Christians in China today are able to share relatively easily about ministry on social media. Pastors’ personal blogs are one unique vantage point into church life in China. In this article, Chen Fengsheng, a Three-Self pastor in Wenzhou, provides budding pastors with timely advice on how to prepare for a healthy pastoral ministry. He gives “twenty realities” of ministry life that will help set up fresh seminary graduates for the pastorate.
Twenty Realities a New Preacher Entering Ministry Must Understand
- You are not a saint. You have a lot of weaknesses. Please don't think too highly of yourself. Do not lack humility.
- You aren't Superman and you don't have extraordinary abilities. Please don't have too high of expectations for yourself—reverence is a daily lesson.
- The church is made up of people, and people have a lot of problems. Please do not turn a blind eye to the needs of today's church, but steadfastly move ahead with brothers and sisters together.
- The church is a small society with many complex relationships, even more complicated than society. Please learn how to approach these problems with a simple heart, otherwise you will lose your direction and lose your enthusiasm for ministry.
- There are many people who are Christian in name only and who are ignorant in their faith. It's up to the preacher to pass on truth and to reform them.
- If people are bad in church, they can get as bad as anyone outside the church, even with all the spiritual makeup. It is easy to deceive, mislead, and confuse people.
- Don't assume that people who talk about the Bible speak truth. There are many preachers in the church today who know the Bible backwards and forwards, yet when it comes to truth they are ignorant.
- It's normal to have problems in church ministry. And, it's normal for the church to have problems. This reflects the value of the pastor. Only a church with problems needs a pastor.
- Don't think a good relationship with your boss is really something to be proud of and satisfied about. If something doesn't actually originate from true love of the Lord, then your greed will become the grounds by which people will reject you.
- Prepare every sermon carefully. With the help of the Holy Spirit, your diligence will bless the people and you too will benefit greatly.
- Build up your writing and work on learning how to write while you are young. Your youthful energy will add stamina and endurance to your ministry so that you will see more and more improvements in all aspects of ministry.
- Too many preachers are busybodies with no direction. It seems like they are busy with a million things, but they actually accomplish very little. Their ministry inevitably leads to exhaustion. So, find a goal for yourself and work hard for five, ten years. Ministry must become a productive track in your life.
- Ministry in not just "work." Rather, it's more important than work. It needs more devotion, more goodness. Don't model those who work in the church just to have a job, who plot a way out, or who jostle for status. Pursue being a worthy worker in the sight of God.
- Don't enter the church and make hasty judgments that this or that isn't right, and that you can't wait to get control and change things. Realize that any change needs to be agreed upon by everyone, and that to progress is based on acceptance.
- The preacher entering the pastorate must understand himself. Four years of seminary is just a foundation. This is only the beginning stages of knowledge and spirituality. There are many people in the church who are more spiritually gifted than you and who have more experience than you. Humble, devoted service is the wisest choice.
- You must pursue growth in your own spiritual maturity, as well as improving your physical fitness. No one will pity you if you don't learn how to take care of yourself, and definitely no one will pick up the tab for the toll on your health.
- Keep reading. You can never read enough. Ministry is a long road. Times change quickly. If you aren't progressing you are regressing. If you want to get better and serve longer, then you must continue to study.
- Don't ignore family. Your family is also the target of your ministry. Family is the workshop of your ministry. Your ministry should be a blessing to your family, an example for your children, and by all means it can't become their stumbling block.
- Avoid any sexual temptation and do not give it any opportunity. Be cautious at all times because no person has immunity to it, except to escape. Pray continuously that the Lord would "not lead us into temptation."
- Concentrate on one thing, diligently study it. Become an expert in your territory. Realize we have our limits and that all the things we do have limits. Model Paul's spirit of "But one thing I do." Finish one thing and be a blessing to many people.
Image credit: Calligraphy pen by Alejandro Mallea via Flickr.
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