At the end of each of the seven pastor-interviews I concluded with this question: Do you have any other advice and/or wisdom to share? I wanted to give each pastor a chance to share any kind of advice or feedback they would have, independent of the specific questions I came with. Here are the answers I heard:
Pastor #1 (42 years experience) -- The last word is integrity. It’s extremely important in ministry. If I were saying that to a younger person coming in, I would emphasize that remaining true to what is right and wrong in terms of the gospel is so important. Don’t buy into the power plays that are easy for clergy to buy into. There is power that we have by virtue of our position. It’s easy to get blindsided by that and then to use it for the wrong purposes.
Also, to me it’s really important to connect with pastors of other churches in any community – to make things happen.
Pastor #2 (16 years experience) -- Love God’s people, and let them love you.
Pastor #3 (37 years experience) -- The trick to being a minister is being faithful to what you know. It’s keeping that relationship with God and with other people around you alive, with the Holy Spirit. It’s being faithful with what you know and do. Do your best, but realize it’s the Holy Spirit that makes things happen. Try not to be anxious. The key to not being anxious is to trust in God. And sometimes it’s to keep on keeping on.
Pastor #4 (22 years experience) -- My advice and wisdom comes down to a doctrinal point of view, but it’s very crucial. Believe in your heart that God is sovereign, in control, and that He has a plan for your life. We have to totally surrender to His will. In CPE language it would be to trust the process. Trust the Holy Spirit. Trust in Him and things will work out.
Pastor #5 (51 years experience) -- More and more I turn to the wisdom literature (i.e. Ecclesiastes, the Psalms, the Proverbs, etc.). We ought to spend a lot more time preaching on these and living towards wisdom and seeking wisdom, and that’s maybe what’s happened for me. Maybe in old age I’m a lot more wiser than I was. It is one component of faith and it’s something that’s neglected in the church these days. It may actually bring us closer to the heart of God than prophecy or a lot of other things.
Pastor #6 (54 years experience) -- I think that while there are reports of great negative news and situations around us, we still live in a very positive day. I think with our younger clergy, probably the theology that they have wouldn’t be one I would hold to, but I wouldn’t be against it either. I enjoy their enthusiasm; their good friendships… the way they love each other.
I’m not a good person with technology, but I see facebook. It’s one of the reasons the young clergy are close; we communicate that way. We post who we are, but other people see that and praise God. It brings the connection together. So I look with great enthusiasm to the future. Today’s church with its younger clergy are much more spiritual than we were at your age. We were afraid of each other. We put on facades. We put on masks. It’s a whole different idea. We challenged each other’s’ theology, which made us more afraid of each other. A lot of times we didn’t understand where the other person was at.
Pastor #7 (34 years experience) -- Love the people. Preach good sermons. Work like a dog. Survive the pain. It can be a lonely and discouraging place in ministry. You put your soul out there and someone comes along and knives you.
A sabbatical is a good thing. I took one a few years ago where I went to visit people who had made a difference for me, and to tell them about it. Most of them were surprised.