My Advice to Young Pastors

Think Like a Missionary

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The world we live in has changed. It has not been an overnight change and it has not been dramatic shift it has been a slow drift from a country that had a baseline understanding of morality, and the Bible as true and Christianity as the framework for society. We now live in a world that is based on a pragmatic, pluralistic view of life. A world that is generally skeptical or indifferent to Christianity. The problem is that we are still trying to reach that world based assumptions that are no longer true.
If I were to give advice to a young person who wants to be in the ministry I would tell them to think like a missionary. I would tell them to avoid Bible College not because Bible College is bad but because our world has changed. I would tell young people to approach ministry from a minority position rather than a majority position. In a majority position, you go to Bible schools because you intend to be a full-time paid religious worker. When in a minority position you think in terms of having a skill that you can use in the marketplace. Get your bachelor’s degree in a skill you can use that can create income for you as a church planter or if churches lose their tax exempt status and are forced to lay pastors off. Then go to seminary to get your religious training.

How we train our kids to be in the ministry and how we lead our churches in the pluralistic society has to change. When I was growing up evangelicals were known as the moral majority. Leading as a majority has it’s own advantages and it’s own pitfalls. Leading from a minority requires you to be flexible, dependent, subversive, and resilient. I am raising my kids to be missionaries because I believe Christianity will continue to be in the minority during their lifetimes.  The good news is that the growth of the church always happened when Christians were in the minority, not the majority. This is a time for advancement, by different means and in different ways.
“Truth always rests with the minority, and the minority is always stronger than the majority, because the minority is generally formed by those who really have an opinion, while the strength of a majority is illusory, formed by the gangs who have no opinion — and who, therefore, in the next instant (when it is evident that the minority is the stronger) assume its opinion… while truth again reverts to a new minority.”
― Søren Kierkegaard
I came across this helpful list of suggestions from Adoniram Judson Americas first missionary. Judson was thinking of those going overseas, I found his suggestions timeless and helpful in raising our kids to be missionaries in a culture where Christians are now in the minority.
“I want to be a missionary. Now what?” Here, in paraphrase, is the advice Adoniram Judson gave to a missionary association in New York:

1. Be a missionary for life, not for a limited term.
2. Select a healthy and good-natured spouse.
3. Don’t be overzealous to do good on board ship and thereby get in the way.
4. Take care that you are not weakened by the hardships you will face during the preparation and travel to your destination.
5. Don’t judge the local Christians in your field of labor before you know their language and understand their culture. You will undoubtedly be disappointed when you first arrive and may regret that you came, but don’t let first impressions dishearten or embitter you.
6. Don’t let fatigue and frustration tempt you into seeking retreat or focusing on tasks that distract from real missionary work.
7. Beware of pride arising from your good reputation and guard against it by openly confessing your shortcomings.
8. Trust God in all things; don’t lay up money for yourselves.
9. Exercise to maintain your health.
10. Avoid excessive socializing with other Westerners and don’t try to keep up a fashionable lifestyle that will separate you from the people you are there to serve.
 Did You Know? (2006). Christian History Magazine-Issue 90: Adoniram & Anne Judson: American Mission Pioneers.

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