Wise Counsel for Young Pastors


I’m now 57 years old and much wiser than I was in my twenties. I look over my shoulder and realize that I often majored on the minors and was concerned about the present rather than focusing on the transcendent.

A few of my learnings are noted below. I can only hope that they will be useful for some of you who are just beginning in ministry.

What you interpret as your “instincts” may be the whisperings of the Holy Spirit. Throughout my ministry life I have found myself instinctively making leadership decisions. For many years I followed those instincts and saw God’s blessing. As I grew older and learned the Scripture I realized those instincts were actually the whispers of the Holy Spirit guiding me down biblical paths. Today, when I have an instinctive moment, I check it with the Word of God. Bottom line… do not ignore what may seem instinctive, check it with God’s Word then move forward if you’re on the same page as God.

Make your family the people you are most passionate about discipling. We seem to be embracing discipleship like we never have before. I’m noticing that, in our mind’s eye, discipleship is finding a few other people of the same gender and giving our time, attention, and discipleship energies to them. We should do this but not at the expense of the discipling of our own children. Remember this… God created in your child a longing to know the love of and to have the knowledge of the dad and mom that God gave them. You were appropriately chosen by God to disciple your kids.

Never believe the lie that new ideas are the only right ideas. It seems that every generation of church leaders chooses to set aside anything that was birthed through the generation that came before them. In so doing, we oftentimes move away from biblical church to generational and cultural church. Cling to biblical church while allowing new methods to be played out but don’t play out new methods if they demand you delete the parts of the Bible that aren’t cool or sexy… today.

Don’t give too much of your attention to the great theological debates. If you do they will…

  1. redirect your energies from the transformation of hearts to theological treatises and coalitions that, in the end, will begin to shape a politician, not a pastor.
  2. lead you into ecclesiastical elitism… believing that those evangelicals whose theological perspective is different than yours are not as theologically astute as yourself or that the interpretations they espouse are heretical when in fact, both sides of the debate may simply be demanding a final word on what God is keeping a mystery (Deut. 29:29).
  3. force you into a pigeon-hole that will limit your ministry. Most of us want to affect the world in the name of Jesus Christ. Many have chosen to battle for a theological perspective which has limited the churches and movements they are welcomed into.
  4. become idols, taking the place of the Christ. You will know if this is true if your reputation is built on a theological perspective rather than Jesus Christ. Remember these things… What you speak of most passionately you will be known for. What you’re willing to go to battle for you will be known for. What we are to speak of most often and go to battle for is the person of Jesus Christ.

One comment

  1. Great post Rick, As a 58 year old pastor (primarily small groups) your post resonates strongly in this season of my life. And by the way, I’m still feel young when it comes to learning

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