I stepped into full-​​time min­istry at the age of 19. Next month, on Decem­ber 28, I’ll turn 44 (I accept gift cards, cash and checks!). Reflect­ing over 25 years of min­istry expe­ri­ence, there are things I wish I had learned either from a text book, or sem­i­nar. Instead, I had to learn it by liv­ing it. This will be the first of a a few things I wish I had known when I began my ministry.

I’d like to start by giv­ing you a 20 sec­ond test. Are you ready for that? I know you were sim­ply surf­ing by and landed on my blog. The last thing you intended to do was take a test; but humor me.

Time yourself…20 seconds…ready? Here’s the ques­tion: When I say “Go,” you’ve got 20 sec­onds to write the titles of up to 5 ser­mon titles that have impacted your life. At the end of 20 sec­onds, stop wher­ever you are. Start imme­di­ately and don’t cheat now, or you’ll miss the effect. I’m trust­ing you. Are you ready? Go!

(20 sec­onds later) Well? How’d you do?

I tell you what, before we con­tinue, let’s take another 20 sec­ond test. This time, when I say “Go,” you’ve got 20 sec­onds to write down the names of up to 5 peo­ple who have impacted your life. Once again, I’m trust­ing you. Are you ready? Go!

(20 sec­onds later) How did you do on that part?

Let me ask you this — how many ser­mon titles did you write down in 20 sec­onds? When doing this in sem­i­nars and other teach­ing set­tings, the aver­age amount of titles I find writ­ten is 2 to 3.

But now let me ask you — how many peo­ple did you write down in 20 sec­onds? With­out ques­tion, every time I do this in a teach­ing set­ting the major­ity of the peo­ple present have 5 names writ­ten down.

Think about that. Over your life­time you have heard ser­mons that have inspired and chal­lenged you. But when I asked for a quick response, you couldn’t recall 5 titles. How­ever, people’s names come quickly.


After 25 years of min­istry, I’ve finally learned that it is not the words I say in the pul­pit, but the life I live day-​​in-​​day-​​out. It is the Gospel lived out in shoe leather, rather than that preached out of book leather, that most impacts people’s lives.

I love preach­ing. Lis­ten­ing to great preach­ing is a high form of enter­tain­ment for me. Give me a mas­ter ora­tor, who can bring the Word with life, rev­e­la­tion, humor and intrigue, and I’m totally mes­mer­ized. But a few months later, don’t ask me the ser­mon title. I can’t recall. That moment is over.

On the other hand, ask me about Eddie Low­ery. Eddie was my Boy Scout troop leader when I was a Junior High teen. Eddie lived a Godly Chris­t­ian life in front of me and my pals and I’ll never for­get him.

He let me work at his gas sta­tion once or twice on a Sat­ur­day. This was back in the day when a gas sta­tion was a gas sta­tion, not a depart­ment store. A full-​​service sta­tion meant you never had to get out of your car. I pumped gas, cleaned wind­shields, checked the flu­ids under the hood,and got to run the man­ual credit card machine that made the “shick-​​shick” sound as you pulled the han­dle back and forth. If you wanted gum, I’d have to give you the piece I was chew­ing. We only sold gas and oil.

There’s been other men and women who’ve also impacted me far beyond any ser­mon I’ve ever heard. The list is too long for a blog, but the results are the same. Each per­son invested time and inter­est in me. They walked out the Word. They encour­aged me and shared life-​​lessons. They made sure I knew they cared.

Let me say it again, Chris­tian­ity is caught, not taught. Live a life that brings glory to God and is an exam­ple to others.

Noth­ing is more con­fus­ing than peo­ple who give good advice but set bad exam­ples. Nor­man Vin­cent Peale

That is so true. Noth­ing negates the mes­sage and promise of the Word like an incon­sis­tent life by the mes­sen­ger. Don’t just tell me what to do, show me.

Areas to model:

a) Godly living.

Holi­ness is con­for­mity to the char­ac­ter of God and obe­di­ence to the will of God. Rather than tell it, show oth­ers how pas­sion­ate you are about Christ and how pow­er­ful the Chris­t­ian by your own life.

b) Fam­ily first.

Abra­ham was cho­sen to be a bless­ing to the whole earth, but it was to begin in the sim­plest of ways. He started by putting fam­ily first.

He was called to teach his own house­hold, who again would hand down the truth to their house­holds. His being a bless­ing to the world depended on his being a bless­ing to his own home.

The list of casu­al­ties in pas­tors’ homes is too long and painful to think about. I have made a self-​​covenant that I will not lose my fam­ily while try­ing to when other fam­i­lies to the Lord.

c) Min­istry excellence.

The first step to equip­ping oth­ers is excel­lence in min­istry. I am of the belief that excel­lence hon­ors God.

So I’m going to con­tinue to work on my ser­mon deliv­ery and style. I’ll keep study­ing and striv­ing to be the best I can be in the pul­pit. But along the way, I’m going to make sure I’m walk­ing out what I’ve been talk­ing about. Because I now know I will reach more by how I live than by what I say.

It’s the Gospel in shoe leather, rather than book leather, that will truly touch our world.

It’s my prayer that some day some­one will list my name when they take the 20 Sec­ond Test.



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