Your July Banner came late so we could catch you up on the latest news from Synod 2006, the Christian Reformed Church’s annual leadership meeting, held mid-June. This August issue follows hard on its heels.
That’s good because the July issue may not yet be at the bottom of your bird cage. If you can still locate it, take another peek at those pictures of the candidates for ministry (pp. 14-18). Pray through the list. They’re a precious gift of King Jesus to his church. But in our confusing, supercharged age they have their jobs cut out for them. Pray that God will bless them and make them a rich blessing.
It’s an irritating habit of the aging to give unsolicited advice to younger colleagues. But I just can’t help myself. So here’s my top-10 list of tips for our candidates as they plunge into ministry:
1. Love God’s people. You can’t show them Christ’s love if you don’t visit them; preaching, discipling, and pastoral care mutually reinforce the effectiveness of each.
2. Learn to lose a few. If you don’t always get your way, the kingdom will still come, others will be encouraged by being allowed to show some leadership too, and your blood-pressure readings will look much better.
3. Weep with those who weep. Dignify grief by listening, praying, and grieving alongside instead of trying to “fix it.” When Job stormed heaven’s gates with his laments, his visitors were true friends only as long as they kept quiet.
4. Take advice. A colleague just offered a gem that would have made me much more effective in church meetings: “Never pass up a chance to remain silent.” Sigh. If I only could . . .
5. Let criticism hurt but not too much. Your congregants never took that course directing you to give 10 compliments to earn the right to offer a single criticism. So take yer medicine because you’ll be swallowing lots of it. Accept criticism kindly, learn from it, and, if it’s unfounded, remind yourself that what really matters is what Jesus thinks. But don’t become calloused. If criticism no longer stings, find another line of kingdom work.
6. Get a life besides ministry. If you don’t shelter family, personal, and down time, you won’t have any. And if you never interact with family, you’ll have to settle for those lame generic sermon illustrations on Google.
7. Be a shock absorber. Take those bruising shots to the ego without passing them on. Release them regularly at the foot of the cross.
8. Don’t bore people. To bring good news, you have to be good news. You can’t help folks experience the joy of God’s kingdom by being odious. Be like Jesus; help people laugh a lot (Matt. 11:19).
9. Search out people who will level with you about how you’re really doing. Your supervising elders—and God bless them for it—want to support you. So they might sugarcoat the bitter pill. Enlist your spouse, some close friends, and your colleagues in ministry.
10. Enjoy! It’s a HUGE privilege to be invited into people’s lives at their best and worst moments. You’ll run into Christ so often, you’ll find yourself blessed immeasurably more than you’ll bless them. You’ve made a smart career choice. Go with God!