Don't Sweat the Small Stuff - Enjoy the Journey
Updated: Feb 7
A Talk With My Younger Self
The two photographs you see are visual reminders of how quickly the years go by.
Thirty-five years ago, I was 28 and serving as Youth and Evangelism director in Arizona. The other man in the photos is Bishop W.C. Ratchford, a wonderful man of God who models an exemplary life of enthusiastic ministry. In 1988, Brother Ratchford was serving as the general director of Evangelism and Home Missions for the Church of God. At the time that photo was taken, Paula and I had been in Arizona for two years and had been confirmed by the State Council to return for two more. I had no plans to do anything other than serve the church in the capacity of state youth director for the foreseeable future; then, if permitted, maybe go from one state to another. When this picture was taken, I had been in a leadership meeting for several days and had sniffed the fumes of all things related to administrative and denominational structure. I had no other thought except to live out that particular role of ministry experience. I had no way of knowing, while posing for that picture, that within five months all my pre-conceived plans for the future would change significantly.
In late January of 1989, as I stepped into a Tucson church for a regional Prayer Conference where W.C. Ratchford would be speaking, the Arizona state overseer, Carl Hart, said, “Tim, you need to return a call to the state overseer of Virginia, Robert Herrin. He’s asking you to come to one of the churches there.” I left Paula sitting in the service and went to a 7-11 store where I found a phone booth on the street corner. That’s right. There were no cell phones back then. That phone call set a new trajectory of ministry for my life for several years to come.
Slipping back into the service, I sat down beside Paula who leaned over to me and asked, “Where have you been?” I informed her of the call and the particular church it involved. We had been there before. She looked at me and immediately whispered “We’re going to move there, aren’t we?” She knew the answer, and so did I.
We moved to Danville, Virginia, and while things weren’t always easy, it was a remarkable season that impacted our family and established the ministry path that we would travel from then until now.
Looking back on that picture, recalling who I was then, it embarrasses me that I wasn’t better prepared to be entrusted with such an awesome opportunity and responsibility. Let’s just say, I was a much better pastor leaving than when I arrived. But that’s just the way life is. I’ve heard it said, “The man who views the world at 50 the same as he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life.”
I’d say that’s an accurate summation.
At my age now, I’d like to wrap my arms around that eager preacher at 28 and tell him a few things.
If that were possible, here are a few of the things that an older Tim Hill might say to the younger:
Please Jesus first and foremost in all things.
Get an early start on your devotional development.
Keep romance alive and never stop dating your wife.
Ensure that your children and grandchildren are your primary harvest and parish.
Protect your time and control the “Tyranny of the Urgent” (the word “no” is not profane).
Don’t waste time climbing ladders leaning against wrong walls.
Establish your life’s theme rather than burning out on unrealized and unrealistic goals.
When it comes to preaching and pastoring, accept that you will not be everyone’s “cup of tea,” but you will likely be someone’s good “cup of coffee.”
Learn to manage expectations.
Build buildings when necessary, but build people every day.
Master the skills of negotiation.
When confrontation is necessary, approach it peaceably, make it profitable, and practice it sooner than later.
Understand that sometimes how you lead is more important than how you preach.
Live by the “Principle of Cancellation”—forgiveness.
Establish and protect friendships that transcend your title and tenure.
Laugh at yourself and let others laugh with you. Don’t take yourself too seriously.
Live within your means—“budget” isn’t a bad word.
Have enough faith and patience to get through the holding patterns of life and ministry.
Embrace the potential of networking with others.
Run from fads and embrace consistency.
When preaching on Sunday, give people hope for Monday.
All things considered, I would probably sum up my conversation with my younger self by just saying, “Tim, enjoy the journey; don’t sweat the small stuff; run your own race; and don’t lose sight of the big picture.”
That’s good advice for a man 28 years old. Come to think of it, it’s not bad for a fellow my age either.