Young pastors, please choose the brains of older pastors. Because you don’t have to make every mistake in the book. We, the older retired pastors in your area, can help you avoid some of the pitfalls of ministry. We know a little about the lay of the land. We graduated from the school of hard knocks; we even sport the school colors – black and blue.
Why this advice? Because I did and I didn’t when I started in the ministry. To begin with, I was only 28 when I started my first pastorate. There was an elderly retired pastor in my congregation. Unfortunately, I never visited him, never tapped into the gold field of his rich experiences in ministry. I regret.
Yet other pastors mentored me. In my first associate pastorship in Lexington, North Carolina, there were men like my first mentor, Hoke Coon, and others, including Dearl Bunce and Leonard Rollins. Then in Chatham County, where my first ministry started, there were pastors like Garland Foushee, Manuel Cunnup, and Gerald Bridges. These friends were invaluable in my early years as a pastor.
I therefore recommend to young pastors Fight your way to the doors of older, possibly retired, pastors in your neighborhood. Ask them lots of questions. They might even offer you a cup of coffee. These pastors are like the observers in the skybox above the playing field. They have a unique perspective. Contact them. To paraphrase Proverbs 13:20, “Run with, hang around with wise pastors and you will be the wisest.”
Rich examples of this practice abound in the sacred text. Who did Moses frame? Who was his right arm? Hint, there’s an entire book named after him. It follows Deuteronomy. Then there is the prophet Elisha, whose ministry overlapped Elijah’s efforts for 10 years—an invaluable preparation for his long years of service to the Lord.
In the New Testament there is young John Mark, mentored by Peter. In fact, Peter’s influence was such that we often say that the Gospel of Mark was Mark’s pen, but Peter’s voice.
Finally, there is the example of how the apostle Paul mentored young Timothy. A key verse sums up Paul’s last wise counsel to Timothy: “What you have heard from me from many witnesses, commit to faithful ones who can also teach others” (2 Timothy 2:2).
Bill Greenwood Jr. is a retired pastor and adjunct professor at Gardner-Webb University. He lives in Kernerville, North Carolina
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