Do you ever wish that you could go back in time and tell your younger self what you wish you knew then? I recently had this opportunity as I spoke to a small crowd of young, 20-something leaders at a camp in Texas. Here is what I told them: five things I wish I would have known about leadership and ministry when I was 20.

Get Wisdom

In Proverbs 3, 4, and 16, it says to get wisdom. Proverbs 4:7 says that the beginning of wisdom is to get wisdom. In Proverbs 16:16 it says that wisdom is better than gold! Therefore, at all costs, get wisdom. Beg, borrow, and steal. Yes, steal. Steal it from those older than you and younger than you. Find good men and women to steal from.

Steal from their character, their holiness, and from the way they lead and love their spouse. Steal from the way they parent their kids and the way they lead others. Take from their language, their experience, and their mistakes.

If you know anything about stealing you know that proximity matters. Knowledge can be downloaded from a distance, but to steal wisdom you must be close enough to pick their pockets. You are the average of the crew you run around with. If you are the smartest or wisest guy in the bunch, you can ensure that you will not grow any wiser. You must run around with men and women that are much wiser than you, and when you do, their wisdom will rub off.

So, at all costs, get wisdom. Get coaching. Get a mentor. Set a meeting with someone who is further along than you. Do this over and over and over. Put wisdom on replay.

Take Discipleship Seriously

I have no idea where I would be today if it wasn’t for a group of older guys in college who grabbed me by the shoulders and discipled me.

Who are you being discipled by right now? Who are you discipling right now? If the answer is no one to either or both of these questions, you have punted on the Great Commission. In Matthew 28, Jesus commands us to make disciples. This is not the Great Suggestion; it is the Great Commission. This is the life of every believer. If you’re new at this, find someone to disciple you. Then, turn around to find someone who needs to be discipled.

You Are Loved

We live in a highly religious (rules) and performance (results) based society. This idea flies in the face of what we see and know. One of the questions I have to ask both myself and others is: “Do you really believe God is pleased with you?” If the answer is no, or even if there is great hesitation before answering yes, we must go back to square one of the gospel.

The gospel says that God’s love and acceptance are not dependent on us and our performance. Rather, it is based solely on the performance of Jesus. It is finished. It is enough. It is all we need.

This truth shockingly and wonderfully means that God’s love does not increase with more good works any more than it decreases with one more sin. Scandalous and foreign, I know, but if you can drill this down to the bottom, you will live, love, and lead differently.

Be Who You Want to Become

This applies to all areas of life: relationships, careers, ministry, marriage, and more. I once served as an intern at a mega church in Houston. My director asked, “Do you want to be a pastor one day?” I said, “Yes.” He responded, “Good, then start dressing like one.”

It shocked me. I wasn’t wearing gym shorts and sneakers. I was well within the dress code of an intern. But, he motioned with his hand and pointed to all the pastors in the room while saying, “See, there’s a difference.” I got his point and quickly bought some jeans and a nice shirt. Start preparing yourself today for the role that you want to play whether it is a CEO, pastor, or good spouse.

Do Big Stuff

We serve a God who does the inexplicable. Paul says that we serve a God who does immeasurably more than we think or ask. Why do we pray measurable prayers? Why do we set measurable goals and live measurable lives?

To some degree, our goals must be able to be measured. If the goal is too big, you can’t be held accountable to it. But, the premise is to live in such a way that it can only be explained by the hand of the Lord. Don’t settle for little dreams. Set your sights high, get wisdom, prepare yourself now, and do big stuff.

Bryson Isom

Bryson Isom

Bryson Isom is the pastor of Valley Life | Camelback, located adjacent to the campus of Grand Canyon University.