Lessons I Learned From My Mentor

11 Preaching and Pastoring Lessons I Learned From My Mentor
Sometimes leadership lessons are caught as much as they are taught.

As my mentor, Dr. Greg Mathis has modeled skills and competency in pastoring and preaching. Preacher Greg has prepared every one of his associate staff members to lead, preach and pastor the congregation. In fact, his view is that his associates help him pastor.

He offered these two non-negotiable expectations to us as associate pastors. First, you must be prepared to preach weekly and deliver a word from God to your congregation. Second, you must minister to people in times of crisis.

Preacher Greg is not minimizing pastoral ministry merely to preaching and crisis ministry. But he was reminding us that pastoral ministry cannot be effective without preaching the Word faithfully and being available in crisis situations. You can either destroy or build your leadership credibility by your readiness to preach and minister in crisis situations or by your failure in these areas.

Following are 11 of the preaching and pastoring lessons I’ve learned from my mentor.

1. “Study in the morning.” Preacher Greg models and encourages consistent study habits. He’s often in his study before 6 a.m. and averages 20-25 hours in sermon preparation weekly. He’s been able to preach with consistent passion and effectiveness for more than 30 years at Mud Creek because he’s faithful in his study.

2. Work through preaching series in a number of ways. He’s advocated using preaching through books of the Bible, doctrines important to the Christian faith, and biblical characters. This model seeks to preach the “whole counsel” of Scripture while changing up the manner of dealing with biblical themes.

3. Know your best style of preaching. Something unique to Preacher Greg that I’ve learned about communicating is his particular style of preaching. I would categorize him a narrative/expository preacher. He preaches through texts, but does so broadly and with a particular storytelling approach.

4. “You should be able to preach a sermon in 30 minutes.” We have multiple Sunday morning services that require Preacher Greg to preach within a 30-minute timeframe. But his point is well-made. Sermons should not ramble on and on. They should be clear, to the point and finish with specificity.

5. “Make you laugh to make you listen.” This is one of my favorite Preacher Greg quotes. He often shares a story or even a joke, following it with “I make you laugh to make you listen,” then connects the laughter to the biblical point or concept he was making. He uses humor to help his hearers resonate with biblical truth or soften the blow of an in-your-face point.

6. Plan your preaching in advance. Preacher Greg studies, prepares and writes his sermons about six weeks in advance. This practice helps him avoid the last minute panics about not having a sermon. While his approach may not fit everyone’s study rhythm, being prepared in advance is certainly preferable to writing Sunday’s sermon on Saturday night.

7. “When someone calls you at 3 a.m., they’re not calling to just share information with you.” Related to pastoring, Preacher Greg says the pastor must be available in genuine emergency situations. I’ve watched him ask an associate pastor to preach so he can minister to a wife and three girls whose husband/father just committed suicide. He’s available in emergencies.

8. Be consistent in your care for the congregation. Not only has Preacher Greg led our staff and deacons to be consistent in ministering to the pastoral care and counseling needs of our congregation, but he (even in a church of 4,000 members) calls every family who has experienced a death even if he’s not the minister covering the funeral.

9. Be accessible to people. Preacher Greg has an open door policy with children. They can walk into his study any time. He wants to always be approachable to children so that when they begin having questions about salvation, they will feel comfortable talking to him. This is a truly wise and profitable lesson I’ve seen bear fruit in the children of our church. Also, he makes time to meet/counsel those in our congregation. He doesn’t delegate all of those tasks. He believes it important to remain in touch with people.

10. Be patient and willing to deal with “EGR” people. For us, “EGR” stands for Extra Grace Required. Every church has them. Every pastor will face them. His admonition is patience and accommodation. While we must not cow to the intimidators and control-minded people, we should generally express patience and accommodation even to those who might be difficult.

11. As a pastor, love and care for people. We all know this truth biblically, but I’ll tell you from my experience that watching someone faithfully love, shepherd and minister to his congregation (even the difficult people) is a privilege that I relish.

I’ve offered these lessons from leadership, preaching and pastoring because the wisdom from my mentor has greatly benefited me in these areas. Furthermore, with as much as I’ve learned from my mentor, I have personally committed to mentoring others and pouring into them what I’ve been privileged to receive.  

Chris Hefner Chris serves as minister of missions and evangelism at Mud Creek Baptist Church in Hendersonville, North Carolina. Chris has a Ph.D. from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and also teaches at Fruitland Bible College. He is a regular contributor to Thom Rainer’s PastorsToday blog (LifeWay.com/PastorsToday), He and his wife, Jean, have two sons, Will and Nathan. Get in touch with Dr. Hefner on Twitter: @ChrisHefner.

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