During my senior year in college, I met several times with one of the legends in my denomination. This larger-than-life character pastored a large church, was a noted author, and had an extensive radio ministry. I consciously made him my role model and studied his work habits. I wanted to be as productive as he was.
Once I asked him how he became effective in so many areas of ministry. He told me it came with age and experience.
"The longer you serve, the broader your ministry becomes," he said. "You can't afford to be a specialist when you serve in the emergency room of the soul."
I determined then I was going to excel in everything, just as he did.
Ten years later, I found I had not excelled at everything. I had too much to do and too little time to do it.
Another older pastor who became a mentor offered some advice. If I continued at the pace I was working, he told me, I would soon burn out. He said I should choose whether I wanted to be a pastor or a preacher, and I should make that decision before I turned 40.
"Churches will allow you to be mediocre in both areas when you are young," he said, "but once you're in midlife, congregations need you to excel in one and bring in people to help you in the other." According to him, to be effective in my mature years, I had to choose either pastor or preacher to be my "major" and the other to be my "minor." He had decided to be a pastor, and his ministry gave evidence that was a good choice.
Now I had a dilemma: my two role models espoused conflicting views. One said you can do all things well while the other said you had to be a specialist.
Meet the Reverend Doctor
In America's early days, there was great similarity between the country doctor and the country parson. One cared for the ...