In March 2013, after much prayer and Godly counsel, I answered the Lord’s call to preach the gospel. I remember being extremely nervous as I preached three times over the course of that March weekend in the absence of our lead and associate pastors. The nervousness for the most part stemmed from me understanding the weight of this duty I was entrusted with. It was something I most certainly did not take lightly. Since my first sermon last year, I’ve been blessed with opportunities to preach at my church, mainly during our student ministry “Hype Night” services and more recently at our Saturday night services. Each opportunity has been a great learning experience and an opportunity to “hone my craft” so to speak. I generally badger my pastor for critiques and look for areas I can improve. I thank our elders and my church for being gracious and kind to me through my growth in ministry.
I was recently asked to reflect and talk about what I have learned in the last year about pastoring/preaching. As I continue to seek God for direction in terms of where and what teaching role I may have in the future, I hope that what I’m learning can be helpful to a young preacher like myself in the early stages of ministry.
More Than Just Sunday
In football, you often hear coaches or players use the term “Any Given Sunday” (which ironically was the title of a popular football movie several years ago). This means that anything can happen on the football field during a game. Well I’m learning that for pastors that phrase should be “Any Given Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday or Sunday!” Anything can happen, any day of the week where as a pastor you may be needed. From counseling, to funerals, to weddings, a pastor’s job seemingly never ends! Add to that personal devotion, prayer, meetings and sermon prep and you my friend are one busy fellow!
I’ll admit, looking at pastors growing up, I thought they just threw on a suit, stepped up to the pulpit, and God just gave them the gift of gab. Not the case! Being a pastor is hard work! I often talk to my father-in-law who is a bi-vocational pastor in California and marvel at the fact that he works a full-time job and pastors a church. I seem to always catch my Lead Pastor on the go. Meetings, seminars, trips to pick up food and clothes for the pantries we have at our church, dude is always doing something. I’ve had a chance to tag along with him to some things and I have to make sure my energy level is on “10!” So while most of us see the finished product on Sunday, know that most of the heavy lifting is being done Monday-Saturday.
Pastors Can’t Fly
Pastors are often the “go to” people for life’s troubles. At times it seems that pastors have all the answers. This causes some in the church to place the pastor at an exalted level only meant for God. While most pastors are great leaders and Godly examples in our communities, they can’t “fly.” In other words, they are not superhuman. Pastors are human beings that have problems, get discouraged and need prayer just like anyone else. I remember being a kid and visiting my childhood pastor’s home. I walked into his house, and to my surprise he was sitting in his living room watching the Pistons. I was shocked! Why? Because I had always looked at pastors as guys who didn’t have time for “regular things” like watching sports. I always looked at them as “Holy Robots” who trained in righteousness 24 hours a day, seven days a week. As I’ve grown and matured, I see pastors as men of God who enjoy sports, playing with their kids and going on dates with their wives. I see pastors as men who don’t have all the answers and thus seek guidance and prayer from their wives, godly friends and members of the church. I see pastors as honest men who don’t think they are above confessing sin and seeking help because quite frankly, they aren’t superhuman. Pastors can’t fly.
Readers Are Leaders
If I can be honest, there was a period in my adult life where the last thing you’d see me doing is reading. Between elementary, middle, high school and college, I figured that I had pretty much met whatever requirements I had when it came to reading. At the time, I would have much rather watched a game or play video games. As God began to mature me, even before I was called to ministry, he allowed me to begin to see the importance of reading. I can honestly say that today, I probably read more than I watch television. I truly love to read!
As preachers, that reading starts with the Word of God. All scripture is breathed out by God and is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work (2 Tim 3:16-17). Paul tells the Romans that whatever was written in the past was written for instruction and the encouragement from the scriptures gives hope (Romans 15:4). I believe that holds true to us today. The Bible is a great source of encouragement and hope. In addition, it is your guide to teach and train the people God has entrusted you with.
God has also blessed great people of the faith with the ability to write awesome gospel centered books on a myriad of topics. Whether it’s books on preaching, marriage or biblical manhood and womanhood, I have personally been blessed to read some awesome books that have helped in my spiritual growth.
In addition to topical books, Christian biographies are great reads. John Piper in his book “Brothers We Are Not Professionals” calls pastors to read Christian biography as we continue to develop. Piper states that Christian biography is history and the most powerful kind of theology because it “burst forth from the lives of people.” So in your spare time pick up a biography on Charles Spurgeon, Jonathan Edwards or any of the great men and women of the faith who’ve come before us. You’ll be glad you did!
Plan, Prepare, Purpose
I’ve learned that pastors are great men of vision. They generally have a plan for where they see their church going and seek the Lord in seeing the plan come to fruition. Prior to coming to the City Church, our pastor had a vision plan he called “Think Big.” This was a plan that would call for different missions and churches to be established in Detroit and the surrounding area. While it took tons of prayer, assistance, successes and failures, God is working and we’re seeing our pastor’s “Think Big” vision coming to pass. We’ve done numerous feedings, outreach events and even helped a church launch in the past couple of years. It’s been a blessing to see God working through people as we impact our community for Jesus.
Proverbs 16:3 says “Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.” Pastor Eric Mason in his book “Manhood Restored: How The Gospel Makes Men Whole,” states that “commit” means to roll, as in rolling one’s burdens on the Lord. Any Godly man of vision must have complete dependence on God and if it is in God’s will, his plans will be established. Mason also gives a helpful outline when we are seeking to establish vision and plans of the Lord:
- Ask God for visionary and directional clarity
- Write down the vision
- Plan and strategize what it will take for the plan to come to fruition
- Continue to seek the Lord’s face
- Seek godly counsel
- Make the necessary revisions
- Work the updated plan with much prayer
- Thank the Lord for bringing different aspects of the vision and planning to fruition.
Pastors are men of vision who don’t seek out their vision and plans without direction from the Lord. They are fully dependent on the grace of God and his blessings to plan and cast vision for community impact that will ultimately glorify God.
It’s All About Jesus
Let’s face it; we live in a world where pastors have reality shows, TV deals, book deals and countless speaking opportunities. Some people in the world see church as “big business” and equate pastors to fancy car driving, big spenders who look to take as much of grandma’s life savings as possible. Then there are those who are “called” to ministry who look to attain what a lot of the “TV pastors” have, fame and fortune. Sadly, the mission of these preachers leans more towards attaining wealth than preaching the gospel.
On the other side there are those who are passionate about Jesus, the gospel and making disciples. Those who are passionate about preaching biblically accurate, gospel centered sermons that change lives and reconcile people to God through faith in Jesus Christ. I’ve been privileged to meet many pastors with this goal in mind. I had a cool opportunity to attend a seminar a few months ago on “The Gospel and Money.” This seminar was attended by many metro Detroit pastors and leaders as well as pastors and leaders from Ohio and Canada. One of the highlights of the seminar was intentional prayer time where groups of men and women gathered together and prayed for extended periods of time. The cries to the Lord for the people in our communities really showed me the heart for God that these co-laborers in the gospel have. Also, conversations I had with various leaders during the seminar further confirmed the desire for change and the hearts of those present.
My first year preaching has been challenging, but it has also been rewarding. I’ve learned a lot, continue to grow spiritually by God’s grace and have established new relationships with some great people. I hope to share more of what I am learning in a future blog post. Ultimately, I want to be a preacher whose goal is to not preach messages that focus on me but to preach messages that point people to Christ. Pray for me as I continue on this journey serving God, my family, my church and my community.
Grace and Peace,
Demetrus “Meech” Stokes