1. In all the world there are only three Christians who love change; none of them are in your church.
2. When you speak before an unfamiliar group, be careful what you say because you never know who is listening to you. You’ll start to tell a story about some guy in your former church, and his mama is sitting right in front of you.
3. There will never be a time in your life when you know all the Bible and have your questions all answered; if you cannot serve Him with some gaps in your knowledge and preach without knowing everything, you’re going to have a hard time.
4. Your church members should submit to your leadership, but you’re not the one to tell them that.
5. The best way to get people to submit to your leadership is for you to humble yourself and serve them the way the Lord did the disciples (John 13); they will trust someone who loves them that much.
6. The best way to get run off from a church is to take your eyes off Jesus and begin to think of yourself as hot stuff who is worthy of acclaim; from that moment on, your days are numbered.
7. In worship services, try not to talk so much pushing events and meetings that you are worn out by the time you open the Word and begin to preach.
8. Only a pastor with a suicide wish will tell a story about his wife and children in a sermon without their complete and enthusiastic approval. Even if they give it, you should go over it with them ahead of time to make sure they’re OK.
9. Some of your biggest headaches will come from ad-libbing in your sermons, saying things “off the cuff” which you just thought of. Try not to do that until you have fully mastered your tongue.
10. If the Lord is ever to use you mightily in His service, He will first have to break you. (Usually, this involves some failure on your part that comes to light and embarrasses you.) This will be humiliating to you and so painful you wonder if you can go back into the pulpit. However, you will survive and forevermore be thankful for what this taught you.
11. You need to befriend other pastors, old and young. Ministers need fellowship with colleagues. Do not make assumptions about pastors by the size of their congregation. Some of the Lord’s finest pastors and godliest preachers are bi-vocational.
12. It’s not all about you. Some people will join the church and it will flourish; some will leave and your church may struggle. Some will love you and some will hate you. Very little of it has to do with you. People have their own reasons for what they do. Get over yourself.
13. Marry someone who shares God’s call into this type of work or your life will be dragged down and she will be chronically angry at the demands placed on the family.
14. A little conflict in the church can be a good thing. Where there’s no friction, there’s no traction.
15. One of the surest ways to tell you are backsliding is when you no longer eagerly pick up the Bible and enjoy finding new insights. The day you find yourself thinking, “I know this Book; I’ve been there and done that,” you are in trouble.
16. If you cannot serve God by faith, you will not make it in the ministry. You will plant a thousand seeds along the way that you will never see grow to fruition. Likewise, you will gather a harvest from seed sown by others and cultivated by your predecessors.
17. If your joy comes from numbers and successes and awards, you are setting yourself up for trouble. Jesus told the disciples not to rejoice in accomplishments but “because your names are written in heaven” (Luke 10:20). This will keep you steady.
18. If you think of the ministry as a career and find yourself ambitious to go on to bigger and better things, you run the risk of imposing the world’s standards on the kingdom. Serve where He sends you, no matter how small or out of the way, and you may be surprised what He can do at Podunk. Someone once asked, “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” Let God move you when (and if) He’s ready.
19. Get all the education you can, and continue learning and growing the rest of your life. There is no stopping place until you get home.
20. Learn to live on your income. Avoid all debt except on a house. The first few years (when your income is smallest) is the toughest; after that, it should be easier and easier.
21. Off days. Early on, establish with your spouse at least one full day (including evening) each week for yourselves. Have an understanding about this when talking with search committees. Protect it. (Then, help your wife to know that a) you will work hard to protect this day, but b) there will inevitably be exceptions once in a while.)
22. Search Committees. When dealing with search committees, do not become so eager to go to that church that you fail to do your homework (such as looking carefully at the church’s history, its relationships with previous pastors, what income/benefits they offer, the details about the living arrangements, etc.).
23. Mentors. Find one or two older ministers as your mentors. Call them occasionally to tell what’s going on and seek their counsel. Pray for their ministry.
24. Reading. In addition to theological books and ministry periodicals, read outside your field. Run by the public library and browse the periodicals. Scan through magazines you’ve never heard of. Be alert for ideas, interesting concepts, anything you’ve never heard of. Read a lot of history.
25. Always have reading material in your car so if you are stuck in traffic or in a waiting room, you’re prepared.
26. Attitude. Stay young. Just because you grow older—as you will, if God blesses you with longevity—you don’t have to become rigid and set in your ways. Psalm 92 promises that godly people “will still bear fruit in old age; they will be full of sap and very green.”
27. Laugh a lot. Spend time around children and teens. Don’t act like a dignified preacher around them; get down on the floor and play with the little ones. Change into your jeans and sneakers and play volleyball with the teens.
28. On the other hand, do not try to fit in as a teenager (a common mistake of youth ministers). Even if it appears they accept you as one of them, they don’t. You are a pastor and thus an authority figure to them, and that’s how it should be. But you can still love them and have them adore you.
29. Prayer. Work on your prayer life, both private and public. Just as Paul said “we see through a glass darkly,” he also said “we do not know how to pray as we should” (Rom. 8:26). If he didn’t, it’s a safe bet you and I are poor pray-ers, too. Give attention to your praying.
30. Take care of your health. Exercise—walking is a better form of exercise than jogging because it frees your mind to think over issues, go over sermons, talk to God—several times a week and eat right. Watch your weight.
31. Porn. Guard against pornography. It comes in all varieties and can pop up anywhere, so stay on the alert. Just because we do not go to the illicit websites does not mean we are safeguarding our minds.
32. Be humble. You may need to work at this. Do not call yourself “Dr.” even if you have an earned doctorate. And do not call yourself “senior pastor” or “lead pastor,” regardless the size of your church. These titles smack of pride. Pastor is an honorable designation. (If others choose to call you by these or other names, that’s fine. Letting people discover by accident that you have an advanced degree is a compliment to you; wearing it on your sleeve isn’t.)
33. Remembering that “character is what you are in the dark,” we would add that who you are when no one knows you are a preacher is the real you. Who you are in the motel room in a distant city is the real you. How you treat the waitress in Denny’s or how you leave a public restroom—these say worlds about who you are.
34. Preparation. If you are too busy to study for your sermons, you are too busy.
35. From time to time, tell your people, “Pastors are not sent to make the people happy but to make them holy and healthy and to make the Lord happy.” Ask the secretary to print this in the bulletin at least annually as a reminder.
36. Conflict resolution. When conflicts arise in the church, do not automatically assume you are the one to deal with them. When someone attacks you, your church needs a few mature, godly and sweet members who can visit that person to ask a) “What’s going on?” (that is, “Why are you doing this?”) and b) to listen to them. If the complainer has a legitimate gripe, they come back and tell you, and together you all deal with it. If they are out of line, the visiting team asks the murmurer to stop this right now. Leaders of the church must possess both wisdom (knowing what to do) and courage (having the will to do it).
37. It’s no compliment to you when all your “calls” to churches have been unanimous and no slam against you that all the votes have been divided.
38. Family. Beware of putting high expectations and demands on your family just because you are the pastor. Children quickly grow to resent this.
39. Toward the conclusion of your negotiations with a search committee, consider asking, “And how much will my wife’s salary be?” When they answer “We’re not hiring her,” smile broadly and say, “Right. I just wanted to make sure you knew that!”
40. You will never exhaust the riches of God’s Word. When you have read a passage a hundred times over 400 years, you will still be making discoveries in it. There is nothing else like this Book. Stay in it.
41. Preparation. Remember that preaching is not a written art but an oral thing. So, once you have finished your plan for the message, go for a walk and preach it aloud. This will alert you to detours to avoid, rabbit trails to shun and potholes to steer around and will make you aware of areas where you need to do more work.
42. Never deliver a sermon you have not preached to yourself at least three times. Likewise, when you plan to read a Scripture in the worship service, prepare by reading it aloud numerous times to prepare your tongue for forming these particular sounds, to find phrases you need to emphasize and so you can do the reading justice.
43. When you are invited to guest preach in other churches, do not reinvent the wheel. This is no time to hammer out a new sermon but an opportunity to use something you have previously preached. This allows you to improve on it. In time, this may become a favorite sermon you preach in many places.
44. While your sermon machine is always on (and you will always have a notepad nearby when reading anything), make it a point to read Scripture devotionally—asking the Father to feed your soul—every day. Read for no other purpose than to listen to God.
45. Stewardship. Tithe your income and more through your church.
46. If you are not a faithful tither, you will have a hard time teaching your people about stewardship and taking a stand against materialism and greed. Eventually, if someone finds out you are not tithing—as they will—they will use this against you. Be blameless in all things.
47. Keep in mind that no one ever started tithing when they could afford to do so. Everyone needs just a little more money. As with everything else in the Christian life, you will do this by faith or not at all. But no matter how painful it is, get started. The first year is the hardest; thereafter, it gets easier. Some day you will look back with pleasure that in this one area at least, you got it right.
48. Benevolence. Don’t be so hard-nosed toward people who come to your church asking for financial help. Be wise, yes, and be on the alert for con men and scam artists. But never forget that our Lord said, “Give to everyone who asks of you” (Luke 6:30). He did not say we have to give them what they ask for or as much as they want. Try to give them something.
49. If you stop to help a vagrant, it’s perfectly fine to be generous without making the supplicant earn the money by listening to your lecture.
50. Witnessing. Become a personal soul-winner. Learn how to initiate a conversation with a stranger and how to explain briefly the plan of salvation and lead them in the sinner’s prayer. Then watch for opportunities. (The Holy Spirit will send plenty of occasions to those who are prepared and watching.)
Dr. Joe McKeever writes from the vantage point of more than 60 years as a disciple of Jesus, more than 50 years preaching His gospel and more than 40 years of cartooning for every imaginable Christian publication.
For the original article, visit joemckeever.com.
For a limited time, we are extending our celebration of our 40th anniversary. As a special offer, subscribe to Ministry Today magazine and receive 50% OFF our normal discounted rate!
What are you doing to actively reach new people? On Platform is a series of four one-day sessions held throughout the year that teaches you how to use platforms like blogging, social media, book publishing, podcasting and more to grow your audience. If you're serious about growing, Click Here.