Don’ts For the Pastor (Lecture)
December 8th, 1997
DON’T S FOR THE PASTOR
Dr. W. A. Criswell
In this last lecture I have put together, out of the years and years of my experience as a pastor, I have put together the Do’s and Don’t s for the Pastor. And I have a multitude of them. So, when I prepared the manuscript, I put the Do’s first, the Do’s for the pastor, then the Don’t s for the pastor. But, as I have thought about it, I’m going to change it.
And first of all, we are going to take the don’t s for the pastor. First of all, about him and his personality. Don’t compromise the Word of God. Preach it as it is in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Two, don’t make apologies for the Word of God.
Three, don’t do anything to violate your sense of God’s will.
Four, don’t put in a corner or frightened by deacons, trustees or influential members. Don’t be overly influenced by a certain few in the church.
Five, don’t forget your friends.
Six, don’t allow money to influence what church you accept as pastor. When you go and look through and experience those different calls, don’t you be influenced by money. You do what you think is God’s will.
Seven, don’t lose sight of your vision for winning souls.
Eight, don’t make important decisions quickly. Seek the Lord and wise counsel.
Nine, don’t drain yourself physically and emotionally. You become weak in the pulpit, if you do.
Ten, don’t be afraid to admit you are wrong and ask for forgiveness.
Eleven, don’t expect a "thank you."
Twelve, don’t get discouraged by circumstances.
Thirteen, don’t become a negative thinker.
Fourteen, don’t come to the point where you think you have all the answers. Do not pretend you have the solution to every situation.
Fifteen, don’t come to the point where you tell God how blessed He is to have you as His minister.
Don’t forget your family.
Don’t neglect the sick. Don’t turn aside from your hospital ministry. Many times that can be an evangelistic opportunity to reach a whole family.
Eighteen, don’t forget to pray in every visit. People are more blessed by our intercessions than by our human arguments and observations. I want to emphasize that. When you go see someone don’t you leave without a prayer. I don’t care what, you pray before you leave.
Nineteen, don’t be careless and unreliable.
Twenty, don’t resist constructive criticism.
Twenty-one, don’t blame others for your failures.
Twenty-two, don’t seek honors which come from men. The pastor stands before God, and not men.
Twenty-three, don’t betray confidences shared with you. When anybody talks with you let it be the end. Don’t ever tell anybody what somebody had confided in you.
Twenty-four, don’t become materialistic in your lifestyle.
Twenty-five, don’t let yourself fall into professionalism, ministering outwardly because you are paid to do it, but losing the inward love that would make you want to help.
Twenty-six, don’t become a marrying parson.
Twenty-seven, don’t become discouraged by the failures of others.
Twenty-eight, don’t give the Devil an opportunity to destroy your ministry. Watch your times of counseling, especially with women. I cannot emphasize that too much. I’d say, ninety-nine times out one hundred, when a preacher goes wrong with a woman it comes about through counseling. She comes to him for advice, and she likes the situation. So, she comes back to him. And he likes the situation. And it continues and, finally, they are in love with each other. The best thing to do is, if you have a counseling session with for woman, either have somebody in there or have somebody beyond the door, somebody next door. Be very careful about your counseling with a woman.
Twenty-nine, don’t become overly concerned with material gain.
Thirty, don’t let personal problems show.
Don’t lose your temper. Always be in control of yourself. You are the spiritual leader.
Don’t speak negatively of one person to another.
Don’t be upset about trivial matters. Your time is too precious.
Don’t be disturbed with opposition or criticism. Stand tall. Every leader experiences it. It may be used constructively.
Thirty-one, watch the temptation to be prideful at what you are able to do. Do not thank yourself for any victory. Thank God. Praise Him for every victory.
Now the next group is organizationally:
One, don’t become detached from yourself or your leadership.
Two, don’t reprimand staff or leaders publicly. Do it privately and then with love and grace. Never one time in your ministry do you reprimand one of your leaders publicly or criticize him publicly. Always talk to him privately.
Three, don’t criticize more than you commend.
Four, don’t become so dictatorial that you lord it over God’s people and God’s heritage.
Five, don’t show favorites, either in staff or in church leadership or in church membership.
Six, don’t praise people when they don’t deserve it.
Seven, don’t be an apple polisher, a sycophant.
Eight, don’t become so involved in outside affairs until you don’t have time for your own flock. If God calls you to shepherd the flock, then faithfully do it.
Don’t feel that you have to make every visit yourself. Train others to help you in your visitation program. I’m going to do that today. I’ve got two or three that I’m going to send out to visit today.
Ten, don’t be pulled away from the tremendous emphasis that ought to be placed on the Sunday school. A great Sunday school will pay dividends in every area of the kingdom of God. When I came to Dallas, there was not a church in the world that had more than fifteen hundred in Sunday school, not in the world. And I started – Well, where did I start? I started building the Sunday school. And where in the Sunday school did I start? I started with the babies. I said publicly, "I never saw a baby in the world come to church by itself." Did you ever see a baby around, somebody is there also. So, I started in the nursery. When I came here to this church it had one big nursery. When I got through with it, we had thirty-two. And I started with hiring staff members to come. And I’ll tell you what I told them. I, all I needed to do is for that staff member to do was to win twelve people, giving to the Lord, to pay his salary. Ten of them would pay his salary and two of them would pay the light bill and the janitor’s bill.
So, I started out. I hired a full-time cradle roll director. I do not know of a church in the world that has a full-time cradle roll director. I hired a full-time cradle roll director. I hired a full-time beginner leader. I hired a full-time primary director. I hired a full-time junior director. I hired a full-time intermediate director. I hired a full-time young people’s director. I hired a full-time young adult director. I hired a full-time singles director. I hired a full-time media director. I hired a full time meridian director. And I hired a full-time adult director.
Well, what happened? As the thing went on, we had two thousand in Sunday school. As it continued, we had three thousand in Sunday school. As it continued, we had four thousand in Sunday school. As it continued, we had five thousand in Sunday school. As it continued, we had six thousand in Sunday school. As it continued, we had seven thousand in Sunday school. As it continued, we had eight thousand in Sunday school.
And I made the greatest mistake in my life. I got to be in my eighties. And I just thought, "No man in his eighties ought to try to be the pastor of a church." So, I asked them to call another man. And that was the most colossal failure I have ever looked upon in my life. Our Sunday school went down from eight thousand to thirty-five hundred. And our budget went down from twelve million to five million. And we haven’t gotten over it yet.
So, You can be vain in how you flirt with people and pat them on the back and on and on and on. Just don’t be that way. Be courageous and kind and sympathetic and encouraging. But, don’t be a palaverer. You know just gush over people. Don’t do that ever, ever.
All right. Number eleven, don’t underpay your staff. There is a saying, "You get what you pay for."
Twelve, don’t violate the chain of command established in the structure of the church. Don’t let people go over the heads of staff members to reach to the pastor. Work through the organization and with the leaders.
Thirteen, don’t show undue consideration to one division, department leader or member. It takes a lot of diplomacy and tact, prayer and wisdom to prove your love for each one alike.
Fourteen, don’t magnify a little problem.
Fifteen, don’t forget that you are a servant.
Don’t isolate yourself from community activities and areas of community concern.
Then, I start in the pulpit.
One, don’t preach the same sermons over and over again. That’s the reason you need to study every morning. You study and keep that morning sacred for God.
Number two, don’t neglect to prepare the sermon carefully and prayerfully. Don’t let anything interfere with study and preparation time.
Three, don’t underestimate the ability of your people’s to learn. If you teach the Word as you preach, they will learn enormously.
Four, don’t speak above the level of the understanding of the congregation.
Five, don’t be away from the pulpit too much. Sometimes, a few times is too much.
Six, don’t preach above the heads, and notes, of the people.
Seven, don’t ramble all over the place. Have a definite thought expressed in a definite message, reaching toward a definite goal. Organize the sermon well. Let it move logically from point to point.
Eight, don’t be pompous in the pulpit. In every way, before God, show deep humility and deference.
Nine, don’t try to shine as a master magician in things spiritual. It is God who works the miracles. Give all the thought, honor, and message results, in glory and praise to Him. Magnify the Lord Jesus, not yourself.
Ten, don’t forget to share the public services with all others possible both on the platform and through audience participation. Don’t seek to do everything yourself. I can’t magnify that,.. Our church has turned away from how I used to run it. Let the people share in it, if at all possible. Instead of you praying all the time, call on different members to pray. Instead of you making the announcements, call on somebody to make the announcements. In every way that you can think of, let the people have a part in the service.
Don’t try to be somebody else. Be yourself. Up there in the pulpit, be yourself. Don’t imitate somebody. Don’t try to be like somebody. Be yourself. Now, I’m going to give you a startling illustration of that. As you know, I started out preaching when I was seventeen years old. I started out in the country. And one of my first pastorates was at Pulltight. There’s a long place, where the road went up a long hill and the mules, you know, had to pull tight. So, they called the place and the church Pulltight. It was the Pull tight Baptist Church. In the printing, they called it the Pecan Grove Baptist Church.
They never had a church house. They had a schoolhouse, a little duff of a schoolhouse. And that’s where we met. They also had a tabernacle. And that tabernacle was one of the most famous spots in the world to preach. On Friday, before the fourth Sunday in July, the meeting was held in that tabernacle. And people came from the ends of the earth to go to church there. There wasn’t any television. There wasn’t any radio. And the only place that people had to go was to church. So, when we had our services in the tabernacle they came there from the ends of the earth. So, I began to preach.
Now, when I was in Baylor, I joined the volunteer band. I was not called to be a missionary. I have never felt any call to be a missionary. I’ve had one calling in all of my life. And that is to be a pastor. I’ve been invited to Lord only knows what, from this pulpit here in this church. I have a pastor’s heart. I’m interested in being a pastor. So, I was a pastor. I joined, nevertheless, the volunteer band the missionary band. And the time that I was preaching under that tabernacle, they had an open truck, a bus, a bus. That was something to us. It was open.
So, they decided they would come out to hear me preach. So, they collected all of them they could, filled that open-air bus and came out to the tabernacle. It’s about thirty-five miles away from Baylor. They came out to hear me preach.
Well, when I preached, I did not know I was that way. I didn’t know I was born that way, but when I preached I preached all over creation. I preached up and down, back and forth. I hollered. I beat the pulpit. I doubled my fist. I hollered and yelled. That was just the way I was. I was born that way. And when I got up there to preach in that open tabernacle, you can imagine what I did.
After I got through all of those kids in that volunteer band got in that bus. And then, they asked me to come. And they read the riot act to me. They said that there’s no church of any consequence in the world that will call you. And you’ll have to spend the rest of your life out here at Pulltight, if you don’t change the way you preach.
So, they said, we have a woman in Waco who is famous for her dramatic work. They had built for her a little theater. And we’re going to take you to that woman. And we want you to take elocution lessons from her, to know how to preach, how to speak. So, I went. And twice a week, I spent an hour with her as she taught me how to speak, how to make gestures.
Well, after a while, she said to me, she said to me, "Will you preach me a sermon?"
I said, "I’d love to." By that time, I’d gotten well acquainted with her. She was not a Christian. She didn’t go to church. Well I said, "I’d be delighted."
So, I stood up there in front, opened my Bible and preached to a congregation of one. When I got through, she never said a word. She just walked with me to the door and said, "When you come back for your next lesson, would you preach me another sermon?"
And I said, "I’d be delighted to."
So, I came back the second time, opened my Bible while she sat out there in front of me and I preached another sermon to her. When I got through preaching that time, she never said anything at all. She accompanied me to the door and bid me good-bye. Well, when I came back for my next lesson, instead of going to the place where she was teaching me how to preach, she said, "I want you to come into the living room in the house. And I want you to sit down on the sofa, by my side."
So, I went into the living room with her and sat down on the sofa, by her side. And she started off. She said, "This week, my dear, dear friend in Kansas City came to see me. And I thought about you. And I asked her, ‘Do you go to church?’"
And she said, "Yes."
And I said, "Well where do you go to church?"
And she said some church.
And I said to her, "Well you don’t belong to that church. You don’t belong to that denomination."
And she said, "That’s right. I don’t belong to that church. I don’t belong to that denomination. But, I go to that church because the pastor preaches. When he gets up there, he preaches. And when I go to church, I like to hear a man preach."
So, she turned to me and said, "Now you listen to me, and don’t you ever forget it, as long as you live, you listen to me, I’m exactly like that friend in Kansas City. I don’t go to church. I don’t belong to a church. But, if I did go, I’d like to hear a man preach."
So, she said, "Now, you listen to me," and she repeated that again, "and don’t you ever forget it. When you go out that door, you remember always what I have said to you. When you stand up in that pulpit, you preach. And you preach exactly as you feel. If you feel like doubling up your fist, you double up your fist. If you feel like pounding the pulpit, you pound that pulpit. If you feel like jumping up and down, you jump up and down. If you feel like walking up and down, you walk up and down. If you feel like hollering out loud, you holler out loud. You preach exactly as you feel."
Now, she said, "You go out that door and don’t you come back. This is your last lesson and you remember," then she repeated what I said. "You remember it as long as you live."
I can’t tell you how I felt when I walked out that door. O God, O dear God! And from that day until this, I have never forgotten it. I preach exactly, and have through the years, seventy-two of them now, I preach exactly as I feel.
And may I turn aside and tell you a little by-product? George Truett was the greatest preacher our Baptist people have ever produced. George Truett was my predecessor. He preached in that pulpit, when you go to the church an look at it that’s the same pulpit, he preached in that pulpit forty-seven years.
And Truett was austere. Dear me. He never moved. He never made a gesture. He had the most wonderful voice that any man ever had in mankind. He just stood there in that pulpit and he delivered the message. Wonderful!
When I came, I preached all over that place, up and own, back and forth, I hollered and screamed and yelled. And you know what I think? Nobody under high heaven has ever compared me to Dr. Truett. They didn’t have a little Truett when he came to the pulpit. They had me, they had myself. And that’s the reason I succeeded. Had I imitated Dr. Truett, tried to be like Dr. Truett, I would have failed ingloriously. But, nobody ever thought of Dr. Truett when they came to the church to listen to me preach.
Now, you remember that. I repeat the same thing to you, when you go out that door and you remember as long as you live what I have said to you. You preach exactly as you feel. And you, be yourself. And don’t try to be somebody else.
Anybody want to make a comment?
Oh, dear. I pray that this one thing will stay in your head and heart as long as you live.
Twelve, don’t forget, in the thanksgiving and the everything, to praise the Lord. Let the public worship have that ring tone and atmosphere, praising Jesus.
Thirteen, don’t forget the lost. Preach to them. Don’t forget the hurt in heart. They’re always present. Comfort and strengthen them.
Don’t forget the young. They are our hope for tomorrow.
Don’t forget the old. They built the foundation upon which we stand. Keep them all in your heart, in your prayers, and in your sermons. Do it. Remember them all.
Fourteen, don’t forget to take a handkerchief with you into the pulpit. Check your pocket to see that you have it.
Fifteen, don’t be pedantic, wearing out the same old cliches, trite stereotypes and exhausted expressions.
Avoid distracting gestures. I want to tell you something. I.E. Gates was the pastor of the First Baptist Church in San Antonio. I heard him preach many times, you know, at conventions and associations and even down there. And it was the beatenest thing I ever saw in my life, he had a habit, in his preaching. He wore a belt, he wore a belt, and all through his sermon, he yanked up his pants, just like this. All through his sermon, over and over and over again, he would yank up his pants, he would reach down there and pull up his pants.
Well, one time, he got cognizant of it. And he got asked, "Do you pull up your pants because you think they are falling off?"
And he said, "No, that’s just one of my habits, just one of my gestures."
I can’t describe to you how that affected me as I watched him preach, that habit. And I’m telling you this, if you don’t watch yourself, you will pick up a habit. And you will do it again and again and again and again. Don’t do it. If you find yourself making the same kind of a gesture, stop it. Change it. Don’t get into the habit of doing the same kind of gesture over and over again. Don’t . Avoid distracting gestures.
Seventeen, avoid facial expressions that do not match the point you are emphasizing.
Eighteen, don’t be pseudo-intellectual.
Nineteen, don’t accept Saturday night engagements, especially late hour ones. Get ready for tomorrow. Saturday is a special day for you. You are getting ready for Sunday.
Twenty, don’t be afraid of the unusual service. Instead of an empty church on holidays, take advantage of the situation to pack the house with a dramatic production, a musical program or a thousand other things that involve the interest of many people. Any time you have a holiday, take advantage of it. Good night alive! The whole world is before you, and have something special at the church. If you preach, wonderful! Have an unusual sermon that fits that holiday. And advertise it.
Twenty-one, don’t let the hungry sheep come to church services and go away hungry and unfed.
Twenty-two, don’t tell a joke relating to the Lord and to the Holy Spirit in the pulpit, or anywhere else. Don’t make light of our Savior.
Twenty-three, don’t embarrass others in public. I don’t care what, don’t you do it. Don’t embarrass anyone in public.
Twenty-four, don’t take advantage of your people in the pulpit.
Twenty-five, don’t preach in your public prayers. When you pray, you pray, and don’t preach in the prayer.
Twenty-six, do not be afraid to stand up for the truth. I don’t care what, if God has revealed it to you, and it’s the truth of God, don’t be afraid to proclaim it. Spurgeon was keenly aware of the various theological controversies raging in the religious world. He was not afraid to do battle with the foe. He introduced a monthly paper: The Sword and the Trowel. The title was adapted from Nehemiah’s rebuilding program of the walls of Jerusalem. The sword and the king did battle with the enemy, while the trowel pictured the broken breaches in the wall of the religious world. Man, I like that.
Twenty-one, do not be discouraged by personal handicaps. We all have them. God’s strength is perfected and honored in the inherent weaknesses of human beings. Don’t ever think, "I’m the only one in the world with this weakness or this handicap." We’ve all got them, born with them. Moses could not speak, he said. Jeremiah was a child and was afraid. Peter was sinful and volatile. Paul had a thorn in the flesh. Wesley was diminutive. Did you know that Wesley was in his four feet in height, he was about four feet, maybe, ten inches tall? About as tall as this table here. Moody was uneducated. Did you ever read a sermon, uncorrected, by Moody? That’s the beatenest thing you will ever read in your life.
Whitefield was afflicted with asthma. One of the most unusual things I ever read in my life was that Whitefield was preaching in New England, in what is now Massachusetts, and he went to bed, and a crowd came to the front door of the house. And they wanted to hear Whitefield preach. So, he got out of bed, went out there on the porch and preached to that crowd out there in front, went back to bed and died of an attack of asthma. Isn’t that a shame?
Is that right? Cross-eyed.
We’ve all got them. John Wesley. He was under five feet. No, I don’t know how tall Charles was. I never read how tall Charles was. But he couldn’t have been large. He would have to be small too.
Then I have a passage here, "it is God who maketh his ministers a flame of fire," Hebrews 1:7. I love to preach on that text, "God maketh his ministers a flame of fire."
Well, I have some notes here on evangelistically.
One, don’t be discouraged. You will, eventually, win somebody. Judson went to Burma. And for seven years, he never won anybody to the Lord. Can you imagine that: seven years? He finally won one somebody. And of course, he built up a whole great denomination of Baptists in Burma.
Two, don’t talk about irrelevant things. Keep your prospect face-to-face with Jesus Christ.
Three, don’t argue or show irritation. God is love.
Four, don’t monopolize the conversation. Let the lost man talk of his background, experiences, and problems.
Five, don’t talk at first about the church. Christ has a better reputation than your church.
Six, don’t ask questions that get No for an answer. Get Yes, Yes, Yes, until you get Yes for Christ.
Seven, don’t feel compelled to answer all the excuses just witness for the Lord.
Eight, don’t get side-tracked into a social visit or be content to give an invitation to attend preaching. Press for a decision for Christ. Ask them, "Will you take the Lord Jesus as your Savior?"
Nine, don’t fail to have a prayer of consecration after one makes a decision to trust Christ. I don’t care what, always pray.
Ten, don’t fail to follow through and follow up. "If, at first, you don’t succeed, try, try, and try again."
Eleven, don’t hesitate to press the appeal for Christ at the conclusion of every sermon and service. Now, you remember that. When you stand up there to preach, you make an appeal for Jesus, young preacher.
Twelve, don’t be weary in well-doing. In due season you will reap if you faint not. God sometimes seems to want to see if we are really committed to the task of soul-winning.
Thirteen, don’t fail to praise God for every soul that is won.
Fourteen, don’t leave a new convert to be swallowed up by the unbelieving world. Keep him in the fold, teaching, training, encouraging in every possible way.
Fifteen, don’t baptize small children below the age of nine. Ah, brother, have I been beat over the head about that! Now, here I am again. I say, don’t baptize children below the age of nine. So, there comes along a family and they insist on that little boy being baptized and he is just six years old, or that little girl to be baptized and she’s just seven years old. Fine, I’m not responsible before God. They are, that’s their child. And if they insist on that child being baptized, baptize the child.
But, make it a rule in your life, if a child is below nine, wait. So, what are you going to do? Teach the child. Explain that to the family. "We’re going to teach the child." And I have a little book being prepared for baptism. Do whatever you want to, but don’t baptize that child until that child is thoroughly taught.
Sixteen, don’t ignore the poor, the needy and the unlovely. Sometimes they will respond the most readily to the gospel message of salvation.
That ends the don’t.