Maybe some information about me would be appropriate to “set up” what is to follow. It might help in knowing where I’m coming from.
I entered my adult professional life as a high school teacher. The idea of preaching the gospel had, at that time, never entered my mind. When I started preaching, I did just that. I just started preaching.
I started preaching without the benefit of having gone to a Christian university, a preacher training school, or even an older preacher to mentor me. About all I had was a supportive wife, a Bible, a few books, and a desire to preach. Along the way I did take some classes and bought more books, but I was never formally taught how to preach or how to be an effective minister.
Most of what I’ve learned in the past thirty-eight years has been the result of trial and error – with a heavy emphasis on error. I am hoping that these next few words will be viewed as helpful to those who choose to serve the Lord as a minister of the gospel. They might also be helpful for elders and others. At least that is my prayer.
What is prompting these words is an experience that is fresh on my mind. As I type this, I have just returned home from a visit I’ve made today. I just got back from a visit with a man who lost his wife of fifty-four years last evening. As he told me while we were talking, “These past four years have been rough.” That was due to her declining health and his constant “hands on” care for her.
When I started preaching for the congregation I now serve over fifteen years ago, this man and his wife were not members. At least they were not faithful members. Over the years we developed a relationship. Also during those years, they both renewed their relationship with the Lord and with His people.
When I showed up at this man’s door a little while ago, I showed up as a friend and brother in Christ. Yes, it is supposed to be my “day off” (whatever that is for a preacher). Yes, I had other things I could have been doing and needed to be doing, but I went. I did not go because it is my job as a preacher (and elder). I went because I thought he would like to know I cared. Judging from the hug he insisted on giving me as I prepared to leave, I think I was right about that.
I’ve listened to a lot of sermons and lectures delivered by men I have never met. I have benefited a great deal from a lot of what I’ve heard them say.
I’ve benefited much more from those who have taken the time and made the effort to invest in me. They may not be a big name in the brotherhood, but they care about me. Those are the men to whom I would turn when I am grieving, and at other difficult times in my life.
So – I’ve written all of that to say what is really on my mind. I have some advice for my fellow preachers and elders (and others, for that matter). Again, you may or may not read this in some textbook on preaching or have it taught in a class on ministry. I just hope it will be accepted in the way it is intended. It is intended to help all of us to help others in their relationship with the Lord.
Here it is –
Please do not let your first visit to a person be when they have just lost a loved one. Let people know you truly care for them before that time. Do your best to not come across as a professional who is just there “doing his job.”
It is an old adage. I’ve even heard it ridiculed. I still believe it to be true that –
People do not care how much you know until they know how much you care.