“Do not be excessively righteous or overly wise” (Ecclesiastes 7:16).
Most of us would not include those excesses in a list of which to be wary. But for most, I imagine the list might look more like this…
One. We should not be in love with the sound of our own voice.
The preacher who delights too much with his own voice will outtalk everyone in the room and drone on far longer in sermons than is wise. Better we learn to tame that critter, then put him to use in the service of the Lord.
Two. We should beware of loving those extra desserts.
More and more these days, the overweight preacher is the norm. Sometimes the culprit is that he announced from the pulpit his favorite dessert to be lemon icebox pie or banana pudding, and now well-meaning church members keep him supplied. Sometimes, it’s the church dinners where ladies bring a dozen or more home-made desserts that would tempt a saint.
Three. The preacher who loves golf too much may be asking for trouble.
Golf can be a great servant but is a poor master. A great diversion but a poor vocation. It can fill a great need when kept in its place, but can wreck lives and careers when allowed to expand uncontrolled.
Four. The pastor who specializes in taking people on trips to the Holy Land could be endangering his ministry.
He may be falling prey to the financial enticements such a sideline can offer.
I suggest that pastors who take groups on Holy Land trips should file annual reports with their church’s finance committee accounting for the income and outgo. When a pastor-host clears perhaps several hundred dollars per person, a good-sized tour-group can net him ten or twenty thousand dollars. Even if his church salary exceeds that several times over, this amount can make a great difference in his lifestyle.
I suspect that pastors who constantly take Holy Land tours never mention to their people that they are being paid for it. And yet, in most cases they are doing this on company time.
Five. No wise pastor will love flattery too much.
Flattery is like perfume, we’re told. It smells good but will make you sick if you swallow it. I’ve known too many preachers who swallow all the flattery they can find, then look around for more. Not wise.
Six. Mission trips.
Effective pastors may take their people on the occasional mission trip, but this too can be a diversion from his leadership of the local flock if overdone. Pastors who love to travel should be careful here. (Please note I’m not suggesting churches emphasize missions less; only that the pastor should keep his priorities on leading his flock back at home.)
Seven. Extra money. The pastor who loves his people and is devoted to becoming the best shepherd possible will also be careful about projects that bring in outside income for himself. The exception would be if he is bi-vocational.
A bi-vocational pastor will do whatever he needs to in order to provide for his family. However, we have seen pastors with full incomes begin to dabble in sideline enterprises that quickly absorbed a great deal of their time and diverted their energies and attention from ministry.
Eight. To be an effective minister to his own people, a wise pastor will not hold more than two or three outside revivals (conferences, retreats, etc) a year.
If a pastor feels his calling is to evangelism, let him resign the church and follow the calling. But when he takes the church’s salary and then spends a great portion of his time preaching in other churches–all of which pay him hefty honoraria–he is mistreating the congregation. The church finance committee may ask him to report the income he receives from all these outside meetings.
Nine. The pastor should not be in love with degrees on his wall or titles before his name.
The love for such has caused unworthy schools to rise up and award hasty degrees for little effort and a lot of money. In the days of our Lord, it was greetings in the marketplace which the religious leaders loved. These days, it’s Doctor, Bishop, Senior Pastor, and the like. Let us be careful here.
Ten. A wise pastor will not love his study more than he should.
Now, most pastors need to spend more time in the study with the open Bible than they do. But here and there, we find ministers who would rather study than minister, rather exegete Romans than call on the elderly at the nursing home, and prefer their commentaries and study of the original languages than sitting down with the children to tell them of Jesus.
Eleven. A pastor should not overly love his denomination.
Denominations are simply assemblages of churches agreeing on certain doctrines or ways of doing ministry. They are not found in Holy Writ as such, and should never be equated with orthodoxy or made the standard of anything. The pastor who lives for the denomination may be putting a bureaucracy in place of the Lord.
Twelve. The pastor should not love privacy too much.
Now, I’m all in favor of privacy, of solitude so a person can be quiet, meditate, or be creative. But the danger is in over-loving our privacy. My experience is that the preacher who becomes almost paranoid in protecting his privacy may be trying to hide some secret sin. Best to open the doors and love people and have nothing to hide. It’s a wonderful feeling.
Thirteen. A friend suggests the pastor should not be fixated on his motorcycle.
I don’t have one, don’t want one, and don’t really understand the love affair some people have with these two-legged vehicles which scare the daylights out of me on the interstate by whizzing by at 80 or 90 mph. But, like anything else, I suppose, they have their place. But they can be overly loved and become an idol.
Fourteen. The pastor should beware of loving sleep too much, said several friends.
The book of Proverbs has a lot to say about this, you sluggard.
Fifteen. The pastor should be careful of loving power too much.
The minister is not about power over people. We are servants.
Sixteen. The pastor should take care not to love his position too much.
He will be leaving that church sooner or later, and should be careful to leave it in better shape than when he found it.
Seventeen. The pastor who loves the internet–his laptop, the smart phone, etc.– too much may be asking for trouble.
Eighteen. The pastor should be careful about loving beautiful women (and they’re all beautiful!) too much.
Nineteen. The pastor who loves to preach on hell is seriously twisted and has no place in the ministry.
Recently, on a country music station that plays ancient recordings, I noticed the words as Porter Wagoner and Dolly Parton sang, “Daddy was an old-time preacher man.” What got me was the line, “He preached hell so hurt you could feel the burn” (or something like that; not sure of the exact words). Let the preacher major on grace and not punishment.
I do not want to sit under a pastor who delights in preaching on hellfire!
Twenty. The pastor should not love his sports team too much.
I’ve chided a few friends who have adorned their office walls with memoribilia for their teams. “What if you have a fan of (the other team)?” I ask them. And they laugh it off, as though that’s not going to happen.
You’ll think of others. Love Jesus. Love His church, His people, and serving Him.
An unemployed pastor said to me, “Joe, I need to preach! Preaching is my passion.” I said, “There is the problem, my friend. Your passion should be Jesus.” Give him credit. He said, “Oh my. Thank you for that wake-up call.”