I was recently asked by a seminary professor to give some advice for a group of men preparing for the ministry, paying particular attention to what I wish I had learned in seminary in preparation for ministry. He put me on a conference call with a handful of men that he was discipling. Initially, he gave me 10 minutes to give counsel to these men. Then, our time was opened up for a time of Q&A. As I’m currently preaching through 2 Timothy, I formed my initial thoughts from the book. Here’s what I said.
1. Ministry is discouraging. Paul told Timothy, “I am mindful of the sincere faith within you. … I remind you to kindle afresh the gift of God which is in you” (2 Timothy 1:5-6). With these words, Paul was seeking to encourage his young disciple, who had lost heart for the ministry. Losing heart is easy, because there is much around you to discourage you.
2. Remember Jesus Christ. Paul told Timothy, “Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, descendant of David, according to my gospel” (2 Timothy 2:8). I have always found this verse to be a bit startling. Timothy was a close associate of the apostle Paul. He knew that preaching Jesus was his main thing. And yet, Paul still felt the need to remind him of this. And so, it’s a good reminder for those preparing for the ministry.
3. Ministry is difficult. Paul told Timothy, “Realize this, that in the last days, difficult times will come” (2 Timothy 3:1). He then proceeds to list various sorts of people who are antagonistic to the gospel of Christ. In the ministry, you will face opposition from all sides (from those who love their sin and from friends who don’t like what you say). It can take a toll on a marriage and on a family. Knowing this going into the ministry is helpful.
4. Sunday is coming. Paul told Timothy, “Preach the word. Be ready in season and out of season. Reprove, rebuke, exhort with great patience and instruction” (2 Timothy 4:2). This is the task of a pastor: preaching and teaching all the time. One way that this manifests itself is in the worship service each Sunday. We are expected to bring a message, new and fresh, every week. It’s a grind. But, it’s a labor of love.
I wish that I had learned these things in seminary.