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Advice to a Timothy

By no stretch do I think I’m over the hill or some big shot in ministry, but I have been able to share and counsel with many who, by nature of their age, are a little further back in the road of teaching ministry. The following is an excerpt from a recent note I sent to a “young gun” (and collegiate baseball player) with advice about how he should use his time ministry-wise. Let’s call him “Jim”…

So the plan for the year is no school, just ministry? Alright here’s the deal. Teach your tail off! Hone your skills/gifts during this season as much as you can. Work hard at it! Think of it like taking some time in the batting cage…working on your swing. So when you reach an old age of 30-something you’ll be light-years ahead of your contemporaries who decided to start learning how to teach/preach later on in their ministry. When people think of Jim and teaching God’s Word they’ll say, “Man, that guy can bring it!”

What to do in the cage-phase? Evaluate! As you spend this time speaking/teaching be relentless evaluating yourself. Remember this is the cage! (Not that this season isn’t important and real for the people you teach but I’m thinking of the long-term perspective) You want to try to rid yourself of as many bad habits you can which are so easily picked up in teaching. Grab mp3’s of yourself. If the places you speak don’t do that, ask them to, or grab your own recorder. Once you’ve got yourself recorded, listen to it a day or two later. This extra time away from the preaching-event will give you more objectivity. Okay, now here’s the tough stuff…

When you listen to it, be as painfully honest/critical as you can be. Ask yourself stuff like, “Did that transition work? What was the one thing I was trying to communicate? Did I address the ‘why’ they needed to hear this message? Did I deal with their next step? What was my emotional level like? Did it match the moment? Did I faithfully exegete the Scripture? Did I teach in context and not sellout by forcing the Scripture into my message?” Stuff like that. I know of fewer things that are as helpful becoming a better teacher than that. By the way, if they can get you a video it’s even better.

Just know that you’ll hate doing this stuff! Teachers are their worst critics. Frequently I’ll listen to myself and think,You better find a new job brutha because you’re terrible at this!” Seriously! But that’s where you must believe a very essential truth…

God calls us to this, empowers us to do it and enables our listeners to respond. In short, it’s up to him anyhow. Therefore, we preach by faith. Let that counter-balance any hard feelings you might have after evaluating (or after a sermon you just gave that makes you want to stick your head in the sand). I can’t tell you how many times I felt like I put a “poor swing” on a sermon only to have God move mightily in people’s lives as a result. It’s God’s way of saying, “Don’t get too big for your britches. If I don’t do it, it doesn’t happen!” That shouldn’t surprise you but it will. When I’ve depressingly thought I hit a weak single with my message, it became a homerun for someone else listening. That’s humbling and reassuring that when it comes to the teaching/preaching event, it’s not about me.

Jim, I’m proud of you! I’m grateful that you’re staying the course and diggin’ in with all you’ve got. Grace to you as you grow in him. There is no better place than being in the center of his will! Love what you do and who you get to do it with. Settle for nothing less!

Now get out there and take your hacks!

Gucci Little Piggy

Picture of Yancey Arrington
Dr. Yancey C. Arrington is an eighth generation Texan, Acts 29 Network and Houston Church Planting Network fan, and Teaching Pastor at Clear Creek Community Church in the Bay Area of Houston. He is also author of Preaching That Moves People and TAP: Defeating the Sins That Defeat You, and periodically writes for Acts 29 and The Gospel Coalition.

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