After a decade of school and ministry, here are the ten most important things I've learned:
Nothing can replace the story of God reconciling man to Himself. If we are to be ministers of reconciliation, we ought to know the God to whom we testify. Likewise, we ought to know His story as well as we can.
It's still edible, but it tastes horrible and makes you want to try another cake.
Our aim is not to tickle ears, our aim is to prick hearts. You don't go into battle with dull swords, in the same way you don't enter the pulpit without a prayed heart. While prior prayer doesn't automatically turn you into the prince of preachers, it does give you a contrite heart and an aligned spirit with God. Prayer in preparation to preaching is always more important than a slick tongue.
No article has had more of an impact on my theology than Al Mohler’s “A Call for Theological Triage and Christian Maturity." If you've not read it, I'm linking it here in this post.
I know you might be thinking, "Steve, aren't you implicitly recruiting for another seminary by mentioning something good their president did?" Maybe I am, but I don't care. This article is so good, the value it gives to the kingdom is too great to miss.
If you're struggling with the pressure that's built up because theology and disagreement weights upon you, then here you go. This article is for you: http://www.albertmohler.com/2004/05/20/a-call-for-theological-triage-and-christian-maturity-2/
It is okay to think you're right. In fact, to think you're wrong and continue believing something anyway is the definition of irrationality. We don't want to be irrational; however, thinking you're right is not enough. Humility demands that even though we think we're right, we must still be willing to challenge our beliefs and our values. Likewise, we must be willing to listen to others and their thoughts. Humility means listening, loving through disagreement, and putting others ahead of ourselves.
Tim Keller argues that loving our neighbor as ourselves means forgiving our neighbors as often as we forgive ourselves. That type of love is loaded with humility.
We can think Jesus is our savior. We can win arguments. We can philosophize, systematize, and apologize about Jesus all day long, but being right doesn't mean being rude. Attitude is important for integrity and evangelism.
If you haven't noticed a trend, then let me show it to you now. I've had to learn a lot of humility over the past ten years! If you're going into seminary, listen to professors, ministers, dead men, listen to them all. Hear their stories and avoid the potholes and pitfalls they've hit along the way.
Your personal testimony is important, but if you're witnessing solely through that, it's going to become a faulty witnessing attempt. That's because we aren't the perfect image that is necessary to rely upon in the Christian experience. But Jesus is. Let Jesus do what He's supposed to do. We, as humans, have an obsession with heroes. Find a way to testify to the ultimate hero image, Jesus, not yourself.
The most fruitful evangelism in my life has come out of deep friendships that have developed over time. I'm not trying to argue or advocate for relational evangelism versus street preaching or cold call evangelism. I appreciate, respect, and advocate for all those things. Note, however, that your heart will be so blessed when that dear friend of five years professes that Jesus is the path to God because Jesus is God.
The "Billy Graham Rule" has been getting a lot of press lately following Vice-President Pence's comments about never eating or drinking alcohol with another woman when his wife wasn't around. After doing ministry for ten years, I understand the rule. I've seen the depths of sin in others life, and I've seen the depth of it in my own. No man on earth today is above failure.
In the past I've struggled with understanding how someone can love God if they aren't loving God the same way I did. I've learned, however, that not everyone shows love to God and fellow man the same way. Some don't have an interest in systematic theology like I do, that doesn't mean they love God any less than I, nor does it even mean that they love God even less with their mind than I do. This points back to tip four: Humility in all things. I'm now more concerned that people are simply doing something (anything!) to love God and fellow man.
Steve Morgan is a graduate student at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Morgan also serves as the Digital Communication and Marketing Coordinator at NOBTS.