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The Best Advice I’ve Received as a Pastor

Since arriving in Connecticut to pastor, I’ve had the privilege of seeking biblical counsel and insight from dozens of godly, gracious pastors and spiritual leaders. I entered the pastorate hungry for spiritual advice from those who have pastored well. And God has consistently intersected my path with such men.

I’ve been given a LOT of great advice. In recent days, men have counseled me on family transition, marriage, parenting, church finance, staff development, budget development, personal schedule, priorities, preaching, outreach, and hundreds of other topics. But a few men have said the same thing over and over again. And this one bit of advice has proven, thus far, to be the best.

When these long-time pastors say this, they usually get very focused and intense. And it goes something like this.

“Cary, don’t you let another man hold your vision hostage.”

When I hear this, my mind starts racing for a context. Are they talking about people within the church? Without the church? People in the community? Other pastors? So I ask. And the answer is…

“Primarily other pastors.” And then these older, godly men proceed, “Don’t you ever allow someone else’s outside opinion to hold God’s vision for this church under their own preference or opinion. Don’t worry about pleasing any other crowd or group. You be and do what God wants you to be and do.”

Great advice. One man told me, “This is exactly what Lester Roloff told me 40 years ago!”

There’s great freedom in following Jesus and obeying Him. And I praise the Lord for a new generation of sharp young leaders who get it! They get the idea of loving and encouraging one another in ministry rather than inspecting and judging one another.

Trying to please men is a fickle path. Trying to fit into a “movement” other than the move of the Holy Spirit or identify with an extra-biblical culture or mind-set  is a hand-cuffing experience. A couple of generations ago, when denominational control was on the rise, and denominations were compromising sound doctrine, a group of renegades broke away from denominations and got back to allowing Jesus to be the head of the church. That was a good move.

In the land of “arm-chair ministry” there are a lot of Monday-morning critics. These are people who prefer to nit-pick those fighting the battle than fight the battle themselves. Their opinions are a dime a dozen, and are generally worthless. They fit the descriptors of James 1 and 2 about proud, judgmental, and political religion. They seem to be religious. They bridle not their tongues. They have a show of religion but not a genuine, active, mercy showing faith. And in general their churches are dying or dead—also fitting into James’ description of “dead faith.”

Of one thing I’m painfully aware—authentic gospel ministry is practically non-existent in judgmental, political, hypocritical, and proud churches.

(As a side note, I’m not addressing criticism I’ve received. Since moving to the east coast, I have been overwhelmingly encouraged by other Christians and pastors.)

And so I appreciate the firm nudge of faithful men in saying to me, “Don’t worry about what other pastors think.” I needed it. Because inside of every pastor there’s a dilemma. There’s a struggle—knowing what Jesus is calling you to do and how He is calling you to do it—and wondering what other people, especially pastor-peers will think of it. Please Jesus or please men? Do, be, and say what Jesus is compelling? Or temper it so others won’t criticize?

Follow Jesus. Answer to Him. There’s no greater accountability. There’s no more sobering accountability. There’s no more intense and fearful thought in spiritual leadership than this—I MUST ANSWER TO JESUS FOR THIS. And nothing will more quickly release you from the opinions of those who “teach for doctrines the commandments of men.” (Matt. 15:9 and Mark 7:7)

The only real reason anyone ever has time to fight other Christians is that they aren’t engaged in the real fight themselves. I’m fighting a war. It’s a big war. It’s an eternal war. It’s the good fight of faith. It’s an eternal mission to help lost souls come into faith in Christ and grow in their faith. It’s a life-changing war. And I’m so thankful for EVERY SINGLE BIBLE-BELIEVING CHRISTIAN who is fighting in that war, that I just don’t have time to nit-pick whether or not they fight just like me. I’m just glad they are fighting, and I want to encourage them to fight on!

I can’t turn my back on the HARVEST to fight meaningless battles. BIG HILLS! I want to die on BIG HILLS! And I want to stay focused on the HARVEST FIELDS—not on self-appointed judges. I think Nehemiah had that mind-set if I remember correctly.

And so I pass on GREAT advice from a few heroic pastors who have successfully led healthy churches for many years.

“Don’t ever let another man hold your vision hostage!”

 

 

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13 Comments

  • Thanks for sharing this! It was a refreshing, liberating, and encouraging reminder.

  • This was excellent. Thanks for posting this!

  • Great post! Thanks for being willing to share your heart-felt insight and encouragement.

  • Pastor Schmidt,

    Thank you for writing this article. It is helpful for me as I serve as an assistant pastor and I will definitely keep that thought in mind as I become a pastor soon. I think this is something that a lot of young preachers (like myself) struggle with. We desire the acceptance of pastors and church leaders instead of being acceptable in the eyes of God.

    May God continue to bless you and the Emmanuel Baptist Church!

  • Thankyou, I enjoyed your opinion and perspective, it gave me a new insight to on how to handle some of my own struggles. God Bless…

  • Excellent truth! Reminds me of the quote that a leader/preacher (don’t remember who) said years ago…”The greatest day in my life was the day I got a divorce from public opinion!”

  • Great article! Great truth! Thank you for sharing it. Your stuff is ALWAYS a blessing! Leaving America in 13 days. Pray for us!

    je

  • It can be quite overwhelming as a missionary on deputation trying to please Pastors in every place. We do the best we can not to purposely offend, keeping in mind that GOD is where our support comes from so we only need to please Him! It has been a little depressing at times for me, as the missionary wife, to have to hear people talk about so-and-so who’s not doing it just like them. (And they don’t know that we know those people ;) )

  • Thanks for the great article. I believe that many Christians should take this and apply it to their personal lives as well. I always enjoy your honest, helpful, Biblical articles. God bless you and Emmanuel Baptist Church!

  • Excellent post. “There is no more sobering authority.” So true.

  • Be careful Pastor Cary! 100 newly saved and 100 new members! Something must be wrong. This just doesn’t happen in “fundamental” Baptist churches today! Can you imagine what the critics said when the four men dimantled a roof to get a desperate man to Jesus? It’s a good thing they weren’t concerned about peer opinion.

  • Great article my friend!

  • Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I really appreciate your efforts and I will be waiting
    for your further post thank you once again.


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