A Letter To Young Pastors
As a young pastor I deeply appreciated the helpful advice I received from several older ministerial friends. I wish to return the favor. In this brief letter, it is my desire and prayer that those who are entering into the ministry may find some encouraging help from what advice I might give.
From my pastoral experience, what lessons did I learn that were helpful for me, and perhaps, may be helpful to others? Allow these several suggestions.
1. I learned the importance of submitting to the Spirit’s leadership.
There is nothing more encouraging than to sense and feel the controlling influences of the Holy Spirit upon your life. And how is this done?
“Keep on being filled with the Spirit.” Ephesians 5:18
“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct thy paths.” Proverbs 3:5
In my own case, as I look back over my years of ministry I thank God for the guiding leadership of the Holy Spirit. I confess, there were times I had to be careful not to allow human wisdom to be a guiding force–especially on major issues. There were times I had certain desires I wanted to see accomplished. But when what I wanted was not what God wanted, I couldn’t get clear to move ahead. In the end, I was always glad I submitted to His leadership.
I will never forget an incident which occurred in my life in the 1960’s. At that time, my father was suffering heart failure. His service, his ministry at his church was becoming very limited. It was then that the church board called me to come as an assistant to my father. What an honor. I deeply appreciated the offer. I was excited.
I did seek some advice. The conference president said to me, “Paul I think you should go.” My father-in-law urged me to go. Others thought I should go. It looked like green-lights all the way…but no, there was a red light. In praying about the decision, I found no peace. I couldn’t get clear. There was a negative impression. Clearly, no matter what others were saying, this was not God’s will.
Looking back now, I am so thankful I didn’t insist on having my way. I am glad that the Holy Spirit was controlling my life. What a joy it was to see how God was working out His purpose and guiding my life. He knew what was best for me right from the start.
Incidentally, years later, in 1971, a distinct honor was again placed upon me as the same church extended to me another call—this time to come as full-time pastor. I knew this was God’s timing, and I enjoyed ten wonderful years as their pastor.
Thank you, Lord, for Your guiding hand.
Pastors, keep sensitive to the controlling influences of the Holy Spirit. Keep filled with the Spirit. He will direct your path.
2. I learned the importance of being a good team player.
We do a great disservice to ourselves and to others by thinking we know it all or we have all the answers. I learned across the years the keys to being a good team player are the qualities of openness and humility. We need to be teachable and able to take correction. As young pastors, we need the counsel of godly men and women in our lives who have had years of experience.
In my own case, I thank God for those mature godly men who saw my need for some guidance in helping me to work with my people. I can remember one fellow saying, “Paul, don’t try to run the show by yourself. Learn to work with your people.”
It’s encouraging to know that the qualities of a team leader can be developed.
How is this done?
- Work to gain the confidence of your people.
- Display a deep concern for others. Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care.
- Kindness is the master key that opens every heart.
- Avoid any spirit of favoritism.
- Avoid being dogmatic or arrogant.
- Be slow in making changes.
- Share your ideas with humility.
- Be a good listener.
Cultivate a servant spirit. You can never be an arrogant dictator and be a team player.
3. I learned the importance of identifying with my people.
There are congregational concerns that the pastor must be aware of. You can’t identify with people and not identify with their needs. Realistically, how is all this accomplished?
Allow love to be the controlling passion in all of your responses.
Enter into the lives of your people–share their joys and their sorrows. A few years ago a fine young couple in our congregation lost their tiny baby girl. As we stood beside them in the funeral home and looked at that little casket, the young mother looked at us and said, “We know that you understand.”
In the early years in our ministry we also lost a beautiful four-month-old baby girl. You see, we could share their heartbreak because we had been in their shoes. We could identify with them when others could not.
Cultivate a sensitivity to the needs of others. Feel with them. Rejoice with them over their promotion at work, a new home, a new baby. Weep with them over loss of a job, a car accident, a serious illness, the loss of a family member.
Your parishioners will never forget the fact that you cared. You identified with their real-life situation.
In closing, I want to remind you that I Timothy 4:12 says, “Let no man despise thy youth, but BE THOU AN EXAMPLE of the believers in word, in conversation, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity.”
These words were originally penned by the aged apostle to a much younger man who had been a fellow-worker for some time. Although Timothy had proven himself to Paul, the apostle recognized the need for further cautions and challenges.
In some measure, this has been the purpose of this letter. It is my desire and prayer that those who are entering into the pastorate may find some benefit from my years of experience in the ministry. I trust that God can use this letter to make you, Pastor, a better minister for His glory.
If you’re interested in Rev. Pierpoint’s manual for young pastors, you can find out more by emailing the family at firstname.lastname@example.org