I accepted the call to the ministry when I was 16 years old. At 15, I entered started home school and was amazed by the Bible teaching that I received. An impression was made on my life. Ministry was more than sharing simple stories but was full of timeless truths that needed to be shared. In the span of a year, I wrestled with my calling and finally accepted it on August 11, 2001. Now, in this year, I can say that I have been in preaching ministry. I have looked forward to this milestone.
Here is a list of some the best insights from my experience (even though it’s shorter than some). From one young minister to others. I spent the first 22 years of my life in traveling ministry with my parents and the last ten in pastoral ministry. One year as an assistant pastor and nine years as a lead pastor.
1. Ministerial training is essential. Being hungry for God is vital.
I thank God for the opportunity to go to various colleges and seminaries. What I have learned is of the greatest value to my ability to minister. God equips those He calls. This can be done formally and informally. Whatever the path, pastors need to be hungry to learn God’s Word and best practices in the ministry. I remember a conversation with an older pastor about the training of new preacher in his church. What he said floored me. The pastor said, “He can do that later. He needs to focus on studying for his real job now.” It doesn’t matter whether a minister is full-time or bi-vocational, they need to be hungry for the things of God if they desire to labor in His Word.
2. Spiritual formation is key to preaching from a full cup.
Something that took in my seminary experience was a healthy amount of soul searching. Spiritual disciplines were not new to me at that point, but my professors challenged and encouraged personal observation. It has made a world of difference. Ministers must take the time to be in the Scriptures and prayer. To serve others and to evangelize. Observing these, among other disciplines, are key to being full in our spirit.
3. Read and write on a regular basis.
This is a struggle at times. I love reading the Bible. I also love reading textbooks and commentaries. However, reading novels and most biographies is hard. They are not my cup of tea. But, I am growing in this area, and the benefits are great. A statement that I have adopted is, “Leaders are readers, leaders are listeners, and leaders are learners.” Another is, “Think yourself empty, read yourself full, write yourself clear, and pray yourself hot.”
4. Always be ready.
You never know when you need to offer a word of hope, challenge, or correction (2 Tim. 4:2; 1 Pet. 3:15). My pastor said once, “If you don’t get to preach regularly and there are a few weeks between preaching engagements, you should be studying and ready at any given moment to share what God has shown you.” Preach from your devotions and always remember your testimony. How many times did Paul share his salvation testimony in some form as part of a sermon or speech?
5. Don’t forget who called you to preach.
After the death of the deacon at our church, I noticed myself preaching from an empty cup. I was dry, and I couldn’t seem to get past the dense fog that had shrouded my heart and soul. This went on for a few months until the Lord led another preacher/professor into my life through a class. Their testimony and the assigned reading breathed fresh air into my soul. The biggest reminder was that God called me into ministry. It wasn’t the result of a pizza-induced dream, the appeal made by a particular church, or denomination. God called and equipped, and my task was to obey Him.
6. Preach the Word.
This is where I started my ministry. I was enamored with verse by verse teaching in homeschool, and my Father was telling me, “As long as you stick between the covers of the Bible you can’t go wrong.” There are many approaches and styles in preaching that I have utilized to get the message across, but one thing remains, share the true and straightforward meaning of God’s Word. What’s the history of the passage and what is its application to us?
7. Enjoy your family.
Finally, make room for your family. One professor shared with our class that the best example of our disciple making efforts is seen in our immediate family. I can’t lead them from afar. I am not only responsible for their spiritual growth and overall well-being, but they are also the best encouragers and accountability partners that a person could have around. I thank God for my wife and children.