10 Lessons From my First Year in Pastoral Ministry

I learned so much in my first year and hope these lessons, (in no particular order of importance) that I am still learning, would be a blessing to you as well.

Taking risks and working hard is important, but as my professors would always remind us “you can lose your ministry and keep your marriage, but you cannot lose your marriage and keep your ministry”. You don’t realize the weight and busyness of ministry until you’re in it. It’s very easy to neglect the family, and to have a selfish mentality when coming home. As we’ve seen in many pastor’s lives, even this past year, it’s very easy to lose your family if you don’t care for it.

 

Many times this year I would be sharing the Gospel with someone and all of a sudden it would dawn on me, “I can’t believe I’m getting paid to do this!” It is an incredible privilege to be paid to be in full-time ministry, and its something that we should never take for granted. I learned so much in my first year and hope these lessons, (in no particular order of importance) that I am still learning, would be a blessing to you as well.

1. My seminary isn’t the only seminary

I am on a staff full of people who have not attended my seminary. In fact less than 5% have. And it’s a healthy church. A very healthy church. How could this be? The fact of the matter is that God is working all over the world, and through all kinds of people. He has raised up other churches and seminaries that are doing a wonderful job of training up elders, deacons and lay-people who love the Lord and serve Him well. While I would always encourage someone to attend the seminary I went to, I have to keep in mind that it isn’t the only seminary that God is blessing.

2. My church is not the only church

It hit me one Sunday night when my pastor recommended a book, written by a pastor who’s church was only a few miles away from ours. Why in the world would he do that? It was a big lesson for me. Pride would tell us that people are better off at our church, but there are other churches around us who love the Lord, preach the true Gospel, and have solid doctrine. Having a prideful mentality about where people should and shouldn’t go to church is divisive.

3. If you only listen to one guy you will sound like a bad version of him

We all have writers and preachers that God has used in our lives in a special way. It’s critical though that we expand our readership, and the sermons we listen to.

H.B. Charles says,

“I pity the congregation that only hears one preacher. And I pity the preacher who only listens to one preacher, especially if he is that one preacher! Sitting under the ministry of others will elevate your preaching. Listen to sermons by noted preachers. Read classic sermons. Hear respected preachers in person. Expose yourself to great preaching. The more, the better. Following various effective preachers will help you resist the urge to mimic any particular preacher. It is often said that there are two times a preacher wants to preach – when he hears a preacher who can preach well, and when he hears one who cannot.”

It has been a blessing to realize that I’m not as good a preacher as I thought I was. Being willing to admit that and to welcome feedback has been a game-changer.

4. You need to be a go-getter

Things don’t just automatically happen. Just like when you’ve grown up and don’t have a parent to wake you up, in ministry, although the elders may have expectations, they are not going to direct you in what to do. You need to be the one to make the phone calls, meet with people, and get stuff done. No one is going to hold your hand.

5. Shut up

Just because your church doesn’t do everything the way you think it should be done, doesn’t mean you need to go and point it out right away or ever. God allows Joel Osteen to preach every single Sunday without killing him (a la Ananias and Sapphira) so what makes me think that I need to put a stop to everything right away if ever. Nothing in your church is as bad as Joel Osteen. If it is you’re in the wrong church. Everything is not life and death.

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