1. If you are in the ministry as a career, get out now. Yep, I’ve actually heard ministers refer to pastoring as a career. Got out if that’s what you believe. First of all, as a minister of the gospel, you don’t have a career. You have a calling. Secondly, put your eyes on the Lord and He will take care of you.
2. Church is not about you, whether it’s flourishing or dying all around you. Preach Jesus, know the Word, obey Scripture, love the people. Get yourself out of the way! He must increase; you must decrease. John the Baptist said that – and a few days later he was beheaded. It’s not your church, it’s His church and He is the builder of it – not you.
3. The reason some people hate your guts rarely has anything to actually do with you. Some people are sitting in the congregation angry at God, angry with their jobs, angry with themselves. When their frustration boils over, they are looking for the easiest target – and God’s spokesperson usually ends up in their sights. So try not to take everything personally, (which easier said than done and it will be one of the most difficult skills for you to learn).
4. People will keep making more and more demands of you until you muster up the fortitude to take ownership of your own agenda. If you don’t plan your schedule, others will plan it for you.
5. As a pastor, you will always have someone angry with you. You are asking people to swim upstream in a downstream world, against the current. You are calling people to obey God – a God they have never seen. You are insisting that church members be generous givers, urging them to love one another (and the unlovable), and warning them of God’s judgment.
Some people just don’t appreciate being told those things – because they have “itching ears” (2 Timothy 4:3) – and would rather be given pious platitudes. They will remind you of the pastor they had twenty years ago, who was “the sweetest and kindest man ever.”
6. Your doctorate may impress some people, but as a general rule they’re not the kind of people you want to impress. Earn your degree(s) for a better reason than this. I’m all for theological training have the parchment to prove it. Your degrees will have little to do with the real life world of pastoring. Ministry in the trenches is much different than the classroom.
7. If you don’t protect your family, no one else will. And you will live to regret it. Do not sacrifice your family on the altar of success or denominational prominence. It’s not worth it. Make time for your family every week and protect it as fiercely as you do the Sunday morning hours at church. Get your kids little league schedule and pencil it in on your calendar, then work all other meetings and events around it. You will never regret missing a committee meeting, but in short time your kids will be grown and you’ll be glad you got this one right.
8. Granted, you don’t pray very well. No one does. Pray anyway. “We don’t know how to pray as we should” (Romans 8:26). But don’t let that stop you. The Holy Spirit makes up the gap. Besides, this is how you stay in touch with the Lord.
9. Pastors are mood-setters for the congregation. This is why I believe pastors should serve as hosts of the worship service on Sunday (and not just bring a sermon at the appointed time). By his joy, the victory he enjoys in Christ, and his love for people, he can make a world of difference in how people worship.
10. There are times to leave the office (pastors study) and have coffee with the staff – and anyone else in the membership – in a relaxed atmosphere. This is every bit as important as anything else in your (and their) day. Laugh with them. Listen to their stories of children and grandchildren, how they dealt with a crank neighbor, what happened at work the other day. When you get back to the study, you will have several sermon illustrations and be forever bonded with those terrific people.
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