Young pastors, please pick the brains of older pastors. Because you don’t have to make every mistake in the book. We older, retired pastors in your area can help you avoid a few of the pitfalls of the ministry. We know a bit of the lay of the land. We’re graduates of the school of hard knocks; we even sport the school colors — black and blue.
Why this advice? Because I both did and did not do this when I started out in the ministry. For starters, I was only 28 years old when I began my first pastorate. There was a retired older pastor in my congregation. Sadly, I never visited him, never mined the goldfield of his rich experiences in the ministry. I regret that.
Yet, other pastors did mentor me. In my first position as an associate pastor in Lexington, N.C., there were men like my first mentor, Hoke Coon, and others including Dearl Bunce and Leonard Rollins. Then in Chatham County where my first pastorate began, there were pastors like Garland Foushee, Manuel Cunnup and Gerald Bridges. These friends were invaluable in my early years as a pastor.
So I recommend that young pastors beat a path to the doors of the older, perhaps retired pastors in your neighborhood. Ask them lots of questions. They might even buy you a cup of coffee. These pastors are like the observers in the skybox over the playing field. They have a unique perspective. Reach out to them. To paraphrase Proverbs 13:20, “Run with, hang out with wise pastors and you’ll be the wiser.”
Rich examples of this practice abound in the sacred text. Who did Moses mentor? Who was his right-hand helper? 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 — invaluable preparation for his long years in the Lord’s service.
In the New Testament, there’s young John Mark, mentored by Peter. In fact, such was Peter’s influence that we often say that Mark’s Gospel was the pen of Mark, yet the voice of Peter.
Finally, there’s the example of how the Apostle Paul mentored young Timothy. One key verse summarizes Paul’s final wise counsel to Timothy: “What you have heard from me through many witnesses entrust to faithful people who will be able to teach others as well” (2 Timothy 2:2).
Bill Greenwood Jr. is a retired pastor and adjunct professor at Gardner-Webb University. He lives in Kernerville, N.C.
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