Lessons from the Road: 10 Tips for Itinerant Preachers March 7, 2023

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Itinerant ministry, like any work, has its unique challenges and its special blessings. There is ample evidence in the New Testament that itinerant ministry has a valid place both in the advancement of the gospel and the edification of the local assembly. The early believers “went everywhere preaching the Word” (Acts 8:4). Study the life of Philip the evangelist and other witnesses in the book of Acts.

Paul was an itinerant minister. It has been conservatively estimated that the Apostle Paul covered more than 15,500 miles during his ministry – 6,800 of those by boat and 8,700 on foot! I try to remind myself of those in previous generations when I get annoyed by inconveniences and weary on the road.

Spurgeon referred to the Lord Jesus Christ as “the great Itinerant.” Consider how much movement there was during the brief three and a half year ministry of the Master! 

It is not travel that distinguishes the itinerant preacher, but purpose. Passports do not make the missionary and busyness does not qualify the minister. Two things are chief in the heart of the itinerant preacher: the spreading of the gospel and the strengthening of believers.

The Lord continues to teach me much about His work and the resources He provides in every setting. Here are a few practical suggestions for those who are called to labor in many places and with many people:

  1. Preach the Bible. God’s Word works everywhere! Servants of Christ should not speak with a chip on their shoulder, but with truth burning in their heart. We must refuse to speak for ourselves or our “issue” and instead represent the God of the Word to our hearers. We are not the oracles of God – the Scriptures are! The messenger should be hidden behind the message that is being given. All eyes on the Lord!
  2. Don’t “talk yourself into being comfortable” when you get up, simply walk everyone into the Scriptures. Pastor Sexton always began every message with these words: “Take the Word of God and go with me please…” He told me this was to accomplish two things. First, it called attention immediately to the most important thing, the Word of God. And…it helped him know what his first words would be when he got up! People do not want to hear us get up to chit chat, tell jokes, or talk about how nervous we are. Nothing will calm your heart and engage the hearts of the hearers more quickly than reading the Word of the living God.
  3. Ignore distractions. I prefer certain things before I preach, but I don’t have to have it that way. Sometimes preliminaries in a meeting are less than desirable – do not bring your preaching down to that level. Bring your heart prepared to preach before the service begins and you will be ready to preach in any situation. Occasionally, I will not feel well. Weariness takes its toll on every preacher at times. Do not say anything about it. Get up and open the Word and let the Lord take care of it. This is the meaning of “instant in season, out of season” (2 Timothy 4:2).
  4. Don’t hint for meetings; pray for open doors. My dad drilled into me as a young preacher that you should not ask for appointments to preach. Instead, be available, be prepared, and be praying that the Lord will put you exactly where He wants you to be.
  5. Never ask for anything. The Lord’s servant should not make decisions about where he is going to go based on money. Remember that you do not work for the people; you work for God – and He always takes care of His servants. There is an ebb and flow in itinerant ministry but the constant is the great Provider. Live by faith and you will have a front row seat to watch the Lord work. It is a grand adventure!
  6. Refuse to criticize. A dear friend told me years ago that one of the quickest ways to have God take His hand off of you is to begin to criticize other of His servants. It is true that our words (and the spirit behind them) can so easily grieve the Holy Spirit. “Death and life are in the power of the tongue” (Proverbs 18:21). The same tongue has the potential for both! Ask the Holy Spirit to put a check on your mouth and your ears. Do not listen to garbage and do not carry the trash.
  7. Make yourself at home. Did you know you can be “at home” wherever the Lord is? Enjoy each place and the people God has placed you with. Talk to people. Engage strangers in conversation – get to know the folks God has providentially allowed to cross your path. And, above all, seek to be a blessing to the pastor and his family. If you encourage his family you will encourage him, and if you encourage him you will encourage the whole church long after you are gone.
  8. Guard your time. When you travel, your schedule is not always your own. Build discipline and structure into every day. Itinerant work demands a different rhythm of life, and it is imperative that you learn what works for you. Time for family, time for rest, time for work, even time for leisure is vital. I would strongly encourage you to find some healthy distraction that provides physical exercise and releases stress. If you do not find a healthy distraction you may be tempted to find an unhealthy one.
  9. Accentuate the positive and minimize the negative. There are “pros and cons” in every labor and each location. Major on the good and work through the challenges. Circumstances are not always positive, but you can be!
  10. Stay close to Jesus. There is something disorienting about always waking up in a different place and constantly being with different people. The constant must be Christ. Practice His presence and commune with Him as you go. I love to speak to Him when I first walk into a hotel room and acknowledge His presence. This makes all ground holy ground. The brightest days are dull without His presence and the saddest surroundings are cheerful when He is near.

Fellow traveler, the Lord is with you. You never travel alone. Never. The same One who said, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature,” (Mark 16:15) also made this promise: “and, lo, I am with you alway even unto the end of the world. Amen” (Matthew 28:20).

May God be with you as you go.

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10 Comments

  1. Raymond Ricard on March 7, 2023 at 2:15 PM

    Thank you dear brother Scott to remind us that we are serving the best of Master and to love Him is to love His people.
    Until He comes.

    • Dan Knickerbocker on March 9, 2023 at 5:38 AM

      Very good!

      • scottpauley on March 13, 2023 at 9:35 AM

        Hope your meetings are going well!

      • Maxwell on April 6, 2023 at 10:15 AM

        Thank you for this enriching article. God bless you.
        I am doing some work in itinerant ministry among a group of churches in the area where I live and I find this article very instructive and encouraging.

        I am in the teaching ministry

        Maxwell
        South Avfica

  2. Tyler Gillit on March 8, 2023 at 9:56 AM

    This was a helpful article. Thank you Bro. Pauley!

    • scottpauley on March 13, 2023 at 9:34 AM

      Thank you my friend. Appreciate you.

  3. David Waller on March 8, 2023 at 12:46 PM

    Thank you Bro. Pauley! Very encouraging reminder for me as a pastor! May God bless you and encourage you as you invest in preachers, Churches, and the lost!

    • scottpauley on March 13, 2023 at 9:34 AM

      Very grateful and trust you are doing well!

  4. Sammy Roberson on March 8, 2023 at 2:56 PM

    Thank you, Scott! I am praying for you!

    • scottpauley on March 13, 2023 at 9:35 AM

      Thank you so much my friend! God bless you all.

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