How do you stay effective in one church for a very long time? To be honest, not many people know! So we’ll ask someone who’s ‘been there, done that’! David Yearick writes of his 39 year journey as a pastor in one church over at Christianity.com. Here are some of his suggestions for long-term impact for a long-term pastorate…
1. Preach the Word — A large congregation can be built with little attention given to the Word of God, but the Bible must be primary in order to build a solid fundamental church. While some pastors have more sermon ideas than they can ever develop into messages, that was not the case for me. I believe the Lord performed three miracles for me every week, for He never left me without something to give to my people. I am living proof that a pastor does not need to be a great preacher to be effective.
2. Keep finances under control — Paul, speaking of the handling of money given by the churches of Macedonia, says in II Corinthians 8:20–21, “Avoiding this, that no man should blame us in this abundance [the offering] which is administered by us: Providing for honest things, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men.” Many a pastor has had his ministry in a church cut short because of improper handling of funds. The cause could be a lack of accountability, misappropriation, overspending, or outright thievery. Large building campaign debts are among the main reasons that pastors willingly or unwillingly leave churches. It is imperative to have a budget and to follow it.
3. Watch your relationships — Most men who leave the ministry do not leave for doctrinal reasons but because of moral failure. Well-meaning pastors often develop inappropriate relationships with women within the context of ministry. Often this downfall comes about through counseling sessions. Counseling without getting emotionally involved is difficult, and runaway emotions often lead to immoral entanglements. Paul tells us about proper relationships that pastors should have with ladies in their congregations: “The elder women as mothers; the younger as sisters, with all purity” (I Timothy 5:2).
4. Develop a sense of humor — Do not take yourself too seriously. I am not suggesting that you be frivolous, but that you see humor in situations which otherwise could be tense or embarrassing. Learn to laugh at yourself. You are human; let your humanity show through. If you take everything seriously, you will become a person of sour disposition; and no one, including your wife, will want to be around you. There are plenty of things to be serious about — but do not be afraid to let up a little on things that are not. You must laugh a lot in order to survive.
5. Be grateful for the opportunity — One danger of a long same-church ministry is that the pastor may come to the point where he almost thinks he owns the church rather than seeing his tenure as a gracious opportunity offered him by the Lord and the people of the congregation. Just as love can cover a multitude of sins, so can gratitude — for it is an outpouring of love. Where there is genuine love of a pastor for his Lord and his people, there will be an attitude of gratitude and rejoicing.
6. Know when you have been there long enough — When your health or your effectiveness begins to wane, it may be time to leave that ministry. Sadly, some pastors cling to their pulpits too long. Perhaps they are comfortable and well taken care of and too old to become senior pastor at another church. Perhaps it is difficult to consider leaving. You can kill a church by hanging on. It is better to leave when the congregation wants you to stay than it is to stay when they wish you would leave.
Any other ‘long-termers’ out there? What would you add to his list?