By Dennis Wiggs

Pastors must be aware that people are listening to them! The average person looks up to the preacher. His words hold value in the ears of the listener. Children listen to learn. Adults strain to hear every word so they can quote the preacher. People love to tell others what “the preacher said.” The young preacher must keep in mind how his words influence the listener and are often passed on to others.

Respect Prayer Requests

Church members or local citizens often share personal prayer requests with the preacher. This simple act reveals the confidence people put in the man of God. It is sin to promise to pray with someone about a burden and then forget to pray. Prayer requests are better written down, possibly in a prayer diary and remembered before the Lord as promised.

It is unethical to reveal to others the prayer burdens. For people to lose confidence in the young preacher means they will refuse to issue future requests for prayer.

Counsel in Confidence

In this age of marital, financial, emotional and physical problems, the young preacher will be sought out for counsel. The best counsel is often just listening. However, to use an illustration about someone counseled last week is terrible! Even if the name is not mentioned, if the one counseled is in the congregation, that person is unlikely to return for further advice.

The preacher is much safer preaching biblical illustrations rather than referring to those he has advised in his studv.

Tell Your Wife?

Venting feelings about a counseling session may make the young preacher feel better, but how does it make his wife feel? Prayer requests, confession of sins, personal problems of church members should be kept between the preacher and his omniscient God. To share everything revealed in the study may harden his wife against a church member or even the ministry.

The man of God must determine within his own soul how much he should share with his mate. He should seek the Lord’s guidance. It may be better for the family atmosphere if words of encouragement, challenge, and optimism are uttered. Talking about people and their problems could turn the spouse and even the children against church members.

Remember, that which is shared in a counseling session is confessed and the person achieves personal, spiritual victory. God forgives and forgets. So should the preacher.

The wife may have more difficulty forgetting if she has not sat in the entire counseling session, seen the tears, and heard the confessional prayer.

Tell Preacher Friends?

Sad to say, the young preacher may not be able to share with every preacher his burdens and problems. Perhaps you’ve heard the story about three preachers fishing? They began to confess their weaknesses. One shared in confidence his problem of the flesh. The second preacher did the same. The third preacher declared, “My weakness is gossip. I can’t wait to get off this boat!”

Ecclesiastical gossip can be vicious. Some preachers enjoy discussing other preachers. Don’t forget that, young preacher. Better to keep the mouth shut most of the time. It may be wise to share only good.

If you find a preacher who can keep your secrets, then cry on his shoulder. If you can’t find one, just be content telling the Lord. Keep your mouth shut. Remember, many people thrive on the bad. Tell what God is doing in your congregation and your life. Testify about a soul who has trusted Christ as Savior. If no one has been saved, talk about those who are under conviction. Be optimistic.

Tell the Lord?

Maybe all of us ought to evaluate our praying. Is it all petitions? Or, do we praise Him who is worthy to be praised? Sometimes, keeping our mouths shut while on our knees is a worthwhile project. Just listen and meditate on the greatness of God. Sing praises to the Lord.

Praying can become a complaining, begging, crying session. Spending quality time on the knees may demand keeping the mouth shut and the heart yearning for the presence of the power of the Lord.

About the Writer: Dennis Wiggs retired in 2004 after many years in ministry.

Adapted from Contact magazine, December 1997.