When I was a child, everybody said I would grow up to be a preacher. I would line up my stuffed animals and preach to them. By the time I reached 12, I had abandoned that for the more reasonable dream of being an archaeologist. When I graduated High School, I intended to go into Forestry. Five years later, I succumbed to what everyone else knew from the start and became a preacher. Now, after another eighteen years, I have had enough experience to perhaps pass that on to others – things I wish I had known before I began the journey.
1. Never compromise the truth.
You may be tempted to lighten up on what you preach in order not to offend your congregation. In fact, some churches actually advertise that they are looking for a preacher who will only preach upbeat sermons. Don’t be sucked in by this – Isaiah also had his critics who asked him to “speak unto us smooth things” (Isa. 30:10), and Paul warned Timothy in 2 Tim. 4:3 that a time would come when people would not listen to sound doctrine, but would get preachers to tickle their itching ears. Truth from God’s word is the one thing upon which you can always count.
2. Don’t sacrifice your family.
As important as the church is, and as important as it is that you be available to them, you must also remain available to your family. They need to know they can depend on you – and that you won’t break your promises to them. They need to know they are important. Take your regular day off every week. Take your vacations and go somewhere with the family. Make holidays count. Don’t let your wife be a “widow” or your children be “orphans”.
3. There is no excuse for waiting until Saturday.
You need to have your sermon prepared well ahead of time. It needs to be checked over several times to make sure you are not going to teach error, and it needs to be practiced. It has been said, “Put fire in your sermon, or put your sermon in the fire!” 24 hours is not enough time to build a good sermon fire.
4. Often, the very people who need to hear your sermon the most, won’t.
I’ve never understood why someone would preach on worship attendance … those who hear it are already there! I once preached on gossip, and when I finished, the two worst offenders came by to shake my hand and said, “That was a really good sermon – there are people in this church who really needed to hear that!” I’m glad they were walking fast enough not to see my mouth drop open in surprise! Those who need to hear your sermon the most often either will not hear it, or will not get it. Treasure those times when it does connect – and recognize that you can not read people’s minds and know what they are dealing with, and that your sermon may be just what they needed. That leads us to this last tip…
5. Never assume someone’s heart!
When I went on a mission trip to Peru, there was a young man who came to read the Bible with me on the first day of our work there. Surely this was providence! He just happened to show up at exactly the right time. He seemed open. I just knew he was going to become a Christian! I saw him twice the entire six weeks. On the same day, there was a young lady who asked a lot of confrontational questions and I just knew we would get nowhere. Three weeks in, she told me, “I’ve been meeting with a group and we were praying that God would send us someone to teach us the truth. Then you came.” And yet one more who simply stayed quiet while her friend argued with me … I had written them both off. Fortunately she went and spoke to a Peruvian member of that church, and that very evening she was baptized into God’s family.
There are so many other important things to know – some that can only be learned through experience, but my prayer is that knowing these things will help you be a more fruitful worker in the Kingdom!