Pastor Note #25 — Words of “Wisdom” from One of the Old Guys

Main Building at the Hamilton Campus of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary; photo by GAC

Today, I received an e-mail from my seminary alma mater, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.  It was sent out to all of their alumni, inviting them to share some “words of wisdom” for those who will be graduating in about a month.  Since that sounded like a lot more fun than what I was supposed to be doing this morning, I set myself to the task.  I occurred to me that you, the readers of this blog, might find my comments interesting, or at least that they might make give me justification for putting up a new post.  So, here they are:

I have served as a church pastor for the past (can it really be?!?) nearly 29 years.  I have periodically tried to figure out some way to get out of that role, but none has ever worked.  I suppose I should know better.  I understand that there’s an entire book of the Old Testament that deals with inadvisability of that kind of effort.  Here are some thoughts jotted down while I’m supposed to be doing something else.

  • Don’t become a pastor unless God calls you to the work.  Argue with him about it regularly.
  • Becoming a good pastor takes a long time (a lot longer than three years of seminary).  Be patient, pay attention, write down what you are experiencing so that you can go back to it later and figure it out.
  • One of your most important jobs is to teach the people what a pastor is and particularly what sort of pastor you are.  Unfortunately, you won’t really know this for a while.  So, sometimes, especially at the beginning, it’s best just to go with the flow.
  • It really is true that your people will sometimes criticize you mercilessly. Sometimes they will be right.  So, as the years go by, strive to grow in your ability to discern when to shrug it off and when to humbly receive it and grow.  If you have impenetrable rhino hide, you’ll probably end up running yourself and maybe your people off a cliff.  If you have skin as delicate as a ripe peach, you’ll bleed to death before you ever get anything done.
  • Don’t expect to transform your church with any one sermon.  But if you preach consistently, biblical, faithfully, after a few years you will discover that your people are beginning to quote you without even realizing it.
  • Pray!  Pray about everything.  Learn to be afraid to do things without prayer.  You will never accomplish anything apart from prayer.  “Yes, yes,” you’re saying, “I know that and I really believe it.”  Well, that’s what I would have said when I graduated from GCTS.  But the truth is that it’s taken years and years of struggle, frustration, and disappointment for God to really work that truth down into marrow of my bones.  Let him get started on that with you right out of the gate.
  • And relax.  Don’t try to do God’s work for him.  Instead, rely on the Spirit of God, and he will do his work through you.
Detail from a stained glass window in the sanctuary of North Presbyterian Church, Elmira, NY; photo by GAC

© 2011 Gary A. Chorpenning; all rights reserved.


One thought on “Pastor Note #25 — Words of “Wisdom” from One of the Old Guys

  1. Pastor Gary, I’m sure the students will benefit from your advice. Continue to be obedient, alert, introspective, humble, open, forgiving, strong, consistent, patient, prayerful, dependent, and yielding to the Holy Spirit. I would also add that you are gentle, polite, and willing to listen. I admire you greatly. There is a confidence and sense of security that comes with knowing that you are being led by someone who has given themselves over entirely to Jesus Christ. Now get busy listening to the Holy Spirit as to what He wants you to share this Easter Sunday. I can’t wait to hear it. I believe He could possibly transform the church and all visiting in just one service. Pray that He will and (one of my favorite quotes from you – “He will do it!!!!!”


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