Dear Timothy: A Letter From An Elder To A Leader
Lesson By Charles R. Grisham
Book Edited by Brent Watts
So you want to be a preacher? Praise the Lord to my fellow laborer in the kingdom. I wish it were possible to sit down with you with open Bibles and discuss the highest calling on earth. It would be a pleasure to pray with you. But since that is not possible at this time, let us reason together about the ministry.
I recall as a young boy I was thinking that if I were ever to be a preacher, there were three particular preachers I would like to pattern after. One of them was my pastor, C. P. Williams, another was Mark Baughman, and the third was my pastor’s wife, Mary Williams.
Their influential traits really impacted my life. Brother Williams was firm in doctrine and holiness. He was very staunch. That was a quality I would desire. Brother Mark Baughman was cheerful and demonstrative. He would quote dozens of Scriptures when he preached. His enthusiasm was infectious. That quality made an impression on me. Then to consider Sister Mary Williams and her many talents; teaching, preaching, writing, etc.; exemplifies an outstanding Christian lady. She could most certainly tell you about Jesus, but she had the unique ability to make you want Him. You see, God sends many people into our lives who fan the flames of desire, and in their own personal way, they help us in formulating our particular way of following God.
Looking back now I can see signs of a desire that later would result in a call from the Lord. As a small child, I wanted to pray for the sick, and my grandparents, aunts, and uncles would accommodate me by allowing me to pray. I had my little perfume bottle filled with olive oil, and when I prayed, I expected them to be healed.
You see, the plan of God unfolds one day at a time. The Bible says, “The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD” (Psalm 37:23). Then I also heard it said that “the problem with life is that it is so daily.” In other words, it just takes time.
Perhaps it would be good to simply consider the developmental aspect of life. If you ever were to become an able minister of the gospel, you would first need to establish a firm relationship with the Lord. I mean really get to know Him to the extent that everyone who knows you is able to see how completely you are committed to God; faithful to church, loyal to your pastor, trustworthy, and actively involved in soul-winning, endeavoring to disciple others to the Lord. In other words, you should demonstrate all the best qualities of what a true Christian should be, in every aspect, from tithing, offerings, and faithful service. All of the regular, ongoing signs of a good saint will be noticed by God, your family, friends, and church people.
In most cases, these godly qualities will be recognized by your pastor, and he will often place you in some place of responsibility to help with Sunday school, youth work, nursing home outreach, conducting services, etc. Always be aware that the path to productive service will lead you into various aspects of Christian service. None of this is wasted effort. In fact, you will see how valuable each of these experiences will be.
I recall in my own life I filled every position in the church under the pastor with the exception of the ladies auxiliary leader. I imagine if I had been asked to do that, I would have been willing. To serve in the position of primary, junior, intermediate, youth, and adult Sunday school classes; then serving as deacon, elder, assistant to the pastor, and associate pastor spanned many years. I never lost anything in serving. I was being mentored and trained by those who knew the way.
You know, I do not remember being paid except one time when I took care of the church for several months while the pastor was overseas. I am not real sure whether it was $50.00 or $150.00. But it wasn’t about money, it was about a burden and the opportunity to serve.
Having been raised in a Bible school church, we were always blessed with dozens of gifted preachers at all times. Many had great ambition and promise. Others came, simply trying to find their place in life. Some went on to great success and fulfillment in life. Others just passed from the scene and never experienced what seemed to be within their reach. Some were derailed by marrying out of God’s will, while others allowed material things to take them in another direction. I hope you do not mind me just talking straight from my heart to yours.
You see, I really believe that when you are busy doing the will of God, it will not come as a surprise to your church, family, and friends when you acknowledge a call. In most cases, they will have already sensed it and be wondering when you would finally make it known. This is safety for all concerned, for it is extremely frustrating for a pastor and church for a person to feel they have a call, but have not demonstrated a basic pattern of life that would confirm it.
There is a great misunderstanding among many concerning the ministry. They look upon the qualifications for being a doctor, lawyer, chiropractor, veterinarian, etc., with acceptance as requiring special education and training. Some of these mentioned above can require training for up to nine years in order to legally practice. Now do not get me wrong, the ministry is a calling from God. Formal education, Bible school, etc. are all good, but within themselves alone do not qualify a person to be a “called man of God.” I will tell you this: if it takes eight or nine years to be a doctor, it will certainly take years to prove an established ministry. Just ask any home missionary. It takes time! Do not confuse that statement with being used of God, but real ministry also requires maturity. Learn to be content in whatsoever state your life deals you as you follow the Lord.
Once you acknowledge a call, there are many unique and unfolding steps that are sure to follow. It would be a privilege to discuss each element in careful detail, for much more will be required of you. Each of these steps will require humility. The last thing a local church needs is “another voice” to tell the saints how to live. To do otherwise is to create a new brand of elitism that becomes lifted up in pride. Simply serve as the pastor assigns your level of service.
If you are asked to conduct the service or take prayer requests, do not assume that you have to create a move of God while making announcements. Just simply do what you have been asked to do and keep the service moving forward as directed. Your respect for the pastor and those with whom you serve will be better established. Then when you are asked to preach, it will have more significance. It is amazing how difficult it is to move from the ordinary three-minute “red-hot” testimony to a 30-minute sermon with any degree of meaning.
Please do not think that I am assuming that you need help in any of these areas, but as the old saying goes, “A word to the wise is sufficient.” Please bear with me! I have been in this for many years and have seen enough to fill a book. I have seen church services that were hyped so high in the preliminaries that you could hardly do anything with the rest of the service. Just do as you are told; take the prayer requests, take up the offering. You do not need to give a three-point Bible study just to receive the offering. The church often has people with more years and service than you. The last thing you want to happen is for them to turn you off when you do preach.
I have observed that many times developing ministers can become almost useless to a local church when their total focus is on preaching only. They often feel they are above the normal duties of service. Always keep things practical and real. When you are serving under a pastor, do be careful to focus your message on faith-building topics and respect for leadership. Stay away from judgmental things that cause you to “speak down” to people. Leave those “touchy things” to the one who has spiritual authority.
Always show respect for the anointing of another minister. You will want him to do likewise when you preach. In public gatherings such as in your own church, camp meetings, and conferences, when someone else preaches, be sure to show an interest in the altar. Pray with people in need. Make it known that you are interested in seeing results even when someone else is preaching. Older seasoned ministers will take note of your burden. It will dignify your place of service. You see, it is not just sermons, it’s souls.
So, now for a few time-proven tips!
Be sure to work daily toward building a solid relation-ship with God, A minister must have a strong and growing relationship with Him. If you are not married, be sure that you marry a person who also displays a spiritual relationship with God. It has been stated that a minister’s wife also has a very hard task to perform. Make sure she believes in the disciplines of holiness and separation from the world. You will never be able to preach a higher standard than your wife is willing to live.
Balance and maturity in the ministry gives definition to Paul’s admonition; “Lay hands suddenly on no man,” (I Timothy 5:22). There are still “perils among false brethren,” (II Corinthians 11:26).
If you go to Bible school, do not simply assume that a paid position or pulpit is automatically awaiting you. Remember the apostle Paul made tents to help him in staying active. He was a full-time minister even when he worked as a tentmaker. Never refer to yourself as a part-time minister when you have to work on a public job. (There are no part-time Christians.)
With regard to your sermons, be aware that an able minister should prepare as though the success of the message was totally up to you. Then you should pray as though the success of the message depended totally upon the Lord. In all reality, the success pattern is probably somewhere in the middle of these two extremes. But the Lord will work with you.
Do not be foolish, be practical. A bit of humor may serve you well at times. Do not withdraw from burdened, impassioned preaching with anointed tears. Preach the Bible, not just about the Bible. God will bless you as you skillfully use His Word.
Be reminded that a minister must be careful to develop healthy relationships. Carefully choose your close friends. Who you company with will ultimately shape your theology. This can prove tragic.
Another good habit is to keep a daily journal of your spiritual perspectives. How you feel that day in burden, prayer, or joy will prove to be a valuable resource in days to come; a literal well to draw from that can produce sermons.
So as you acknowledge the call, as you pursue the call and prepare for the call, the time will come when valid biblical leadership will delight in laying hands on you and supplying you with proper credentials of ministry and service. Then the development pattern will take a more specific path by working under proper leadership, helping, serving and maturing in your place o f service Keep studying, praying, and preparing sermons. Be ready. “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season … (II Timothy 4:2). In time, it may be evangelizing, helping under another minister, necessary work, etc. Whatever it happens to be, God will equip you. Remember, Paul told Timothy, “make full proof of thy ministry” (II Timothy 4:5).
I recall years ago, the late V. A. Guidroz saying, “‘The shallowest part of a minister is what we see in the pulpit.” In other words, it is what we are all week long that matters most.
In closing, I will share something with you that might be a blessing. I recall Sis. Nila Mean asking me how I spent my days. She said she was writing a book and was asking various preachers the share this part of their life with her. So I told Sis. Mean that I try to do three things every day.
1 I try to touch God every day! Touch Him through prayer, meditation, and study. It is not difficult.
2 I try to touch a project every day that will outlive me; a poem, a lesson, a sermon, a song, a tract; something that will live on.
3 I try to touch people every day. A phone call, a letter, etc.; this has led me to write on the average of 5 to 20 letters every day for many years.
It is amazing how through touching God, touching projects, and touching people every day, it helps in maintaining focus. Every day counts. And in a strange but real sense, these three things have a way of cycling out and feeding positive energy to each other.
Every day is an important day. Use each day wisely! Never allow self to become lazy and unproductive. Remember that happiness is a choice. Your attitude is one of the most valuable things you have. There is an “aura” that surrounds every man of God. “The joy of the LORD is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10). Be positive! Even in electrical current, it is the positive wire that carries all the juice!
Following the call has led me into many challenging endeavors; evangelizing, pioneer evangelism, home missions, various places of leadership on the national and district level, etc. Pastoring several churches and developing ministers to serve in His kingdom have brought me great joy. Praise the Lord!
Now, before I sign off, let us purpose that each day we will make it a point to meet at the throne of grace. Let us hold each other up in prayer that we may be more effective in God’s great work.
Remember, we are workers together with God.
From the Elder,
Charles R. Grisham
Elder Charles R. Grisham is presently serving as pastor of the New Life Apostolic Church in Detroit, Michigan. He has served this church since 1975, after leaving the General Home Missions Division of the United Pentecostal Church International at the World Evangelism Center in Hazelwood, Missouri.
Brother Grisham was married to Frances M. Conklin on October 16, 1948. They have six children, ten grand-children, and one great-grandchild.
Brother Grisham was called to the ministry during the middle S0s and has served in various capacities over the years in the church as well as in the business world. These experiences include time served as pastor, evangelist, and assistant to the pastor; associate pastor and pioneer missionary in the Great Plains development program of the United Pentecostal Church International establishing a church in Fargo, North Dakota.
In this endeavor, working with J. H. Yohe, the district grew from seven churches to thirty-three churches in less than five years.
Brother Grisham has also served as a member of the Executive Board of the UPCI as well as presbyter on the district board in the Michigan District of the UPCL. In addition, he has served on various boards and committees including Quest, Global Conquest, Youth Redemption, Radio Commission, and the Evangelism Commission.
Article “Dear Timothy: A Letter From An Elder To A Leader.” This lesson was written by Charles R. Grisham is excerpted from the book, Letters From The Hearts Of Elders, edited by Brent Watts.