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Dear younger Jim,

Well, we’ve made it this far, and you’ll be happy to know that we have kept the faith and are still fighting the good fight. Decades ago, we were joyfully, sovereignly saved. Filled with the Holy Spirit. All was so new, so wonderful, so simple. This early simplicity you are enjoying will soon be under siege. You will have to fight to remain there. To help you on your journey with Jesus, I have a few words of advice; advice I wish someone had given me. It will keep you out of trouble and perhaps get you into some.

For a start, study the verses that you hear referenced in other’s preaching to understand what the verses mean in context. Do not easily swallow supposed truths ripped out of context. When you study like this, the Lord will open your eyes to a fuller understanding of truth.

In a related way, do not believe without question everything church leaders teach. Reject the Word of Faith heresy that you will hear early on. Don’t fall prey to the teaching of the superstar pastor and his predilection for allegorizing Scripture. Allegorizing Scripture was and is dangerous. Don’t fall for it. Stick with the plain truth of Scripture.

Be more serious about sermon preparation. Do not think you can prepare your messages on Sunday morning and assume that is all you need, along with the inspiration of the Holy Spirit; although, yes, sometimes He will take you off plan. But those times should be exceptions rather than the rule. That sort of ill-preparedness will cause you to circle around certain themes over and over again. Widen and deepen your knowledge of Scripture, not just the amount of verses you read or memorize. Learn the meanings of texts in context and in comparison to the whole of Scripture.

This next piece of advice may seem insignificant, but it isn’t. Check out the truthfulness of the praise and worship songs you hear and teach. Don’t teach songs that are contrary to the truth of Scripture. If we sing praise and worship songs that aren’t the truth, we are not worshipping in truth as Jesus told us to. Our worship becomes meaningless. Make your worship true.

Pray more. Don’t be arrogant and spiritually lazy, thinking that you don’t need to seek the Lord earnestly and regularly. Learn intercession. People are in need: in need of healing, salvation, protection, and provision.

Be wary of power, money, and status in the Church. You will see the effects of these powerful deceptions in your first church staff job and every pastor, associate pastor, and missionary ministry after.

Reject the Old Testament law of tithing and the misleading teaching from Malachi 3:10. Study to discover the truth of what Malachi wrote about.

It will be extremely difficult but avoid the death trap and sins of envy and competition involving numerical church growth. Instead, learn what discipleship means and ignore the pressure to “grow your church.” Take seriously Jesus’ requirements for discipleship in Luke 14:25-35 and teach it. It will be better to have two or three true disciples of Jesus than two hundred sitting in chairs about whom you know almost nothing. Be brave and strong in the Lord and His truth. Learn early that the Lord always chooses people of insignificance—you are such an individual. Rejoice in this and do not despise it. The Lord chooses such to glorify Himself.

Seriously question why the gifts of the Spirit are not operative in churches. This will lead you to some uncomfortable conclusions about the church system in which you minister.

Seek to understand what it means that the Lord God Almighty is perfectly sovereign over all things.

Take seriously the Day of Judgment for Christians. You will stand before Jesus and give an account of what you have done. Someday, in some way, you will rule in His kingdom.

Rejoice in the spiritual fact that you can actually talk to the Lord of the universe who created all things—not only can you talk to Him but have a relationship with the only one true God. You, by His grace, are a son and will inherit all that Jesus has for you in eternity. You could never have achieved any of these realities by some human effort on your own. These are freely given to you by the Lord.

Wondrous days are ahead. Difficult days are ahead. Don’t lose that initial joy and divine surprise that the Lord gloriously, sovereignly saved you. Love Him. Seek to please Him in all that you do. Ask the Lord to help you love others. Loving others should be easy, but it isn’t. That’s why the New Testament tells us repeatedly to love one another!

Be strong in the Lord.

Rejoice in all things.

Your older self,



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