Pastoral Preaching

It was one of those Sundays. I had given the message all I had. I had preached the text, I had equipped the saints, and I had exhorted the sinners. I felt that I had nailed the message that morning. The good vibes from Sunday morning continued to carry me as I headed into the office that week. I felt as if I finally had a grip on my preaching and I was excited to jump into writing the sermon for next Sunday. I just knew that I could knock it out of the park again. I was walking on cloud nine. Feeling as if God was ready to give me a fist bump at any moment.

Later that week, I headed into my men’s discipleship group at the local coffee shop with the confidence scale still raging on level 11. I opened up the group with a short prayer, as I always do and then asked the other guys about Sunday’s sermon, and . . . nothing.

Silence filled the air.

Their blank stares confused me. Their wide eyes. As the quiet continued for what felt like an eternity, I knew that they were struggling to remember and trying to avoid hurting my feelings in the process. Seeking to end their uncomfortable feelings and my misery, I asked, “do you remember the passage?” They shrugged, and we moved on.

I didn’t say anything at the time, but I was seriously bummed. I had poured several hours into preparing that sermon, the delivery was good (I’ve checked the tape and watched the recording!), but the sermon did not even last past Monday.

As a pastor, I decided that I needed to change something in my approach to preaching.

So, I began a mission to define my aim in preaching. There were a few things that I needed to get right.

1. Pastors Preach the text that God gives them.

I am an expositional or text-driven preacher by nature. I realize that God’s Word is what my people need to hear more than my voice and I fully understand that my people need to hear of God’s infinite wisdom more than my limited knowledge. I can even admit to the fact that if I were to preach out my understanding, it would be a really short sermon!

So, I see the need to preach God’s word. I begin with prayer and the text that God has directed me to. I then investigate the text to find what the text says and how it applies.

  • What is the text explaining? Why is it important to know?
  • What is the mood of the text? (Exhortation, warning, story, poetry, history, etc.)
  • How would the original audience have understood the text? Why would they find it essential to know?
  • What is going on in the book and chapter surrounding the passage?

2. Pastors Preach to apply the text to their people.

I then ask questions about my people. What issues are my congregation dealing with and how does God’s Word answer those questions or concerns? The apostle Paul demonstrated this through his preaching in the book of Acts. He did not pick a text and exposit the text without understanding where his audience was. In fact, he found where his audience was and preached a text that applied to their lives, answering their questions, and calling them to repentance and faith. Therefore, I adjusted by asking myself what does my church need to hear and learn from God’s Word instead of preaching a text and calling it good.

  • What issues is my congregation working through?
  • What does culture say about those issues?
  • How does the text respond to those issues?
  • What should Christians do after reading the text?

3. Pastors Preach messages that are easy to grasp and hold on to.

Then I asked, how could we hold onto it? This is where it became hard. I had to evaluate why my sermons were hard to hold on to. As I reviewed and studied my preaching, I noticed some things. I was explaining the text well, and I was applying the text well. But it was just too much. I was covering vast amounts of Scripture and spraying application without intentionality. In essence, was shooting with a shotgun blast of information. Some could grab a point or two of application, but there wasn’t a focused point. I needed to make it easier. Give all the people one point to grasp in the message and ask them to commit to it fully. I needed to trade in the shotgun for a bow and arrow. The message needed to move slower and hit one target. So, for me, I have adjusted my approach. Instead of explaining every application I can out of the text, I aim for one application point in each sermon.

  • What is the one overall application to this text?
  • How can I communicate that point in a straightforward manner?
  • Why is this something my congregation needs to know?
  • Why should my people care about this?
  • What should my people do after hearing, and understanding this point?

4. Pastors Preach messages that exalt Christ above all else.

Finally, I thought through what I am trying to accomplish eternally. For me, I wanted to show my people that Jesus is better. He is better than all the world has to offer. He is better than what we believe to be good. He is better than anything we would imagine. So, I desired to preach how the text points to Jesus above all other things.

  • What does this text tell us about God? (His nature, His character, His desire, etc.)
  • What does this text tell us about a relationship with God?
  • Why should my people care about a relationship with Christ being better than the world’s answers?
  • What should my people do in response to who God is?

Through this process, my preaching has shifted—and I believe for the better. I have gone from preaching longer, drawn-out sermons to shorter, more concise sermons which stick with my people.

What Does An Assimilation Process Look Like?

The assimilation process of a church is vital. If a pastor or the church leadership does not know how the people are to progress from guest to member, it is guaranteed that the guests do not know how to get involved in the church.

For many churches, the assimilation process is ambiguous. Guests have to stick around long enough and endure the awkwardness of being the outsider until they eventually just figure it out. For most guests, the ambiguity is too much and they just leave.

For pastors, the assimilation process may be hard to work through. Assimilation processes are not exactly theological and they were not taught in seminary, which leaves most pastors without a clue on where to start. Furthermore, the assimilation process depends on each individual church thus they cannot be copied and implemented exactly from other churches.

With that being said, I want to provide a starting point for the assimilation process. So, here is the assimilation process that I have worked through and now incorporate in my ministry.

The hope of this assimilation process is; for a first-time guest to become a visitor (a guest is defined as a person who attends regularly), the visitor to become a member (a member is a person who aligns in beliefe and purpose with the church), and a member to leader (a leader is one who excels and is growing in all the areas of membership).

Please, feel free to adapt this to your church context as you feel led.

Moving from Guest to Visitor

We desire for every first time guest who visits our church to feel welcomed and to know what their next step to get involved looks like.

  1. Welcome Contact from the Pastor: Thank you for visiting our church.
  2. Welcome Contact from a Ministry Leader: Can we answer any questions about the HBC ministries?
  3. Welcome Contact from Sunday School Class: Invitation to get involved in a Sunday School class.

Moving from Visitor to Member

We want those visiting our church to align with us in belief and join us in the mission to which God has called us.

  1. Personal Invitation to New Member Class from a Staff Member.
  2. New Member Class Provides Insight into Who We Are as a Church and Gives the Requirements of Membership (Occurs the 1st Sunday of Every Month).
    1. Beliefs: What We Hold to be True
    2. Unity: How We Connect & Protect the Church
    3. Mission: How to Serve our Church & The World for the Glory of God
  3. Presentation of New Member during the Invitation Time on Sunday Morning
  4. Vote on New Members in Monthly Business Meeting

Moving From Member to Leader

We want every member to be faithful in three areas of the church. GROW in their relationship with God and others. GO and serve in ministry and missions. GIVE to support the Church and missions.

GROW: Discover Discipleship
  1. One-on-One Discipleship. Become a Paul or Timothy.
  2. Small Group. Become a part of the family.
  3. Grow in leadership and skill development
GO: Discover God’s Gifts & Calling
  1. Spiritual Gifts Test and Staff Evaluation
  2. Discover Places to Plug into Serving with Pastoral Staff
  3. Get Involved in Missions and Evangelism
GIVE: Discover How God Provides through his People
  1. Support the Ministry of the Church through Involvement
  2. Support the Ministry of the Church through Invitations
  3. Support the Ministry of the Church through Giving

For More Information on Church Assimilation Processes Check Out This Video!

When Missions Cause Confusion

With the recent death of missionary John Chau, there has been a whirlwind of reactions and opinions. Some grieve the loss of life and the tragic nature of his death while pursuing a greater cause; others argue that his death was pointless and could have been avoided.

These reactions reveal that we are in a new era concerning the perspective of missions. I believe that the popularity of consumer Christianity has led us to the point of viewing missions in a different light than what we have in the past. In the past, giving your life to reach the lost for the cause of Christ was both noble and honorable. In the present, methods are questioned and critiqued without examination of motives. If that isn’t evident in the case of Chau, perhaps compare the op-eds of late with the Time article covering the death of Jim Elliot.

Regardless of your position, many of us are confused with missions and when confronted with the hard realities of missions (i.e., the mission may cost us our lives) we turn inward conviction into critique to appease our conscience.

Confusion in the Need

Over the past few days, the Twitter-sphere has been abuzz around the incident. People have been on both sides of the issue, some calling John a martyr and others calling him a lunatic.

Many of his proponents call him a lunatic, a buffoon, a failed colonizer, or worse. (In all honesty, it took me a few minutes to find tweets that were not full of obscenities).

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The problem with these viewpoints is they do not understand the need for missions. It’s not to colonize or conform different people groups to look alike or function in similar ways; neither is it necessary in missions to impose one’s personal agenda onto another.

Biblical Christianity places the proclamation of the Good News of Jesus Christ as the need for missions. The sole point of biblical missions has been, and will always be, the message of Jesus dying for the forgiveness of sins and offering eternal life to all of humanity.

John Allen Chau was not concerned about changing the Sentinelese standard of living or implementing a 21st-century worldview on their island. His burden was far greater—apart from Christ, they would spend eternity in torment.

Rather than rendering judgment on his burden for the lost, let us examine our own lives and ask ourselves if we are burdened similarly for those without Christ.

Romans 10:14–15 (CSB)
How, then, can they call on him they have not believed in? And how can they believe without hearing about him? And how can they hear without a preacher? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news.

Confusion in the Calling

Rod Dreher’s recent article on the American Conservation and many others have called Chau’s efforts unwise for several reasons: he was not familiar with the language, the people were aggressive towards outsiders, the Indian government had isolated the people for a reason, etc.

While later reports have released more information regarding Chau’s preparations for this mission. His critic’s views, then, raise a few concerns.

These viewpoints place specific requirements on the missionary before the mission can be deemed wise—the missionary must learn the language, the missionary must have a certain number of vaccines, the missionary must be fully aware of all of the culture, the missionary must be funded and supported by a mission sending agency, etc. The problem with this view is that it is not what is represented in the Bible. In fact, the Bible records that when the Spirit called a person, the church confirmed the calling, and the church sent them out (for one example, see Acts 13:1–5). Biblical Christianity teaches that the qualification for missions is the calling of the Lord. If the Lord has called, they are ready.

That being said, let me also qualify that I believe that a calling implies equipping. I have been called to pastor, and for that very reason, I have been equipped at a local seminary. Moreover, I can see how Paul and Barnabas were equipped earlier in the book of Acts for the mission to which God had called them.

I also believe that mission sending agencies are great. I love the work of the IMB (International Missions Board), support them, and partner with them.

While it is ideal for missionaries (and pastors) to be equipped by formal agencies, formal agencies are not a prerequisite for ministry. A person who is called by God to pastor can pastor (and many do) without a seminary degree. A person who is called to be a missionary can go (and many do) without a formal equipping by a missions sending agency. Even if the reports of Chau’s preparation had not come out, who are we to criticize a man who felt called by the Lord and was acting on it?

Let us not criticize Chau for his calling or his zeal in his calling. Instead, let us pursue the Lord’s calling in our own lives and examine ourselves to see if we are zealous to see others come to Christ.

Confusion in the Comfort

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So why are these people calling Chau a fool? I believe it has to do with respecting a person’s comfort. The world tells us that if a person is comfortable, leave them alone. If they want to live a certain way, as long as everyone is comfortable, just let them. In this type of culture, comfort rules and when anything challenges comfort, it is proclaimed as foolish.

Chau was not willing to let the people remain comfortable in their ignorance of Christ, nor was he was willing to remain comfortable knowing that they would spend eternity in hell without Christ.

The problem with these viewpoints is that they do not understand that, at its core, the mission of Christ is foolishness to the world because it sacrifices comfort for the cause of Christ. Missionaries sacrifice their comfort to go to the mission field—they leave jobs, they sell possessions, they spend large amounts of time learning about communicating with and integrating into a foreign culture and that is even before they get onto the field. Once missionaries are on the field the foolishness (by worldly standards) and sacrifice of comfort continues as there are language barriers they must deal with, the people can be unreceptive to the missionaries message, and the time investment required to reach an unreached people group can be massive.

Simply put, missions will always look foolish when it is viewed through the lens of the world because it calls everyone to sacrifice comfort.

Biblical Christianity is not concerned with the world’s perspective or comfort. Biblical Christianity is concerned with those living without hope finding hope in Christ. For the Christian, the temporary sacrifice of comfort in this world is worth the opportunity to lead others into an eternity with Jesus.

Chau was not concerned with those who would consider him foolish or even the sacrifices that he was going to make. He was concerned about how he could share the hope that can be found in Jesus.

So, let us not judge him for his willingness to sacrifice his worldly comforts, even his own life. Instead, let us examine ourselves to see if we are ready to sacrifice our worldly comforts for the commission that Christ has given us.

2 Timothy 1:8–12 (CSB)
So don’t be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, or of me his prisoner. Instead, share in suffering for the gospel, relying on the power of God. He has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began. This has now been made evident through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who has abolished death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. For this gospel I was appointed a herald, apostle, and teacher, and that is why I suffer these things. But I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that he is able to guard what has been entrusted to me until that day.

Confusion in the Command

At the core of the problem, we find confusion in the command. Christ has called every Christian to go and make disciples of all nations.

Matthew 28:18–20 (CSB)
Jesus came near and said to them, “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

The world will always misunderstand the purpose of the mission, place roadblocks before the mission, and cling to earthly comfort. Nevertheless, let us seek to fulfill what Christ has called us to do and share the gospel with all who will listen, even to the ends of the earth.

Pastor, How Do You Know What Hill To Die On?

The past few weeks have proved to be an interesting season for me in ministry. While the season has been fruitful for my congregation, I have received several calls from fellow pastors who are new in their churches and currently facing difficult decisions in their churches.

It was nostalgic as I can remember those years in my first pastorate when I was faced with a difficult decision that could potentially blow up in my face for one reason or another. I remember looking for answers as I reflected back on the ministries of the former senior pastors I had served under who would either attack the situation or ignore the situation altogether. I remember feeling the burden in knowing that I needed to make the correct decision. I understood that the decision would ultimately have an eternal impact for the Kingdom and an immediate impact on my ministry at the church.

The longer I pastor, the more I realize that there are problems that need to be addressed with a heavy hand and a firm stance, and there are other situations that cannot be fixed with anything but the passing of time.

As I have reflected on this process, I have come up with a series of questions to ask yourself. My hope is that these questions would form a filter to process these situations through.

Pastor, if you’re in a situation that you feel may need some serious attention work through this series of questions before you engage in battle.

Is the Issue a Temporary Issue or an Eternal Issue for my Church?

Many times we are so heated at the moment that we do not understand how temporary the consequences of the decision are.

I can remember a heated church meeting at the beginning of my church involvement when two church members were arguing passionately over the best practice of promoting the upcoming Vacation Bible school. Honestly, looking back on the meeting, it was so insignificant because I cannot remember who won or even what the positions were. However, as a relatively new Christian, I do remember the meeting. Each party was so passionate about their position that they were willing to drag out all the stops to make sure it was done “right.” But truth be told, it was a temporary thing, and if I went to them today, they probably would agree that it really didn’t matter all that much now looking back on it.

My point is that when a pastor is tempted to engage in an argument, he must ask if the effects are going to last into the future or if this is ultimately insignificant? If the topic has no future impact on the church or your ministry, that hill is not worth dying on.

Will the Issue Keep the Lost from Getting Close to Jesus?

We have all heard of the horror story of the church where all the men wear suits every Sunday. One day when a lost man came to the church in his work clothes, and he was quickly rejected. Although the man didn’t own a suit, the men of the church told him not to come back until he was able to wear a suit on Sundays. This is obviously tragic for many reasons. But the big reason is that they put a huge roadblock in front of the man who wanted to get close to Jesus.

Christians must be conscious of how their actions can establish religious barriers and their decisions could potentially create obstacles for others to come close to Christ.

For example, the men of the previously mentioned church at some point made the decision that wearing a suit on Sunday is a requirement for worshiping God. This decision was not biblical and yet it had implications on how the church dealt with people who needed to get close to Jesus.

My point is when a pastor is tempted to engage in an argument, he must ask if the decision going to cause roadblocks for others to get close to Jesus? If the topic has the potential of keeping people from getting close to Jesus, that is a hill worth dying on.

Will the Issue Keep my Church from Reaching People for Jesus?

An issue that is prevalent in our day among pastors is the use of alcohol. While many will claim that they have freedom in Christ giving them the ability to partake in the drink, they would be hard-pressed to say that their indulgences do not affect their witness for Christ.

While alcohol is a hot topic right now, this principle can be applied to anything of moral questionability in Christian life. Anyone can understand that it would be difficult to share the gospel while using obscene language or living an immoral lifestyle. The same can be said of a church that indulges in the things of the world instead of being set aside for Christ.

My point is, when a pastor is tempted to engage in an argument, he must ask, is the impact of this decision going to hinder the witness of my church for Christ? If the topic could keep the church from reaching people for Jesus, that is a hill worth dying on.

Will the Issue Provide an Accurate View of who God is through the Church?

Whether we like it or not, churches have a reputation in their community. Your church may be seen as loving and accepting, or judgmental and full of cliques. Every church has a reputation in their community and that is established in the manner in which the church interacts with the community. Every pastor must come to grips with this reality. The city you serve is making judgments about your church and those judgments are based on how your church serves your community.

Ultimately, the church must understand that they are a representation of God in their community. The people of the community will make assumptions about who God is based on how they see your church. If you have a loving church, the community will perceive that God is loving. Consequently, if you have a judgmental church, the community will perceive that God is distant and condemning.

My point is, when a pastor is tempted to engage in an argument, he must ask if the impact of this decision is going to offer an accurate view of God? If the topic relates to communicating an accurate view of God, that is a hill worth dying on.

Conclusion

If I were to sum all of this up, before engaging in a dialogue that has the potential to be tense, I need to ask myself:

1) Is this worth arguing over or is it insignificant?
2) Will this set up a roadblock for people to get closer to God?
3) Will this keep my church from sharing the gospel?
4) Will this communicate an accurate or inaccurate view of who God is?

Pastor, understand that churches have issues and people are going to argue. Let us make sure that we are discussing the things that matter and let us fight for the hills that are worth dying on.

What is Church Revitalization?

In SBC life, the concept of church revitalization is gaining momentum among pastors and church practitioners. While the conversations regarding the best ways to return a church to health are needed, there has been a tendency to bring every aspect of church planting and church growth under the umbrella of church revitalization. Which brings us to the question . . .

What Church Revitalization Isn’t

Before we can provide an accurate definition of church revitalization, we must first understand what it is not.

Church Revitalization is Not Church Planting

Biblical church planting is evangelism that results in new churches. Another way to consider this concept is that it is evangelism that results in new disciples, who then gather together and self-identify as the local expression of the universal body of Christ.
JD Payne, Apostolic Church Planting

Traditionally churches have been planted when believers move intentionally to a community of non-believers, wherein they practice evangelism and discipleship, eventually forming a new congregation from the new converts. The gospel is seeded in a community resulting in the salvation of members of that community, the new believers are then discipled, and a church is planted.

Church revitalization differs from church planting in that church revitalization occurs within an existing church whereas church planting seeks to begin a new church. The church planter is called to start a new church and the church revitalizer is called to bring a dying church back to health.

Church Revitalization is Not Church Replanting

Church replanting is another term often confused with church revitalization. In church replanting, an original donor church donates their resources and personnel in an attempt to begin a new church with existing resources.

In the church replanting process, a new pastor comes in with the intentions of beginning a new church body from within the old church. Over the course of time, the expectation is that the older donor church will receive new leadership, new ministries, a new identity, and (in some cases) a new church polity.

Church revitalization differs from church replanting in that church revitalization does not seek to replace the existing church. Whereas the church replanter attempts to begin a new church with the resources gained from an older church, the church revitalizer seeks to restore the original church to health.

Church Revitalization is Not Church Growth

Church growth (or church vitalization) has also been grouped into church revitalization. Though sharing many of the concepts and methodologies, these two are not the same as church revitalization.

Church growth is the implementation of certain methodology in order to lead a church to grow. As such, church growth can apply to a church of any size in any stage of health. Church growth strategies can be applied to a new church plant with only a handful of members or to an established church on the cusp of crossing over into the megachurch category.

Church revitalization differs from church growth in that revitalization deals with churches in trouble. To be sure, church revitalization may incorporate similar strategies as church growth but the desired result is not growth, but survival. Church Revitalization intentionally works with churches that are dying and strives to restore to life.

So, What is Church Revitalization?

Church Revitalization is the process of leading a dying church back to a healthy state. Restoring the church’s purpose of glorifying God and mission to reach the lost in their community.

Closing

The terms surrounding Church planting, growth, and revitalization can be tricky. However, there needs to be clarity among Christians. Each of these approaches requires different actions which produce different outcomes.

Five Reasons Short-Term Missions Helps Church Revitalization

When I first became a Christian I had a great misunderstanding. I believed that short-term mission trips were just vacations for Christians. I pictured how my fellow church members would go to other countries to see the sights and live the life. I even thought my pastor would plan these trips to places that he wanted to go and see for his pleasure.

Man! Was I mistaken! I didn’t understand what role the short-term mission trip played in the life of the church. Short-term mission trips are vital for Christians and the Church.

Here are five reasons to get involved with short-term missions at your church.

Short-Term Missions Enlarges the Pastor’s Vision

Short-term mission trips allow me to unplug from the usual hustle of being around the church. They put me back into a focus on His mission. Furthermore, mission trips have provided some of the greatest mountaintop experiences with God that I have ever had.

Church revitalization is hard work and the process can be stressful for pastors. Short-term missions are essential for pastors in the midst of revitalization because they can help pastors be revived in their view of God’s greater Kingdom work.

Short-Term Missions Empowers the People

Short-term mission trips call people out of their comfort zones to serve the Lord. Each time I have taken my congregation on a mission trip, I have seen people use their gifts and step into the role that God has given them.

Church revitalization cannot be accomplished by the pastor alone. Pastors need their people to come alongside them to do the work of the ministry. Short-term missions have always accomplished this for our church. When we return home, those who went on the trip are revived and ready to do missions at home.

Short-Term Missions Engages the Church with God’s Greater Mission

Short-term mission trips help people get out of their bubble. One of the best things about church mission trips is that it gets people to look outside of their usual context. We can get so wrapped up in our schedule, our work, our hobbies, our church that we miss what God is doing to glorify himself among the nations.

Understanding that God desires to glorify himself is paramount for church revitalization. Church revitalization is not about updating a facility or improving a worship experience. Church revitalization is about bringing a church to a healthy place where it can glorify God in all the church says and does.

Short-Term Missions Encourages Momentum

Let’s face it. Churches love tradition. If a church has no tradition, it will make a tradition. In the process of church revitalization, churches will have to sacrifice tradition.

Short-term mission trips show people that ministry can be done another way. As people work with and see God move in other ministries, they realize that God is not tied to a tradition or single way of doing things.

Who knows? You may find yourself implementing methods in your church that your people learned on the mission field.

Short-Term Missions Exalts the Savior

Short-term mission trips exalt the Savior. God is glorified when his people get to the work of reaching the lost. When Christians are faithful in sharing the gospel of Jesus, God is exalted.

If church revitalization could be boiled down to a single purpose, it would be to exalt the Savior. When a church is improving ministries and sharing the gospel, the goal is to make much of Jesus. Mission trips help the people to see the end goal, that all Christians are here to exalt the Savior.

Conclusion

I used to think that short-term mission trips where extracurricular activities for the church. But the longer I have pastored, the more I realize that these trips are vital for Christians’ spiritual growth and the church’s health.

Pastor, evaluate the missions ministry of your church. Lead your people to get involved in reaching the nations for Christ. Missions with your people will benefit the Kingdom, grow your people, and bless your ministry.

I love to help pastors and churches in ministry. If you would like to read more about church revitalization or ministry in general, check out my website at AnthonySvajda.com

What I Wish I Would Have Known When Looking For My First Pastorate

I guess you could say that my calling has been a little like Amos’s. The prophet Amos was not like the others. He was an ordinary shepherd. He did not come from a family of priests or prophets. He just did what God called him to do, and found himself doing the Lord’s work as a prophet.

Then Amos answered and said to Amaziah, “I was no prophet, nor a prophet’s son, but I was a herdsman and a dresser of sycamore figs. But the Lord took me from following the flock, and the Lord said to me, “Go, prophesy to my people Israel.” (Amos 7:14–15, ESV)

When I look at Amos, I can see that my calling is a little like Amos’s. I am not a pastor’s kid nor did I come from a lineage of pastors. I did not have a pastor take me under his wing to mentor me once I received a call to ministry. I did not have my name passed around in ministry circles while I was in seminary. I did not have a seasoned pastor to call on when I took my first pastorate.

Honestly, I was like Amos in the sense that there were times that I just knew what the Lord called me to do and I was merely committed to doing that. Because of all of this, over time I learned a great deal through experience. Granted, a lot of that experience was gained by learning what not to do. But experience nonetheless.

Looking back I wish someone would have told me a few things while I was looking for my first pastorate. Therefore, here are a few things that I wish I would have known when I was looking for my first church.

Don’t Get In A Rush

Let’s face it, churches do not move quickly. Many pastoral search teams consist of lay volunteers, working full-time jobs, and giving up the evenings to work for their church. In some seasons of the year, the church calendar can be so busy that it is difficult to schedule meetings, causing the pastoral search process to take months.

Understand this, don’t get in a rush to make things happen quickly. Patience is what we need here. Be patient with the church, be patient with the search teams, be patient in the Lord’s calling.

Don’t Get Frustrated

The process of finding your first position can be frustrating. Finding the right church for you is hard. Then add the fact that some churches will not respond to your applications, and others will call you in for an interview and then never call you back. The whole thing is difficult when you’re anxious to get on the field. You can get frustrated with this.

But don’t get frustrated. I understand that this is hard, but Christians are called to have peace. When you feel tempted to get frustrated, call on God for his peace. Peace is what we need in this process.

Don’t Forget To Pray . . . A Lot.

I know how it is looking for your first pastorate. You cruise all the job boards constantly, and you call associations to find open positions. The search takes a ton of time, and it can be consuming. Some will just apply for any place that is open. They tell themselves that they’re like Gideon laying out their fleece. When in reality, they’re just not praying it through as they should.

Guys, don’t forget to pray. There is a lot at stake here. Not only is this a transition for you and your family but this also a big jump for the church. Prayer is what we need, and we need a lot of it.

Don’t Forget To Look For Divine Appointments

We serve a sovereign God who cares much for his church and his pastors. Remember this truth when you are searching for your first pastorate. One of the ways that God shows me that He is in control is through divine appointments. I cannot even tell you all of the times that God has brought a person into my life for his purposes and in many cases, this has happened while I was being called to a new pastorate.

Therefore, look for the ways that God is leading you. Maybe he is opening a door for you through a previous relationship that was rekindled or perhaps he is bringing a new person into your life who will help link you to your new ministry. Honestly, I do not understand all the ways that God works in these matters. But I have experienced Him do amazing things when calling someone to a church.

Don’t Limit Your Ministry Field

I know the blessing of being close to your family or ministering to a city that you love. But do not limit your ministry field based on relationships or familiarity to a town. Do not be that guy that says to God, “I will serve you with all that I am for all of my life as long as I serve here.” I know that this is hard. To be sent to a place far from home and where you know no one can be terrifying.

My first ministry assignment was like this for my wife and I. We both grew up in the city, and I assumed that we would always minister in that city, close to our families. But when I received the call to go to a small, country town several hours away from our home, I knew that I had to go and see if that was where God was calling us. Let me tell you, the town was nothing like our hometown. The people were different, the culture was different, the amenities were different, and we knew no one. This was a scary process for us. But over the course of my time there we grew to love that town and all the people. God did an amazing work in that church and in us that I would not trade my time there for the world.

Sometimes we think we know what is best for our ministry and we want to tell God how to do things. But what I have found is that God desires to show us something greater. Open your ministry field. Let God show you the best place for you to serve.

Don’t Give Up On The Work

One of the weirdest things I have seen guys do while looking for a pastorate is stop working in their current ministry positions. They may be a student pastor or small group leader, and when they begin to search for their first pastorate, they quit the ministry they are working in.

This makes no sense. One of the first questions a pastoral search committee is going to ask you about serving in their church is, “What are you doing in ministry now?” and if your answer is, “well, nothing” then that is not going to be a good thing. Furthermore, what is that telling the church? Are you saying that you only want to serve the church if you are in the lead position? That is not the heart of a pastor.

Guys, don’t give up on the work. God’s calling requires you to pastor in whatever context you are living in. Just because you do not have a title at the moment doesn’t mean you can give up on the ministry.

Conclusion

There were so many things that I learned about myself, the church, and God in those seasons that I wish that I could share it with all of you. But that would be one crazy long post, and I have gone on long enough.

In closing I will say this, If you are in the season of looking for your first assignment, I hope and pray that these words will guide you and encourage you.

Remember that we serve a great God, and He is in control of ALL things. Do not let the process overwhelm you, keep your hand to the plow, and your eyes on Jesus. He will place you where He wants you.

Are you in the process of interviewing for a pastorate? You may be interested in these 30 Questions Every Pastor Should As A Search Committee.