Monday, March 5, 2012

Dear Rookie Pastor

Not too long ago, I forgot to unlock a door at church.   When one of our faithful men tried to get inside and found that it was locked, he replied, “You are still a rookie yet.”   So that is my identity as of now: rookie pastor.
I recently read some advice that Mike Milton (Reformed Theological Seminary) gave to “rookie pastors” after reflecting on his years in ministry.  It was helpful to me during this season in life.  I have rearranged it in three categories.

Relationship to God:  “pray more…recognize that, in work, in ministry, you cannot serve out of an empty reservoir.  Spend more time in prayer.
“…love God. Love people.  Love prayer and approach the sacraments with a simple faith that will recalibrate you as a minister and believer back to the cross.”
“…begin each day with a prayer, ‘Lord, keep me broken at the foot of the cross.”

Relationship to Family: “thank God even more for a faithful wife who was made by God to help me.”
“…enjoy the present stages in your little one’s lives; soon they will pass…play more board games with my family…sing more old hymns at night before going to bed.”
“pray over and bless your wife and children by name.  The voice of a father speaking a child’s name before the Lord in prayer will make an indelible mark on the soul of a child.” 
“never leave home at odds with your wife or children.

Relationship to the Ministry: “build more margin into my life, remembering that ministry is a marathon, not a sprint.”
“follow Jonathan Edwards…to study their wisdom and then, like them, write a personal resolution or covenant with the Lord.”
“be less concerned about spilled milk and more concerned about wasted time.”
“in work, anticipate your appointments.  Be fully present with others.   Then reflect on what God is saying to you through that appointment or ministry event or person.”
“consider difficulty as part of the minister’s job description.”
“never do ministry alone.  Always invest in others and always multiply ministry.”
“Let the Lord be your vindicator.  A defensive minister always comes across as, well, defensive.  Let your silence and your prayers be an example to others in conflict…say, ‘I’m sorry’ and mean it, quickly.  Keep, as they say, short accounts with others.”

I have read and reread Milton’s wisdom over the past several months and it has been immeasurably helpful.  Basically, the advice this rookie pastor has been given is:  be prayerfully humble and broken before the Lord, fully love and engage you family, and don’t allow the urgency of ministry to overtake you, but sincerely love your people for the long-haul.

Funny, Milton did not include: check Facebook and Twitter more, stress more, and be more of a people-pleaser…the very things this rookie pastor has spent too much time doing!

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