Potholes And Pitfalls For Young Preachers
- Bruce McAllister Today's Christian Preacher Magazine
- Published Dec 16, 2005
How shocking to suddenly strike a deep pothole while driving! How much more stunning to run onto the shoulder of the road and lose control of the car! The lack of alertness or focus can lead to great harm while one is driving.
Potholes and pitfalls may also bring much damage to young ministers. In the pastoral epistles Paul warns Timothy about these dangers. These warnings match observations I have made throughout years of service to churches.
Paul tells Timothy that "the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned" (I Timothy 1:5). The compelling goal of ministry is to lead people to love God and others. However, the man not driven by this goal may feel compelled to prove himself, to take control, to display his newly gained seminary knowledge, or to "make things happen." Wrong motives underlie many destructive patterns of behavior among ministers. Harshness, impatience, dishonesty, and arrogance may develop because we forget our goal in ministry.
Paul enjoins his younger comrade, "Let no man despise thy youth, but be thou an example of the believer" (I Timothy 4:12). The younger preacher is to give no occasion for older people in the congregation to deprecate his leadership due to his unwise, youthful behavior. While believers usually welcome the leadership of a young man of God and are willing to allow for his growth and development, they are sometimes appalled at the attitudes and actions taken by the young man. His speech, behavior, and inner character should befit a shepherd of God's flock. It seems that God often provides an older, gracious, Christlike man within the congregation to remind the pastor by example how he should conduct himself.
Paul urges Timothy to "stir up the gift of God, which is in thee. . . . For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind" (II Timothy 1:6, 7). Perhaps Timothy was timid. Paul was easily assertive, but not every God-called man is at ease with the necessary duties of the ministry. It is difficult to confront the backslider, counsel the confused, comfort the grieving, and motivate the stagnant. The complexities of modern ministry make demands for which young men of God are not fully prepared. Some just feel overwhelmed and apprehensive. Yet fear clearly does not come from God. How the young man needs to draw upon the resources of God's power, love, and truth!
Indiscretion and immorality:
"Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart" (II Timothy 2:22). The sinful desires of youth last a lifetime. Young people wrestle with the pull of strong desires. Nonetheless, by God's grace Christians are to refrain from giving in to these passions. This is all the more true for pastors and evangelists. The young man must be extremely careful in his relationship with women. The appearance of indiscretion is almost as damaging to one's testimony as the very act of immorality.
The pastor must avoid inappropriate touching, intimate conversation, or having frequent fellowship with a woman other than his wife. Build careful ministry and marital guidelines to protect yourself from the snares of Satan and the flesh. You cannot be too careful. Delegate the counseling of women to your wife or other godly women in the church.
The young preacher should memorize this passage: "And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, in meekness instructing those that oppose themselves" (II Timothy 2:24, 25). Some men love a fight. However, the propensity to fight is not godly but carnal. And fighting in the flesh is weakness. So Paul reminds us that "the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds." (II Corinthians 10:4)
Pugnacious young men may have acquired their contentious spirits by attending a preachers' conference where "hotshots" and "hotheads" led the services to the shouts and cheers of other preachers. But God's man will be strong in spirit, courageous in stand, and Christlike in his control. The power of God's Spirit needs no accompanying display of a man's youthful arrogance or brashness.
"Rebuke not an elder, but intreat him as a father" (I Timothy 5:1). Most young preachers start their ministries by serving under an older, seasoned pastor. The Bible underscores the wisdom of such a practice. Unfortunately, the great lessons offered by the journeyman-pastor are too often overlooked by his apprentice. Worse, the younger staff member may actually be disappointed or even disaffected from his ministry calling. Frustration and anger may build (sometimes in both parties) until harsh words flow. The young man must keep before him the channel of proper appeal to the older man, intreating him as a father.
There is a proper manner in which to seek clarification, express concerns, and raise appropriate questions with one's mentoring pastor. One can hope that the pastor will keep this channel of discussion open for the young man. But, whatever the case, there is no place for disrespect, disregarding instructions, or deliberate disobedience. The young man who ignores this advice will not only lose his current ministry but many opportunities for future service.
”But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. But thou, O man of God, flee these things" (I Timothy 6:9-11). Some pastors are never satisfied. They demand big salaries, top benefits, and the latest car.
They conduct themselves in the extravagant lifestyle of corporate executives. Younger pastors may begin to practice this covetous pattern of ministerial behavior. The love of money can affect the man in the pulpit just as surely as anyone in the pew. How many men have undermined their credibility with their demanding lifestyles! Deacons listen dismayed as such preachers speak of sacrifice. If God blesses financially in His timing and through His abundant provision, rejoice! But no pastor, young or old, should make extravagant demands of God's people.
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