I have been in the ministry now for over 15 years; and I will be the first to admit that I have not learned everything that I need to learn. As a matter of fact, I don’t think we ever get to a place in the journey where we have learned it all. We should be continual and constant students, not only of the Word of God, but of life. I will say however that there are some truths that I have discovered in my years of serving the Lord that I wish I had known as a young preacher. The earlier these truths are discovered the more successful you will become in your labor for Christ. These truths are not only for young preachers, but for anyone who is walking and serving the Lord.
1. It’s OK to be Myself.
Not many preachers will admit this, but most of us are guilty- in my early years of preaching I put a lot of effort and energy in trying to be like those who were deemed “successful” in the ministry. While there is nothing wrong with having heroes and role models we cannot try to mimmick or copy their voices, gestures, or style and expect the same results they have. Being something you are NOT is easily detected by others. People are looking for authenticity. God only made one you- be the best you you can be.
2. Failure is Part of the Ministry.
The apostle Paul told us to preach the Word; we are to do this “in season and out of season.” There are certainly some off seasons in the ministry. You are going to preach some “whoppers” and you are going to preach some “floppers.” Not every message will be a homerun; as a matter of fact, most of the time I barely bunt and get on base. Remember this statement by John Killinger, “Failure is the greatest opportunity I have to know who I really am.” Everyone stumbles over words, makes the wrong application, and misses the mark. Do not allow your descrepancies to define you.
3. I Cannot Please Everyone.
I used to think that it was my job as pastor to please every member of my congregation. I realized two things about this impossibility: one, if you try to please everyone you will primarily have a man-centered ministry, and two, if you are able to please everyone you will not please God. How can you please two different people who have two different viewpoints about Scripture and not offend God in the process? I failed at this early on in my ministry and ultimately got burnt-out with myself.
4. My Effectiveness in Ministry Comes Through a Personal and Daily Walk with Christ.
My time for Christ can never supercede my time with Christ. Our ability to work for the Lord derives from our worship of the Lord. In my early years of ministry I thought the power of preaching came through instruction; I had no idea it primarily comes through intimacy. Your effectiveness in preaching does not occur within a 30-45 time slot on Sunday morning; no, it comes through a daily walk with Christ. Rise early and often and start your day with the Lord. Bible College, Seminary, Lectures, and Conferences have their place but they can never replace your personal time with God.
5. I Am Not Always Right.
The older I get the more I realize I am not always right; and I don’t have to be. Certainly when it comes to doctrinal issues we MUST know what the Word of God has said and we must proclaim unapologetically the Word of God. But if you think you are going to have a mistake-free ministry…think again! There were some issues I should have dealt with better; there were some people I should have confronted differently; there were some circumstances I should have exercised more patience, caution, and discernment. The sooner you learn you are not always right, the more right you become.
As you grow in grace remember these wise words by Grantland Rice, “Failure isn’t so bad if it doesn’t attack the heart. Success is all right if it doesn’t go to the head.” Learn early, lean often, and look constantly unto Christ; your effectiveness in ministry hinges upon your reliance and dependence of Him.