“I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus…preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort with complete patience and teaching.” 2Tim 4:1-2 (ESV)
I was asked to fill out a survey recently. The survey was for a course that was to be attended by new pastors who were going into the ministry for the first time. It contained a number of questions about ministry and pastoral roles, and gave an opportunity to share some of my (admittedly limited) experience with those who were just beginning their vocational calling. There was one question that really piqued my interest, though, and I think it has value not just for pastors, but for anyone in ministry, and actually for anyone who is a follower of Jesus.
The question was “What is something you know now, that you wished you knew when you first entered ministry?” For our purposes in this post, let’s amend it to “What do you wish someone had told you before?” Because as Christ followers we are all engaged in ministry in some capacity, I think this question is pertinent to everyone who proclaims Jesus. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a seasoned pastor, a new youth intern, a young mom or dad raising their kids, a working person in the marketplace, or a retired senior, we are all called to ministry. I thought long about my answer to this question, and, after typing and deleting a handful of trite Christian clichés, I finally settled on what I really wished I had known then, and what I know now…
Do not overestimate the spiritual impact of single sermons, studies, events, or programs, and do not underestimate the spiritual impact of consistent, faithful teaching of sound biblical doctrine.
Of course big events are flashy, they are fun, and they can be impactful, but more often than not, their impact is felt for (at most) a few days, and maybe even fades after a few hours. Single sermons and studies can encourage and enliven the soul, but if they are just a single oasis in a desert; the thirst will soon return. Programs can have a greater reach, but the constant stream of programs tends to make people dependent on the program instead of the word of God. All of these things can be (and usually are) good – it is good to do impactful events, to preach great sermons, lead great studies, and run good programs – but do not overestimate their value and impact on the souls of people, whether those people are your congregants that you’ve been called to shepherd, your children you’ve been chosen to raise, or your small group you’ve been commissioned to lead.
It is usually in the overestimation of these good things that we begin to underestimate the best things. It’s not flashy, and it’s rarely exciting, but a constant, consistent effort and focus on solid biblical teaching is what we’ve been called to do. If you’re a parent, you’ve been called to teach your children the ways of the Bible. If you’re a pastor, you’ve been chosen and equipped to teach your people the truth. If you’re a senior, you’ve been blessed with the experience and wisdom of the years. Unlike the single sermons, events, or programs, this is a long slow process and it is not easy, and sometimes you don’t even see the effects until long after you’re gone, but it’s worth it!
Do you want to grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ? Then immerse yourself in solid, faithful, biblical truth. It won’t make the local paper and it doesn’t come with cool t-shirts or marketing campaigns, but trust that God will use it to bring you and those you’ve been called to lead into a greater maturity, a more robust faith, and a greater love for God. God bless you.