To begin, thank you. I thank you for your devotion to Christ, His Word, and His church. It isn’t easy being a preacher. It isn’t easy being a young preacher. I understand and share with you many of the blessings and struggles you are experiencing, and realize that we are not alone in this wonderful work. Paul told Timothy that he would have to “endure hardship” (2 Tim. 4:5) in his work as an evangelist, realizing that our efforts are for the greatest result – pointing souls to Christ.
As a young preacher I’d like to share some of what I’ve learned, some of what I’ve seen, and some of my concerns.
First, you and I, as preachers, are no more important than any other member of the congregation. We’re not there for their praise or admiration. The church does not revolve around us. We are simply the mouthpiece for the Word of God. A problem comes when the messenger gets in the way of the message. It’s not about us. It’s not about how many meetings one holds, or how many people subscribe to one’s blog, or even how many we have baptized. We’re not in a competition. We would be wise to remember that we are ministers (servants) of Christ, and the Church, not the other way around. Be thankful for the kind, loving complements, and encouragement you receive from the brethren, but be humble to point to the One you proclaim for.
1 Timothy 4:12 tells us to not let anyone look down on our youthfulness. I am sure this may happen to you. We are young. We are inexperienced. And there may be times when our brethren don’t take us seriously, or say derogatory things that hurt. They ought not, but it will happen. Remember, it is not about you. Don’t cause strife. Paul told Timothy to be patient when wronged, and to correct with gentleness (2 Tim. 2:24-26). Don’t take everything said seriously (Ecc. 7:21). Don’t complain and whine for the brethren to respect you. Do as Paul said, earn it! Through your words, your deeds, your love and faith and purity, show them someone who is acting with maturity, even though you are young. No one wants to be invited to a pity party, especially when the preacher is holding it for himself.
Something I’ve learned, young preachers, is that change takes time. Paul said so in 2 Tim. 4:2. I need patience. We all do. Don’t be in a rush to change the congregation, their worship, or the way they do things. You may have experienced a better or more efficient way to do things in another congregation. Trying to quickly implement those methods in another congregation often meets resistance and leaves you feeling defeated and discouraged. The walls of Jerusalem weren’t built in a day and neither will a strong congregation. It is done brick by brick, little by little. Don’t try and recreate another congregation. Many of you might have come from home congregations that do things differently than where you are now. You might have gone through a training program and experienced a congregation that has the latest equipment, and an eldership that truly has the heart of shepherding. Now you want that were you are. Each church is unique and has it’s own chemistry. Instead of trying to change one congregation to be like another, try to help these Christians be the best they can be, doing what works best for them.
Paul wrote that the Gospel is God’s power unto salvation (Rom. 1:16). I fear that some of us young preachers might have forgotten this. There is always the temptation to entertain the congregation, only saying what they want to hear, making them smile. This will only produce happy people who are drifting away from God and the truth. Remember that in preaching the gospel, one must at times “reprove, rebuke, and exhort” (2 Tim. 4:2). You are not preaching to make friends. You are preaching to help souls come to Christ. Be gentle (Gal. 6:1), be loving (Rom. 12:10), but preach the truth. Paul asked the Galatians if he had become their enemy because he told them the truth (Gal. 4:16). Another temptation is to turn the preaching of the gospel into a college lecture. Sermons can be so intellectual, filled with Greek and Hebrew, backgrounds and foregrounds, quotes from every known and unknown scholar, that the poor members in are in a daze. They are hungry for the Word. Preaching is not an opportunity to impress people with your knowledge. Don’t forget who you’re preaching to, and what you are called to preach. Jesus always knew His audience. He told the people what they needed to hear. Jesus’ sermons were easy to understand. Paul was sent to preach the gospel, not in cleverness of speech (1 Cor. 1:17). Your goal is to communicate the truth of God to the people. Give the congregation lessons that will build faith and help them during the week. If your intellect or style impedes the congregation from receiving the truth, you’ve missed it. Don’t worry about being clever. Don’t worry about appearing smart. Worry about the souls who need to hear the words of the Lord (1 Tim. 4:16).
One more concern young preachers – be careful of the wells you drink from. I’m not referring to Solomon and immorality; I’m talking about the books you read. There’s something about preachers and books. Books can help shape our perspective, give us something new to think about. However God’s book must be your most important book. Be careful. Don’t just take a man’s word for truth. He may be the foremost scholar of our time, but he isn’t God. We don’t determine truth from commentaries, or other religious books. We determine truth from the Bible (John 17:17). Spend the majority of your time with it. 2 Tim. 2:15 – handle the Word accurately. Also, don’t drink from only one well. Be well read. Know what the congregation is reading. Be balanced in your reading, your thinking, and your preaching.
A short word to older preachers; we need you. We need your example. We need your patience and instruction. We need your encouragement and support. We are indebted to you. Many of us would not belong to Christ if it wasn’t for your teaching and preaching of the Word. Thank you. Don’t forget about us, and we’ll strive to do the same!
Let me give two words of encouragement to you, fellow young preachers. One is to love the brethren fiercely. That’s one of the qualities Paul said ought to be demonstrated in the young preacher (1 Tim. 4:12). To be honest, it won’t matter how eloquent or well delivered your sermon may be, or how true and well put together your material may be; if the congregation does not know that the message is coming from a messenger who truly cares for them, the message will be lost. Love the brethren. Yes, even the difficult ones! Love is communicated in many ways, like telling them of your care for them, or writing cards of encouragement. But love is more than words (1 Jn. 3:18). Be there for them. Go to the hospitals, nursing homes, and funeral homes. Talk with them. Laugh with them. Weep with them. Fervently love your brethren (1 Pet. 1:22).
Paul also said that you are to be an example (Tit. 2:7-8; 1 Tim. 4:12). We, as young preachers, can set examples for congregation to benefit from. Examples of excitement in studying the Scriptures. Examples of people who practice what they preach. Examples of men who invest in their families. Examples of men who care for the condition of the lost, and are striving to do something about it. Your example can make a difference. So give the brethren an example to follow. Be the one who helps ignite the flame of passion for the Lord.
Yes, we are young. No, we don’t know everything. Yes, we have a lot to learn. Yes, we’ll make mistakes. We’ll learn things the hard way. But I’ll tell you, young preachers, we’re involved in an incredible, sobering endeavor. It is an exalted privilege to deliver God’s holy words. I am thankful for you, and I pray for you, as I hope you’ll do for me. We need each other. Keep pressing on, good brothers.
Love in Christ,
By Jordan Shouse