This month’s Reader’s Digest includes a cover article entitled, “The Best Advice I Ever Got.” Among that advice are such words as, “Learn how to nap,” and “Your actions speak so loudly I can’t hear what you’re saying."1 Reading that article has made me wonder about the same question in my life, and I’ve been reminded of some of these pieces of advice over the years:
- “You have to choose to take this seriously.” The speaker was a deacon at my home church, and the occasion was my questioning before the church licensed me to preach. They had licensed others who didn’t last in ministry, and he didn’t want me to fail. Forty-one years later, I still remember that advice.
- “Read biographies.” I’ve since seen that you can learn all kinds of truths and life lessons by listening to the stories of men and women who’ve already walked this path. History is filled with stories of leadership wisdom—learning from both victories and failures.
- “Remember that God’s will is always present tense.” I knew what God wanted us to do, but I was worried about what that decision might require from us in the future. It was my friend’s advice that convinced me to move ahead with God’s plan.
- “Start saving for retirement now.” I was twenty years old, and in no way was I thinking about retirement. But, an older pastor wisely directed me toward the future. Many years later, I’m really grateful I listened to him.
- “Slow down, and do your homework.” I was ready to move my church in a new direction, and my deacon friend realized better than I that the church was not ready yet. I’m sure his advice saved me from some headaches, and I often hear his words today when I’m considering change.
- “Trust what you teach us.” The man who spoke to me could not have verbalized, “Preach the gospel to yourself,” but that’s what he was saying. I was struggling with forgiving myself for wrong, and he pointed me back to my own words from the pulpit.
- “You need to have a happier face.” I had just finished a practice sermon in a seminary preaching class, and a classmate tasked with critiquing me told me my face wasn’t very happy. I’m fairly certain I didn’t look any happier after hearing those words, but to this day I always ask whether I’m engaging and inviting in the pulpit.
- Pay attention to both a “push” and a “pull” when thinking about leaving a ministry. When both are not apparent, God may still be dislodging you from a place — but the time to make the move has not yet come. I wish I’d heard this simple advice much earlier in my ministry.
What about you? What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
1"The Best Advice I Ever Got,” Reader’s Digest(July-Aug., 2018): 51-63.
It actually came from my preaching professor. Dr. Shaddix said I preached like I was mad at them. I sat under older country preachers that “preached at” you. My wife said this changed my whole dynamic and let my true personality come out when I am preaching.
BTW when I graduated in May I hugged his neck and told him thanks to his honesty and boldness he changed my ministry forever.
Hi Dr. Lawless, thanks for sharing this advise. Regarding #2, could you share some of your favorite biographies as a possible starting point for those of us who struggle with starting? Thanks again.
An excellent word, my friend!
Before you ask why, ask if.–Clayton Anderson, NASA astronaut
It is rare that knowing someone else’s income is beneficial.
To a hammer, everything looks like a nail.
We are found to find others
told to tell others
won to win others
saved to save others–W.A. Criswell
(I know that some may disapprove of apparent theological problems. It was preached in a sermon on our evangelistic duty to share the Gospel.)
What is important is not what God asks you to do, but what God asks you to leave up to Him.
Questions like “What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?” always make me draw a blank; I don’t know why! The first thing that finally came to mind though was from my father about being in the water. He’d spent a lot of his summers far from home with friends swimming in the river. I was in the pool and had been turning somersaults in the water as fast as I could and making myself gloriously dizzy doing it – fun times! He very matter of fact-ly told me that if I ever get confused just watch which way the bubbles go. Simple advice, and throughout my life those words have come to mind and I’ve looked around and asked myself, “Which way are the bubbles going?”
Best advice I received in my ministry: “Work with your church members where they at, not where you think they should be.”