Priorities of an Internship

Republished, with permission, from Voice magazine, May-June, 2011.

It was a difficult telephone call to receive. It was 1983 and I was graduating with my Master of Divinity from Capital Bible Seminary. I had sent my resume to various IFCA members with whom I had become somewhat familiar, asking them if they would be willing to send it to churches they knew were looking for pastors. Pastor Bob Gray from Westchester Bible Church, a former President of the IFCA, was calling. I had sent him one of my resumes. He said, “I received your resume last week and I am sorry to tell you that I cannot send it on to any churches.” I was dumb-founded. I asked him what was the problem? He said, “I can’t send it along because I believe that it is God’s will for you to come to Westchester and serve a residency here for three years.” I was immediately relieved and amused!

But my immediate attitude was “Thanks, but no thanks!” I had already served in a variety of internships: at Limerick Chapel, I had served for three consecutive summers; at Bob Jones University, I served an internship with Dr. Tony Miller in a church plant at Clemson University; at Capital Bible Seminary, I had served as an intern to Pastor Sam Martz in the church plant at New Carrollton Bible Church. I had grown up in a pastor’s home and thought that I had had enough “mentoring.”

I thanked him, but told him that I felt called to preach and that I was looking for my own pulpit ministry. He asked me to at least pray about it. I half-heartedly told him that I would. As soon as I hung up with him, I called my father who hesitated not and declared, “Do it!” I said, “But Dad…” and he interrupted and said, “You won’t regret it.”

It was such a powerful time in my life, that as soon as I finished my residency with Pastor Gray, and took the ministry at Byron Center Bible Church, I purposed to begin a residency program for young men coming out of seminary. From 1986 to 1998, I prepared myself to serve as a mentor to young men who would be able to come and serve with me. During those twelve years, there were four areas of priority that I sought to develop at the church: personal maturity, leadership vision, congregational maturity, and financial support.

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A Mentor's Recommendations, Part 2

Reprinted with permission from As I See It. AISI is sent free to all who request it by writing to the editor at Read Part 1.

5. Begin a chronological list of every Bible message you teach or preach, noting text (or topic), date, place, occasion and attendance (estimate this latter figure). Again, this can be kept manually or on computer (but be sure and regularly back up and keep a copy remotely if you do). This list is valuable for a number of reasons—it will keep you from giving the same message to the same audience (I’ve done that before!); negatively, it will show you what subjects you have neglected to teach or preach. I did not start to keep such a list until the early 1990s when I began going to Romania (there it proved essential, since I speak so often in so many places—in some places just once, in others hundreds of times). Your list can also be consulted when you are looking for a message topic or text—in the nature of the case, I taught the same lesson to jail inmates about once every 7-8 months when I was active in that ministry, since there was constant turnover in the jail, and many Biblical passages are ideally suited for such an audience. When I was preparing for a Bible study at the jail and was stuck for a text or topic, consulting my list brought ideas immediately to mind.

And keep on file a copy of every outline you prepare, though I will admit to having trouble deciding how to file them—in Biblical order by text? In chronological order by date? In logical order by topic? A copy under each of these orders? Because I often have trouble deciding, many of my hardcopy outlines are conserved in a jumbled stack several inches thick.

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A Mentor's Recommendations, Part 1

Reprinted with permission from As I See It. AISI is sent free to all who request it by writing to the editor at

I was recently asked to serve as a mentor for a student taking courses in a Bible college. I compiled a selection of practical suggestions for this student. Perhaps my suggestions to him may be of some use to others.

1. Begin keeping a journal to record your thoughts, life events, ideas, quotes found in reading, observations, plans, etc. This will serve you well for review, reflection, and more. I have kept a regular (though not daily) journal since 1977. I have tried bound (blank-book) and spiral notebooks, and prefer the latter (I have about 60 volumes of journals). And you should go back from time to time and re-read what you wrote (I recently re-read my journal for most of 2009). It will remind you of things that ever-so-quickly slip from memory.

2. Keep a list of all books you read, noting author, title, date, total pages, and an evaluation (“review”) of the book, noting good and bad points. I commonly make my own index—written inside the back cover—of every book I read of thoughts, quotes, information, etc. that were of interest to me, or that I may wish to access in the future. Often times, a mere glance at a list of books I read 5, 10, even 20 years ago will stir up memories of their contents, memories buried deep in my mind and not consciously remembered in years. This list can be kept either as a computer file or as a hard copy. Keeping this list of books read as a database allows sorting by author, title, date, etc., which facilitates answering some questions: How many books have I read by this author? When did I read such and such a book? How many times have I read this volume? Obviously, what we read affects what we know, and how we perceive things. Tell me what books a man has read and which ones he values most, and I will tell you what he is.

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