Lessons Learned as a Preacher<br />I have worked for several years as a preacher in my church. I am a Seventh-Day Adventis...
Lessons learned- preacher
Lessons learned- preacher
Lessons learned- preacher
Lessons learned- preacher
Lessons learned- preacher
Lessons learned- preacher
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Lessons learned- preacher

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Lessons learned as a preacher

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Lessons learned- preacher

  1. 1. Lessons Learned as a Preacher<br />I have worked for several years as a preacher in my church. I am a Seventh-Day Adventist, which is a religion that skirts around the edges of Christianity (I actually think we have more in common with Jews than Christians, though). As a preacher, I find it my duty to be open minded about all faiths, beliefs, and traditions. I am willing to change my stance on something if I believe that well-enough argument is made, and my church understands and accepts that. Here are some lessons I've learned in my ministries:<br />1. Becoming a preacher can be done in many ways. I figured I'll put this one first since I'm sure a lot of people are asking how I managed to become a preacher at such a young age. To be clear from the start, I am not an ordained preacher. Religious practices for becoming a preacher, pastor, priest, etc, vary from religion to religion, but in a general sense, you have to go to a four-year university in something church-related (usually theology). Then, you have to go through a sort of grad-school like program where you intern as a preacher and complete a specific set of requirements.Once completed, you are placed in a church to "train" (usually a small church trying to grow), until you gain what is considered "tenure" for preachers. Then, you are a preacher.However, there are many informal ways to do it where you can skip all of that, sort of "under the table" preaching. This happens when there are many more churches than pastors to go around. Active members of the church volunteer to lead bible school studies and other such events. Usually, those members are asked to give a sermon or two one weekend when the church's pastor is on vacation, retires, or the church is just starting and doesn't have one. If you do well in your presentation of the sermon, you will be asked to do it again and again. Obviously, there is lots of self-studying involved, meetings with other pastors on things you don't understand, and lots of practice on public speaking. In a matter of time, sometimes months, you become the church's unofficial preacher.<br />That is how I became one. I grew up in my church, and when a new youth church opened up and didn't have a pastor, I was one of the ones to step out and help lead it. Through it, I've gained lots of valuable experience in the field of not only my own religious, but religion in general, faith, controversy, and even life lessons, which I will share in the rest of these updates.<br />2. Pastors are more open-minded than you think. This one is a very big generalization, let me just make that clear. But I feel that it still needs to be said, since popular opinion seems to believe the complete contrary. Also, when I say pastors, I also mean whatever the equivalent to pastors are in other religions. I just don't feel like naming them all each time, for risk of exluding one. Also, I will limit my generalizations to Christianity, as I do not claim to know anywhere near enough on other religions to make any statements with confidence.Like I mentioned earlier, becoming an ordained pastor or minister is a long and complicated process. They are often required to take world religion classes and are exposed to all different kinds of faiths in different points of view. The reason for this is because oftentimes churches will see people from other faiths visit, and if you want to convert them, you have to know where they're coming from.While the purpose seems a bit manipulative in nature, the results of such an initiative does grant pastures a clearer sight of faith and religion than your typical christian. I've talked to hundreds of pastors and priests from many religions, and after talking to them, preacher to preacher, I notice that they are much more open-minded than they appear to be. Their views aren't always as fundamentalist as you would expect, due to their exposure to other faiths and beliefs.So why do they often seem like fundamentalist bible-thumpers? Image. They are usually the figurehead of the church. Their beliefs are looked at as the belief of every church member. Their job is to display almost crystal clear the mission statement of that church, regardless of how identical his actual beliefs are. In addition to this, they have pressures from above. In my religion, pastors are governed by what is called the conference. I don't know what it's called in other religions. These leaders work the same way as in other industries such as government, schools, and colleges. Even if pastors try to be lenient on their beliefs with their church, they cannot without risks of consequences by those above. It's all politics.I've known pastors that reject a certain belief in the church that he feels is either outdated or just plain wrong, and the church kicked him out for blasphemy and removed his pastor's license. It's all a political concern more than a religious one. It's about maintaining control and a proper image.The benefits of being an unofficial pastor or preacher like I am is that I have more flexibility to try out new things without such consequences. I feel that my church feels that freedom and flexibility to think on their own without fear of judgment from other church members.<br />3. Preaching a sermon is a lot like academic research. I have a particular preaching style similar to "self help" books. I pick a topic in regards to your life and your health, then prepare an entire sermon around it with bible stories, bible quotes, personal experiences, and lots and lots of internet research. I occasionally do interviews, too.I usually make sure to schedule my sermons at least a month in advance so I have time to prepare. One of the biggest mistakes I see pastors do is show up to preach with very little preparation, just essentially requoting an entire bible story and giving the lesson learned. I find it rather boring and dull, rather than engaging and interesting.As a graduate student, I can say that preparing a sermon is like presenting a research paper. You have to essentially do a literature review on the subject that you feel passionate about, write a paper to organize your thoughts, then determine how to present it to a group. It's the way that works for me and people love it.However, styles may vary. See, with your example, I think what people loved was the personal aspect. Sometimes, all you need is a good story of personal experience and people will love it. I believe that preaching is about 50% teaching what you've learned, 30% sharing what you've experienced, and 20% learning from what you presented.<br />4. Religious people are naturally resistant to change. Religions are based primarily on tradition and faith, two things that on their own, are fine and dandy, but together, they form a really annoying combination. One of the biggest problems I've had with new churches is having the members seeing alternate points of view when I bring it to them. Even if they know me well and trust my judgment, they get awfully uncomfortable when I'm' not preaching something that they are inclined to agree with.This comes down to the tradition and faith issue. It also includes a little bit of ego. Church families have their traditions that they believe are guided by faith. The problem is, once these traditions are challenged, they think it's a test of their faith and do everything they can to refuse these "changes" and pass the "test". Now, I've noticed two groups of people that resist change. One group falls into this category. They don't mean any harm, they just truly believe that the one bringing all the change is just Satan tryiing to deter their faith on what they knew and are accustomed to. The other group, however, is plagued by a high ego. They believe that their way is the right way, and refuse to believe that anyone knows any more than they do, rejecting any alternating opinions. Sometimes they'll do it by shrugging it off, but others will do it in more confrontational manners.It's a tough battle, but the best way to get people to listen is just to remind them what your job as a preacher and even what the job of the church is: a community environment where you can interact with others of similar faith for some bonding, but more importantly, a place to guide your spiritual path. But that's just it, it's a guide. If I walked up to the pulpit and preached every day to a church group about things they already know and always agree with, then what's the point? It just feels like week after week of nothing but reassurance sessions. I tell my churches before my sermons that at any point there is a possibility they will not agree with my message or any parts of it.As human beings, it is their right AND their privilege to reject anything I say. There is nothing forcing them to accept what I say as truth. I merely offer my teachings based on what I learned, but as a human myself, I am also prone to errors. Although churches share a similar faith, it doesn't excuse the act of groupthink, or even hivemind mentality. Individuals are free to differ in their opinions even within the church, and I, as a preacher, have a right to express alternative points of view that can make people question and learn.<br />5. Seventh Day Adventists are often seen in a negative light. My religion is an interesting one. It's considered christian, but it's not christian. The belief in Jesus and use of the Bible is about the only link I see to Christianity. If anything Seventh Day Adventists have more in common with Jews than anything. SDAs observe Saturday as the Sabbath day, going to church and ceasing to work every Saturday, follow many Biblical teachings and rules, such as not eating unclean foods such as pork or ocean bottom dwellers, and a generally more conservative lifestyle. The church has been traditionally very strict with their views and their rules, with many churches prohibiting the use of jewelry with women, and other churches telling you what music you can and cannot listen to (which pretty much comes down to hymns). And SDAs are not allow to go to movie theatres. Now that's a weird one I'll never understand.The SDA church was founded in the late 1800s, after a religious sect believed they found the date of the second coming of Christ. A group of religious scholars found that they figured out the date of the second coming to be the year 1844. People rejoiced and began to give away all their possessions, others repented, others went looting. The majority of the world, however, laughed at them.Once the date came and went and nothing happened, this group (called the Millerite Adventists) were the laughing stock of the world. They were ashamed, and many left the church. The main Millerite group split into smaller subgroups and formed their own religions from that. One group believed that they had the date wrong, and continued to try to calculate the correct coming of Christ.Another group figured out that the date was not for the second coming, but was merely the date of the Investigative Judgment, or the date where God would start his judgment of humanity starting with the days of Adam and Eve and all the way through the present. The second coming would occur once this judgment finishes (and apparently is still going on to this day).The last group believed that it was a mistake to try to predict the Second Coming of Christ, and realized that this is something that cannot be known. They still believed in many aspects of the Millerites Adventists, but took a less Extremist view. These became the Seventh Day Adventists.Unfortunately, the church hasn't changed too much since then. They still have all of these outdated views and have not managed to change their practices, causing them to be losing their youth at an alarming rate. Other religions also look at Adventists with a raised eyebrow, as they see their views extreme and the oddity of Sabbath keeping strange.But there are also some good aspects to SDAs. Right now, they are the fastest-growing christian denomination worldwide, spreading all over the world. One very big focus on the church is living a healthy lifestyle, promoting good diets, healthy eating, and lots of exercise. Studies have shown that SDAs live longer than members of any other religion, and live much healthier lives into their senior years. This has caused much international interest into the ways of SDAs.One big change happening to the religion right now to shake its negative image is forming groups of what are called "Progressive Adventists". I think I fall into this category. They are Adventists that, while they still hold the foundational beliefs of the religion, understand the flexibility of faith and the openness to new experiences. We aren't as stubborn, and focus our ministries in helping those in need of guidance (primarily youth such as teenagers and college students), and not so much to convert people to our way of thinking or press our faiths on others.There's still much growth to be had, but I like the direction it is headed.<br />6. Religiosity and Spirituality are two different terms often used interchangeably. I am in graduate school right now, and I am working on thesis on this subject in particular. One concept that people seem to have trouble understanding is that you can be religious and not spiritual, just as you can be spiritual and not religious. There are many religious people who go to church regularly, pray, and act like a Christian. However, their reasoning may not be based on their faith in a higher power. They may just do it through routine, or may not really believe what they preach to others.Similarly, I've talked with people who say that they are not spiritual. When asked why, they say it's because they have had horrible church experiences in the past. The thing is, a church or church group should not have too much impact on your spirituality, only your religiosity. Just because you went to a church with a bunch of hypocrites, you shouldn't let that deter you from believing in a higher purpose in your life, or even a higher power. Spirituality is a difficult concept to explain without getting into pages and pages of detail, but simply put, spirituality is a more individual, internal concept, whereas religiosity is more external and communal. Religiosity describes how you choose to act on your faiths, whether it is by going to church, meeting with other religious groups, praying regularly, etc. Spirituality has more to do with your beliefs that everyone on Earth has a purpose, guided by something more than just mere luck and coincidence. It doesn't even have to be a god, though that is usually the most common belief with spiritual people.Spirituality and religiosity are an interesting topic, and I will be happy to answer more questions about it if you have them.<br />7. Youth churches are a great way reform more traditional churches. One big pet peeve of mine is churches that stick to the tried and true method of church services and refuse to change anything. I've been to church where nothing but hymns are sung, no forms of emotions that are too loud or energetic are allowed, and those same people refuse to get TVs in their homes or expose their families to anything not sacred.There's a reason that churches are losing their youths at alarming rates in the United States. Probably in other countries as well. Teenagers and college students are bored enough in school; they don't want to have to be bored at church/mass/temple/etc.That's where youth churches come into play. Many religions are implementing youth churches around the country that are a lot more fun, festive, and appealing to young adults. The music is funner, the messages are more conversational and less "preachy", and everything in the Bible is made more purposeful (comparing it to modern times rather than just studying its history for the sake of history).The interesting part about all of this is that I've seen many older, non-youth church members migrate to these youth churches. They see how it is much more fun and makes them want to go to church. In fact, one youth church that I went to had more adults than youth in it in the audience! A lot of these adults who have gone to the same type of church all their lives have gotten bored, and rather than just leaving altogether, they went to something that is more fun and invigorating.This isn't a knock against more traditional churches, however. I know plenty of people that prefer that old, traditional style over anything too loud. Usually it's seniors, but I've seen younger people too. If that's what they want, then that's fine. There's room for many types of church styles. The problem comes when the "traditional" folk start to judge the "contemporary" folk on their worship styles. That's when I feel that I should say something.<br />8. The amount of work churches do to help the community is astounding. Whether you are religious or not, one thing I think you should be aware is that churches do lots of good for their community. I've seen this in all sorts of denominations, but Seventh Day Adventists especially. Why? Well, SDAs are much stricter with people about the Biblical tithe rule, saying they are required to give 10% of their income. I am amazed at how easily church members will give 10% of their hard-earned pay checks at the end of the week. Even in the poorer churches, families who sometimes have a hard enough time finding food for their kids will give upwards of $100 a month to tithe.I've asked people about their reasoning to this, and much to my surprise, it isn't just "because they told me to". Families, especially poorer families, compare their standard of living here in the US, to the struggles of families in other countries. Most of them tell me that they have much empathy for those people and feel they should do their part to help. They say they wouldn't mind having their family skip one meal a week just so that another family can eat for a week. It's truly inspirational.That tithe money goes to the church for all sorts of different programs. In addition to in-church costs like bills, renovations, paying the pastor, etc., they do all sorts of charity work. And I'm not just talking about giving money to a charity. Churches will find out about people in the community, whether in hospitals, jail, or sick at home, and start campaigns to do what they can to help out. They make letter-writing parties, or construct them scrapbooks, paintings, gifts, all sorts of things, then go visit them and sing to them.In these trips, I have seen tears come out from both the ones being visited and the ones visiting from the joy that fills the rooms. Churches have taken in homeless people, fed them and attempted to find them jobs, often allowing the homeless people to give their address so it looks like they have a home.Churches have not only sent lots of money overseas to poorer countries, but continually plan mission trips for both youths and adults to help with remodeling efforts, construction efforts, and feeding efforts. When church families are in trouble, the entire church will quickly drop everything to come to the rescue. They'll all pool together some money and help out the church family in any way necessary.I find it kinda sad, actually, that I cannot be involved in such things. I travel a lot, so I don't really have a home church anymore. It's amazing what having a church family feels like. In fact, one church I used to go to, in Florida, found out I'm getting married at the end of this year. To help me out, they all pulled in money and told me that if I would like to have my wedding there, they would cover all of the costs, including food, decorations, entertainment, and even the receptions afterwards.Churches do a lot of good in society, but their good deeds are often overshadowed by their hindrances in everyone's mind.<br />

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