The Benefits of a Young Pastor

The Benefits of a Young Pastor

YOUNGI was 14 years old when I committed my life to vocational ministry and preached my first message. I graduated Bible college at 22, and at 24 was ordained.

Now, at 33, I’m the lead pastor of a church plant. I regularly get told, “You don’t look like a pastor?!” I actually enjoy this comment. Most people apparently think that a pastor has to be a certain age (50’s +), and dress with a weird white collar, or at least a suit and tie. I play Xbox, preach in jeans and a V-neck, and recognize most of the artists on your teens playlist. Not exactly the typical “clergy” persona, I guess.

Most churches looking to hire a pastor, want a man who is at least 50, has a Masters of Divinity, and 20 years experience. It’s obvious to me that a young pastor has always received significant criticism for their youth.  Even the apostle Paul gave his young protege, Timothy (a young pastor) some important instruction: “Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.” (1 Timothy 4:12)

So here are a few benefits I see to having a young, lead pastor:

  1. Tenure. A young lead pastor has the potential to serve one church for 30+ years. LifeCity’s sending church saw it’s best years under the 44 year ministry of a personal friend and mentor, Mel Brown. The church was running about 120 people when he became “pastor” back in 1968. At the point he retired, the church was running over 800 every week. You could count on one hand the number of people who were there before him at that point. Which means he had been pastor to them, their kids, grand kids, and even many great grandkids to some of those “original” members. He was 25 when he started.
  2. Multi-generational. In their late 20s – early 30s, young pastors can relate equally well to teens as they can to their parents. We’ve seen the challenges of our parents’ generation, our own, and the one coming behind us with nearly equal contact. A church generally attracts people in the community who are in the same stage of life as them. Having a younger pastor makes a church feel more welcoming to a family his age.
  3. Passion. One of the greatest assets a young church leaders has is an unbroken spirit. Many seasoned veterans in ministry have taken massive emotional and relational wounds over the years. You can’t live through the gut-wrenching experiences many pastors have had to lead families and churches through without losing some of your zeal and drive along the way. And to be perfectly clear, young pastors will get theirs also, given just a little more time… But beforehand, these early years of our pastoral ministry are limited and precious for what they have to offer the church in terms of vision, leadership, passion, and faith for God to do the unimaginable. This should be leveraged by those they lead, not scorned.
  4. Outreach. When young pastors talk about reaching people far from God to fully experience life in Christ, we’re not talking theory – we’re talking about our own current relationships. We almost all have friends that we’re trying to live Jesus toward and show the love of God. At some point in pastoring over decades in the same place, the overwhelming majority of your friendships consist largely of people within the church. It takes much greater effort at that point to befriend those outside the church and remember what it’s like to live your faith to someone who doesn’t have the same starting point as you. For young leaders, it’s quite fresh – and urgent.

And as I’ve already mentioned one mentor from an older era, let me also be quick to say – my ministry, and everything I’ve learned is indebted to those who have faithfully lead by example before me. I could write countless posts about each of the great men who have influenced my life, family, and ministry. I hope to pass the torch of leadership to the next generation, just as many of them have to mine.

Blessings,
Pastor John

How I Preach: Series Planning

How I Preach: Series Planning

HIP2A little while back I wrote about how I generally write my teaching outlines. You can learn more about that here. In line with sharing how I preach, I wanted to talk about sermon planning in regards to a year-long preaching calendar. That’s right – a year’s sermon planning at a time. Don’t be scared. It’s not that bad. (more…)

People versus Projects

People versus Projects

People“When He [Jesus] saw the crowds, He was moved with compassion…” Matthew 9:36

While crossing the busy street to the shopping center across from my neighborhood I ran into two men holding signs misquoting Scripture of God’s wrath and literally yelling at people driving in traffic past them. That was bad enough. But on top of that, they were handing out very out-of-date “tracts” that were nothing more than goofy black-and-white comics depicting Satan tricking people into Hell. All in the name of “soul-winning”. I can’t make this stuff up.

In addition to their yelling and sign waving, and tract handing – I watched one of them, the younger of the two, approach a woman unsolicited and tell her that she was a sinner before God, and that if she didn’t repent of her sin and tell God she was sorry and believe in Jesus she would go to Hell. He then attempted to lay out three “simple” steps to salvation and get her to believe in Christ in less time than it took for the crosswalk lights to change. All without this woman wanting to participate.

As he continued his diatribe, the look in the woman’s eye compelled me to do something. So I leaned over, gently got the lady’s attention, and told her, “Ma’am, I just want you to know that I’m a pastor of a church nearby, and we’re not all like this guy. There’s at least one church here that cares about you. You matter to God and you matter to us.” In less than 1 minute of talking with her I learned her name (let’s call her “Sarah”)*, a piece of her story, and that she would love to connect with a sincere, caring church.

Before that minute was up she was asking me where my church met, what time, and could she come. I was happy to oblige her. I meant what I said about her mattering to us.

As the lights changed, she smiled and thanked me before crossing the street. Then the young man took an interest in me…

Long story short, he was rude, abrasive, and almost entirely uninterested in me as a person. He shared with me that “they” (his church) had led 710 people to believe in Jesus over the last three years doing what they were doing here on this busy street corner. Not one of which he could name, when asked, citing the fact that he talks to “so many people” that it was impossible for him to keep track of all their names. So I just asked him if he knew the name of the one woman he was just talking to… he didn’t know her name either. He didn’t know that she was hurting. Or that she actually grew up in church. Or that her name was Sarah*. Or that just caring a little bit about her might have given him the chance to speak life over her instead of condemnation.

He didn’t know because he didn’t care. She was just a project to him, not a person with a story, and a heart, and real needs.

I found out that this man was actually the pastor of the church he represented. A church that, according to him, consists of twenty people. Twenty. That have supposedly led 710 people to pray a prayer at a crosswalk. None of which he can name. Small churches are fine. A small church is one thing. Being rude, weird, and hostile to strangers is quite another.

The only people that Jesus got hostile toward, were the religious hypocrites of His day who were more concerned with advancing their agenda than loving people. I know these people mean well, but they’re missing the forest because of all the trees in their way. Or, as my post title suggests, they’re missing the people they could be ministering to because they’re too busy with their project.

Now, I’m not Jesus, and I’m not about to get on the hate-train against this man or his church. I’m not even going to name them. That’s not my style. But I want to be clear about this:

Jesus is not like that. His church is not suppose to be like that. And as best as we know how, LifeCity Church is never going to be like that. We choose to speak life – to let God’s Word and Spirit flow through our speech and actions in such a way that people get a glimpse of God’s heart because it’s beating inside of us.

Whoever you are, and whatever you’re going through we care about you and your story. We care about the pain you’ve experienced and dreams that you hold onto. We care about your family. We care about your struggles. We care about you. We want to learn your name and hear your story.

And if we get the chance and you realize that you can trust us, we hope to share why we care so much about you – because you matter to God and you matter to us.

We hope you’ll come see that for yourself. If someone has ever treated you like this man treated Sarah*, I’m so sorry. And no, not all churches are like that.

Yes, we believe you need Jesus – that we all need Jesus. But we would rather demonstrate that in person than yell it from a street corner.

 Blessings,
Pastor John

*To be clear, her name is not Sarah. But yes, I learned her name. 🙂

What I tell every would-be pastor.

What I tell every would-be pastor.

would-be pastor    One of the greatest opportunities I feel like God has consistently given me, is the chance to speak life over many young adults (typically men) who are considering pursuing ministry as a vocation. Frankly, I think every follower of Christ is called to full-time ministry, regardless of their career path. But God does prompt many of us (myself included) to something separate entirely – to be leaders in the church as a calling and a career.
Here are a few things I try to tell every individual person who is considering becoming a pastor, student pastor, worship leader, missionary, right-hand-man, or any one of a hundred different ways to lead in a church vocationally…

  1. Start where you’re at. If you can’t be faithful serving as a greeter or janitor in your current church, why would anyone ever expect you to be faithful in prepping for messages, counseling couples, managing finances, leading people smarter than you, or planning strategic campaigns?! “He who is faithful in little shall also be faithful in much.”
  2. Start discipling someone. I would expect this of anyone who considers himself a mature Christ-follower anyway. Find someone that you can begin pouring your life into. Don’t try to be their boss. Just try to nurture and encourage their relationship with God. Share of your own struggles and moments that God has used to draw you closer to Himself.
  3. Find a mentor. Just as you should be pouring your life into someone else, you need someone mature who can do the same for you. This helps you be aware of your own blind-spots, and reminds you that you have plenty room to grow as well (and you always will). And as you’ll see further on, you’ll need such a coach to encourage you.
  4. People will hurt you. I’ve had people I’ve invested my life into, walk away from me. I’ve had people that I’ve seen grow, suddenly abandon their faith. I’ve had others who have smiled and nodded during my preaching, who then trashed me to others behind my back. You can do everything right by people, and some will still mistreat you. Love them anyway.
  5. If you can be fulfilled in life doing anything else, do it. This was counsel I received a hundred times by a variety of sources by the time I stepped onto the stage of ministry. And they were all correct. The price you pay emotionally, spiritually, relationally, financially, even physically at times, is greater than you could possibly imagine. I don’t know anyone “succeeding” in ministry who isn’t covered in scars and bruises. You will be no different.
  6. God doesn’t waste pain. Whatever you go through for the Kingdom, whatever hurt you endure, whatever you trust God for that He doesn’t come through like you hoped, no matter the sacrifice or cost – somewhere else, God always eventually repays… with interest. Hang in there.
  7. It’s totally worth it. I’ve never had a second thought about why I’m in this for keeps. God ruined my life to do anything else the moment I got to be part of someone’s story of finding Christ. From that moment on, I was done for. No matter the cost, I had to give everything I am to being a part of more stories of God’s redemption in people’s lives. I accept the scars. They pale in comparison of knowing Christ and seeing Him at work. Besides, when I compare my scars to His, I’m reminded that I’ll never out-give my God.

I’m not sure if that encouraged or discouraged many of you to pursuit ministry, but if you’re considering it, someone needed to tell you. If God is prompting you, and you accept that calling, you will join countless thousands whose lives have also been ruined. Let’s build the Kingdom together!

Blessings,
Pastor John

PS. And if that is you, look me up and shoot me a message. I’m always glad to pour into one more person.