From Where I Stand

This past Sunday, July 13, 2008 marked for me, the completion of 19 years of work with the South Green Street Church of Christ in Glasgow, KY.  Now, I know that today, as I begin working in my 20th year, that this amount of time is a drop in the bucket to some people.  For instance, my dad, Frank Higginbotham, has been preaching full-time for the Virginia Avenue Church of Christ in Chester, WV for the past 44 years.  So while I acknowledge that there are many preachers who possess much more knowledge and experience than I will ever attain, I do want to take this opportunity to share a few observations, and even tips for longevity, as I begin my 20th year of work with the same congregation.

  • I Must Remember I Am A Preacher, And Not A Policeman. My job as a preacher is to teach the truth, it is not to enforce the truth.  My job is to shine the light of God’s word on the pathway to Heaven, but I cannot force a person to walk down that pathway.  I have observed that when I find myself most discouraged and frustrated I am usually trying to enforce a certain behavior in others.  However, when I realize that my obligation and success as a preacher is not measured by the response of others, but is measured by the truth I speak, and the manner in which I speak it (Eph. 4:15) I can find contentment.
  • Patience Is Required. For any preacher to work any length of time with a congregation, he must be patient with people.  Truth can be spoken much quicker than it can be absorbed and put into practice.  While I want people to immediately put into practice what I preach, I have to understand that most people need time to absorb and mull over the idea of making changes to their lives.  While it is true that good preachers have suffered at the hands of worldly congregations, it is also true that many congregations have suffered at the hands of impatient preachers who have terribly poor judgment and people skills.  Have you ever stopped to consider the amount of money that is “wasted” by the Lord’s church in “moving expenses” because of a lack of forbearance and patience on the part of a congregation as well as a preacher?  (Not to mention the cost in attitudes, influence, and souls!)
  • A Preacher Needs To Continue To Read And Study. Twenty years of sermon outlines adds up to a lot of sermons.  The temptation could be to coast, rotely reuse old sermons, and put very little time into sermon preparation.  Rather than feeling secure and thinking one can “coast” after twenty years, I think the exact opposite is the case.  The people you are preaching and teaching have heard all your illustrations, and know all your stories.  If one stops learning, he becomes stale, old, and people lose interest.  However, if one continues to study, read, use fresh illustrations, his preaching and teaching will continue to impact the congregation in a positive way.

There is much more than I can share with you, but these observations are enough for now.  I would however like you, the reader, to leave some comments, and share your experiences, observations, and tips to a long and successful ministry with a congregation.

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Comments 8

  • Great reflections and wise advice. Thank you. I think every point is so true. I hope to have a long tenured work too. It speaks well of the congregation as well as you.

    http://www.matthewsblog.waynesborochurchofchrist.org

  • Hi Matthew,
    Thanks for reading and thanks for your comments. As far as patience goes, the congregation has probably had to be much more patient with me than I have with them. (But if they want to point that out, they can write their own blogs!) 😉

  • Steve,

    Thanks for this article. Often I read articles about moving from congregation to congregation and how to handle that. There is a need for articles on that subject…

    …but it’s SO refreshing to read the other side of the story, and be encouraged to stay and grow with one congregation.

    Thanks for all your work on this blog. It really is a “stand-out!”

    Adam

  • Congratulations, Steve, on reaching this milestone. I pray the congregation remembers and celebrates it as well.

    Your longevity there bespeaks love for the brethren and for the task given you by the Lord. Rather than an item to check off on a list of suggestions (I like lists), this basic quality provides us all with the perseverance to work through the tough times and enjoy the good moments.

    May our Lord make you ever more effective in his kingdom because of your commitment to him and to his people.

  • Steve,

    I truly appreciate your blog and have enjoyed your site for sometime. The blog on the longevity of a preacher staying in one congregation really hits the nail on the head. I’ve been with Waverly, WV for 15 years now and believe that the work is more effective having built relationships with the folks in the congregation as well as in the community. It’s sad when someone just gets established and one party or the other decides change is needed. Keep up the great work & congrats to you (and your Dad). Peach & I saw your Dad & Mom in Parkersburg a while back.

    Hope your family is doing well. Our kids are grown. Mandy is married, teaching school & raising 4 kids. Ben is still single (no grandkids from him yet) but doing well.

    Sometime you’re coming up this direction, let us know. Would love to see you again.

    Bob Long

  • Great thoughts Steve!

    Want to thank you again for doing a great job with the adult class at our VBS last week. And I wanted to let you know I really appreciate this new website. Keep up the great work.

  • Hey Nick,
    Thanks for the kind remarks. I really enjoyed being with you all for VBS. You guys really do a great VBS. Glad all is going well with you and your work.

  • Wow Bob! Great to hear from you. I can’t believe that Mandy is old enough to be raising four children. I have a very vivid memory of her, and one of the funny things she said to a Bible class teacher. It was hilarious! Great to hear you’re in your 15th year. Keep up the good work. Maybe we can see each other next year. I’m scheduled to hold a meeting at North End in Parkersburg. Tell Peach I said hello.

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