Lig Duncan’s Message to Young Pastors at T4G

One of the most encouraging and challenging messages I heard while in Louisville during Together for the Gospel was the 10 minute talk by Ligon Duncan where he answered the question, “If you, an experienced pastor, had 10 minutes to exhort 200 of the next generation of ministers what would you say to them?”  His answer was laid out in the following six exhortations:

1. Preach the Word

“J.I. Packer says that for those of us who are conservative, evangelical Protestants, when we are faithfully preaching the Word of God, the Word is delivering God’s message through us to His people. It is not that we are delivering the Word of God to His people, it is that His Word is delivering through us His Word to His people.”

2. Love your people

“You cannot reform what you do not love . . . your people will receive even your rebuke when they know that you love them. But if they catch a whiff of your distance, detachment or cynicism they will not bear the wounds of a friend that you must deliver if you are going to be a faithful pastor. You must love your people passionately.”

3. Pray down heaven

“A young woman met me at the door of the church at the end of Sunday morning worship services with tears in her eyes and she said, ‘Dr. Duncan, what was it that he did (pastor Derek Thomas) in the middle of the service?’ I started going back over the order of service and it occurred to me that he prayed a lengthy, biblical pastoral prayer,” Duncan said. “I said ‘do you mean the prayer?’ ‘Yes, that thing’ she said. ‘What was that?’ I said ‘are you from a Christian background?’ ‘O, yes,’ she said. ‘Have you grown up going to church?’ I asked. ‘O, yes: my father is a pastor,’ she said. She grew up in church. But she had never heard a pastor assail the gates of heaven in prayer for his people.”

4. Promote family religion

“Did you know that Calvin and many of the Reformers wanted daily preaching?  After 50 or 60 years or so it became apparent that there was not going to be daily preaching regularly attended in Protestant churches so Matthew Henry and others recognized that they had to make every home a local church. If we do not family religion it will contradict what happens every Lord’s Day as you preach the Word.”

5. Equip your elders

“Whoever the shepherds are in your local congregation, you must pour your lives into them. Every follower of Jesus Christ in the local church is to be one who not only follows Jesus Christ herself or himself, but calls others to follow the Lord Jesus Christ. You must have a group of godly, qualified male elders, or shepherds, nurturing and admonishing that congregation, discipling alongside of the public ministry of the Word on the Lord’s Day.”

6. Live a godly life

“Robert Murray McCheyne said, ‘my people’s greatest need is my own holiness.’ We will contradict what we say from the pulpit if our lives do not bear it out. The Gospel cannot be preached wordlessly, but it can be contradicted wordlessly. Our lives can contradict what we speak.”

HT: Towers

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12 Comments on “Lig Duncan’s Message to Young Pastors at T4G”


  1. […] “If you, an experienced pastor, had 10 minutes to exhort 200 of the next generation of ministers what would you say to them?” Here is Ligon Duncan’s answer, in six exhortations. […]

  2. John Lussier Says:

    Seems like a seventh exhortation should be put in: serve outside the church. If the above list was followed explicitly the pastor would have no interaction with the wider world. A terrible mistake I think.

  3. Brent Hobbs Says:

    John, No one hinted the list was exclusive. We could come up with 20 more if we wanted. That misses the point. These are the 6 Lig Duncan thought were worth mentioning.

  4. Cody Jacobs Says:

    This is a great post, I especially enjoy “Preach the Word. I think that is so incredibly important, especially these days when for some, church has just turned into a big self help meeting!

    Consistent, accurate preaching AND applying of God’s Word is what is going to make a church.


  5. […] Lig Duncan’s Message to Young Pastors at T4G From Timmy Brister: […]


  6. To pray down Heaven – there’s a great reminder. How often do we throw up a quick prayer – as if for “luck”, and then proceed to lean on our own competency? If I truly believe what Christ teaches about prayer, and that God really is my omnipotent Helper who desires to use my prayers as a means to carry out His purposes,then prayer should be the best part of my preparation as a minister of the gospel. Unfortunately, it too often becomes the token part of my preparation – especially when I get really busy.

    May God grant us all the grace to live according to what we supposedly believe when it comes to prayer.

  7. amoslove Says:

    Hmmm? Exhortations for young pastors.

    1 – Walk away from the “Titles” pastor and reverend.

    And the extras that come with the “Titles” and “Position.”
    Power, profit, prestige, glory, honor, recognition, reputation, etc…

    All those things Jesus spoke against. Yes?
    They become “heavy weights” “Idols” not easily laid down.

    Jesus humbled Himself and made Himself of NO reputation.
    Took on the form of a “Servant.” Phil. 2:7

    “Titles” give you “prestige” and “honor” whether you want it or not.

    NOT one person, in the Bible, had the “Title” pastor or reverend.
    NOT one congregation, in the Bible, was “Led” by a pastor or reverend.

    “Titles” cause septation… they say – I am – you’re not.

    2 – If you don’t meet the “Qualifications” for bishop/elder… Run…
    Pastor/leader becomes very dangerous for you and your family.

    This is info from a website helping burned out Pastors.

    http://www.pastorcare.org/PastorCare/Healing___Health.html

    • 77% say they do “not” have a good marriage.
    • 71% have felt burned out or depressed.
    • 70% do not have someone they consider a close friend.
    • 38% are divorced or seriously considering divorce.
    • Over 1600 pastors in the U.S. are forced out of their positions each month.

    http://pastoralcareinc.com/WhyPastoralCare/Statistics.php

    # 80% believe pastoral ministry has negatively affected their families.
    …………..Many pastor’s children do not attend church now
    ……………because of what the church has done to their parents.
    # 50% of the ministers starting out will not last 5 years.
    # 33% state that being in the ministry is an outright hazard to their family.
    #1 reason pastors leave the ministry — Church people are not willing to go
    the same direction and goal of the pastor.

    When they are so burnt out they can admit the didn’t meet the “Qualifications.”

    3 – Never refer to the ekklesia of God, the called out one’s of God,
    as “My/your” elders, “My/your” people, “My/your” flock, or “My/your” church.

    Jesus purchased the ekklesia with HIS blood. They are His.

    Jesus is the head of the body,
    (the ekklesia, the called out one’s), the Church.

    And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold:
    them also I must bring, and they shall hear “my voice;”
    and there shall be “ONE” fold, and “ONE” shepherd.
    John 10:16

    One Fold – One Shepherd – One Voice.
    If Not Now, When?

    Be blessed and be a blessing.


  8. WOW! Great post. I am learning in every area what God has asked us to do as pastors. I love “Praying down Heaven” and Loving your people” We must love each other passionately from the heart! I am learning not to put people in boxes and let the passionate love of Christ for my people compel me! thanks for the encouragement and admonision


  9. […] Lig Duncan’s Message to Young Pastors at T4G […]


  10. […] Duncan’s  6 exhortations to the pastors of the next generation. (HT: […]


  11. […] Read six pieces of advice from Ligon Duncan to young pastors. […]


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