance which is ego driven. They need to see someone who is sold out to the task God has called them to and who realize they are have to get lost in it and focus on Jesus and the Gospel. Remember, you are not in the ministry for you; you are in it for Jesus Christ.
Remember, it’s not where you serve but how you serve that counts. God has someone for every place. He gifts some men to be able to pastor large churches. He gives them all the tools to handle a larger flock. But, He also has men who are selected to serve smaller places. In our modern day society we have taught people that success means “big.” This is not necessarily so. I know of many smaller churches which are far better than many larger churches I am familiar with. Anyway, “big” is a human word. What is “big” to God is not what we would think. If a preacher is faithful and serving God in faith, and if God has gifted him for certain things, then he should be happy to “bloom where he is planted.” If our secular definition of success gets in the way then many men will never be happy with where they are and they will also be ready to leave and go somewhere else when things get tough. Stability in the ministry brings the blessings of God. If a person believes that God’s Holy Spirit super- intended his calling to a church then it has to be God who decides to move him and not the man otherwise a mistake is about to happen. Any man should be honored if ten people wanted to gather to hear him preach the Word. How big is big enough? That resides in the ego of a man and not in the mind of God. A church of two hundred people is bigger than a person can handle completely. Many men feel that if they have spent several years in a place, they need to move on to advance themselves. Much agony comes from this approach. I have heard men say a most arrogant thing: “I’ve done about all I can do for these people.” This assumes that they are a deep well of spiritual wisdom and that their current church just can’t quite grasp what they have to offer much less respond adequately to their great level of leadership which is obviously being wasted. The statement above should be translated: “I’m tired of this place and the people. Besides my abilities should be demonstrated in a larger place where they will be appreciated more and where the convention will be more aware of them.” Remember, pasturing a small church is not a sign of failure or lack of achievement. God has someone for every place His people gather. Your place might be in a smaller church. My advice is to strive to be where God wants you to be because anywhere else will result in misery.
Remember, you are “bound by the Bible.” Don’t go before it or behind it….go by it. Let it speak for itself. In other words, don’t say things that the Bible does not say and don’t leave out what it does say. Say what it says and you will be all right. It may hurt to say just what it says but you will always be vindicated. Your stance may cause some pain but you will be glad later when the Word vindicates you. Too many men strive to find acceptance by mollifying the Word; watering it down to make it acceptable for a given situation. This is running behind the Bible. This involves a failure to reveal the full truth in order to be acceptable. Others run before the Bible in order to make a point favorable to them. They imply things the Bible never says. Although the Bible has principles to speak to every human problem or situation, they must be applied properly. Those principles should not be “stretched” to make them apply to a situation when they don’t. When one does this it is running before the Bible and is just as wrong as running behind it and not saying what it DOES say. As stated above, we are bound by the Bible. Say what it says; don’t say what it doesn’t say and if you will follow this little principle, you will be all right.
Remember, the Church is not yours. It belongs to Jesus Christ. It is His Body, not yours. Too many men assume the pastorate of a church and walk in as if they are a god, demanding that everyone follow their every dictate or else they are being disobedient to God. When someone becomes the pastor of a church, they must realize that they are there to serve and not to dictate. There is no room for dictators in God’s Work. If one is obedient to the guidance of the Holy Spirit, then that, of necessity says that they are only a servant. A pastor must be willing to assume that position or he will consume himself and disrupt the church. As Peter tells us, the pastor should not be an “overlord.” He has nothing invested in the church. It is the Body of Jesus, not the pastor’s body. The people want a shepherd not a demanding dictator. The pastor did nothing to found the church. Jesus did that. He basically has nothing invested and must not try to assume authority that is overreaching. Peter says the pastor will have a “crown of glory” if he faithfully follows the Lord’s guidance. Remember the Church is not yours; it belongs to Christ.
Remember, everyone is a volunteer. They don’t have to follow your leadership. The pastor should be honored that some people would be willing to follow him and listen to him declare the Word of God. But, they must not be treated as one who is bound to be at the church and doing what they feel led of the Spirit to do as a faithful Christian. There are many churches between their house and the church you pastor. They could stop anywhere to worship. That is their prerogative. You should feel honored that they choose to sit under your guidance. They don’t HAVE to serve. They don’t HAVE to give. They don’t HAVE to attend the services. They don’t have to tell you that you had a good sermon. They don’t HAVE to do anything but they do because they want to serve the Lord. Pastors must understand that people don’t HAVE to do anything we ask or, in many cases, tell them to do. They are all volunteers and have the freedom to quit at any time. They don’t receive pay for their work and neither do they desire it. So, a pastor should never take a single person for granted. He should thank the Lord that the people feel comfortable with his ministry and choose to serve under him. We should also remember that the people were at the church before the pastor came and will probably be there after he is gone. Without proper leadership, they just might sit idly by and wait until the pastor fades away because of his lack of proper leadership or his inability to understand that they are all volunteers. Volunteers also need an occasional “warm hand.” They would like to know that the pastor appreciates them and notices that they are being a productive part of his ministry. It pays to show appreciation for those who volunteer their service to the church under your ministry. So, remember, everyone is a volunteer. They don’t HAVE to follow your leadership.
Finally, remember these three things. (1) Set the example for them (Elder). (2) Feed them (Shepherd), (3) Manage things properly, (Bishop). These are assigned to the one man who is the Pastor. He should fill all three of these responsibilities. The people in the pew are looking for someone to set the example and the example should be of high standard in both dress, actions and theology. They don’t want someone who is “cool” and trying to be like them. They are generally sick of what they are and need someone to look up to. Then, be sure you feed the flock with beefsteak and not rice pudding. It takes time to prepare to preach but it is the most important thing you will do for your people. Don’t let anything rob your time away from sermon preparation. Have something to give your people when they come to the table. If you don’t do it properly then the world will tell them destructive stuff. Also, make sure your word to them is the word that God gave to you. They want to hear a word from God from the man of God to the people of God and not some dribble that was gleaned from the internet. Finally, make sure that you are the administrator and that you take care of business. That is what God has called you to. He did not call your members to administer the church and He certainly did not call a committee to do it. It is God’s design that the pastor should be the Bishop or administrator. If we deviate from God’s order then things won’t work properly. The engine in one’s car works properly and powers it only when the pistons fire in the proper order. If piston number one decides that it wants to fire when piston number five fires, then you will have a broken engine and not move one inch. If the pastor administers the church properly and with great Godly care the church will function as it should and a lot of problems will be averted. God gave us our task in 1 Peter 5 and we must not vary from it. It is to the peril of the church and our personal ministries if we get out of God’s order.
William F. Harrell