Until the message asking for “young preacher advice” came last week, it really hadn’t occurred to me that I might no longer be a young preacher in the eyes of my peers. Mind you, at 52, I know I have a lot to be grateful for. I don’t take any medication, I still look and feel young, and I’m much stronger physically than I was in my 20s and 40s. But I guess that doesn’t change the fact that I’ve done over 19,000 laps around the Earth’s axis.
And that is indeed enough time to have learned a thing or two.
I know many clergy read this column since many of you have communicated with me about this over the years. I also know that most of my readers are members of churches and other places of worship and have clergy close to their hearts. So I hope the following thoughts will be a help and a blessing to everyone. I’m going to put it in letter form because it seems like such a personal thing.
Dear preacher, thank you for what you do. Your countless hours of prayer, study, service and sacrifice are deeply appreciated. If I can be that bold, however, I would also like to offer you some helpful tips. You are so good at advising others; allow me here and now to advise you.
To start, remember that your walk with God is more important than your work for God. You are very busy in the ministry; I know that. But Jesus told his disciples in John 15:5, “Without me you can do nothing.” If you don’t take a lot of time for your quiet, personal time with God, then you will find yourself falling as you try to help others stand.
So, Preacher, you must keep both your testimony and your purity. We seem to have gone through several decades now where many preachers somehow thought it was a good idea to be unfaithful to their wives, to be careless in their behavior and even to attack children. Do I even need to mention how awful this all is? You, the preacher, must be above reproach and therefore much more careful than anyone else.
Never be alone with a member of the opposite sex or a minor, even for counseling purposes. Do you need a secretary? Make your wife the #1 option on this, and if that’s not possible, make the #2 option someone who could be your grandmother or even your grandfather! Keep your wife close to you at all times. Have joint social media accounts, or at the very least make sure she has the password to each of yours and checks them regularly. Make your profile picture one of you and her together. Have “happily married” or “husband” in all of your biographies. Wear a wedding ring large enough to be seen from Mars. I could go on and on on this, but I think you get the picture and can extrapolate from here.
Let’s also talk about finances, shall we? You, the preacher, are responsible for caring for your family over the long term. I’ve seen far too many clergy pawn irresponsibility as “faith” over the years. Paul told Timothy that “if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for his own house, he has denied the faith and is worse than an infidel.” So plan ahead. Have a retirement account and fully fund it. Have an emergency fund. Have life insurance. Have health insurance or one of the countless excellent Christian medical sharing plans. Living on a budget. Have savings in the short, medium and long term. Have your own house and pay it off early. Do you know how many clergy wives and children were left homeless when a preacher died and they suddenly had to leave a parsonage? Nothing is more pitiful than a preacher who has served the Lord for decades and ends up growing old, penniless and bitter. Don’t be that guy; it is your responsibility to do better than that.
And now, stand up and look down at your feet. Can you see them? Otherwise, sit down and buckle up, buttercup (or in some cases butter bowl or butter pot). Have you ever preached 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, that part about our bodies being the temple of the Holy Spirit? If you have a legitimate medical condition that has made you obese, I’ll give you a partial pass here. But if you simply adopted a sedentary lifestyle, ate like a fool, and avoided the gym like it was the door to hell, then you’re living in sin as surely as someone ruining their body. by smoking, drunkenness or using illegal drugs.
“Fried” and “dead” rhyme for good reason. Learn to eat broiled, baked or broiled things. Rediscover these amazing things called fruits and vegetables. Choose whole grains. Practice portion control. Train hard at least five days a week; “If you’re not sweating, you’re not done yet.” Step on a scale regularly and take measurements regularly.
Also, rest a little. And, full disclosure, the previous things I mentioned come easily to me, but it’s the one I’m most guilty of violating. I am a certified workaholic and am as likely to be found chopping trees and brushing in church as I am sitting at a desk. Seventy hours plus a week for me is pretty standard. So this is a day my dear wife has to harass me on quite a regular basis, and she’s right, and I’m wrong (I said it, honey, mark this day!) God has ordained us a day of rest from the beginning beginning, and Jesus said, “Come aside and rest a little.” So take a day off. Have a hobby. Take a vacation. Sleep a little. As many preachers have fallen from exhaustion as from temptation.
Finally, do not seek fame or popularity. Let the red carpet be for self-centered entertainment purveyors. Those who want to be known and loved are not suitable for ministry. You cannot expect to be popular while doing what God commanded Isaiah: “Shout aloud, spare not, lift up your voice like a trumpet, and show my people their transgression.” But people need to hear the truth, and they need to hear it from you.
Bo Wagner is pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Mooresboro, North Carolina, a well-traveled evangelist, and the author of several books available on Amazon and on wordofhismouth.com. Email him at [email protected]