Do you get inspired by trailblazers as much as I do?
When I encounter someone who has heard from God and pushed through the brush, making a way for others, I always stand in awe. You know that it takes courage – ignoring the nay-sayers and the obstacles which arise. It also takes dedication, determination, and good old fashioned hard work.
A few years ago, I had the privilege of spending a good deal of time with a trailblazer – and his wife, who is one also.. He has shared some advice for the rest of us, so I thought I would share it also.
1. Be ready for the work involved.
As my husband and I sat in the den of Bishop Hardy Coleman and his wife, I asked, “What advice would you give to younger ministers who really want to make a difference?” Mother Ann, as she is lovingly called, was the first to answer. “They see the glory, but they don’t know the story,” she quickly quipped.
There are so many who want to make a difference, and of course, they want to have a successful ministry or business. But they don’t realize the price they must pay. A successful endeavor doesn’t just happen quickly and easily. There are hours of preparation in studying and hours of expended energy in preaching or writing or doing whatever it takes.
Bishop chimed in, “Too often young ministers are eager for the title and the position, rather than the work of the ministry. I say that if you are seeking a title, you aren’t ready for it yet…When I first got saved, I was just full of joy – then I realized that the Lord wanted some work, too!” He laughed.
2. I tell them to “keep it clean.”
There is nothing which can hinder your success like an unholy lifestyle. if people see you as a hypocrite, they won’t follow you – or they will see that as an invitation to be unholy themselves.
The life you live preaches to people more than your sermons do. People will follow your actions more than your words.
“Shun even the appearance of evil.” Quite a few years ago, when there was a drive for black people to vote, an attractive lady working for that purpose came to the area and looked up Bishop Coleman. She recognized him as a leader in the area, and invited him to go with her to a training session which was out of town.
Bishop was definitely interested in the important mission, but didn’t want any appearance of impropriety. His wife couldn’t go at the time, so he took his daughter. With his daughter as the “chaperone,” people couldn’t suppose any ill intent.
3. Treat people with kindness.
There will be times when you will need to bring correction to people, and the way you handle that job can be tricky.
Bishop said, “I don’t ever correct anyone in the presence of others. I try to make an appointment, and if that’s impossible, I pull them aside at a meeting.”
He goes on to say, “When you bring correction, do it with kindness. If you have to call a man a dog, call him a big dog.” Once again, Bishop Coleman’s humor shines through.
4. Faithfulness to God and to your mission is the most important attribute of all.
Success doesn’t often come quickly or easily. You have to stick with it and not give up. There will be times when people will let you down. You will think that they are with you, and they will leave. Or they will talk about you or get angry over minor things.
Then the finances may not be what you were expecting. You may have to work hard – and even do without for a season – to fulfill God’s purpose.
The key is not to stop. Just keep going, with faith in God, and you will succeed.
As Bishop Coleman and Mother Ann shared these tips, I could definitely see that they had been followers of their own advice. They are exemplary people, hard workers, kind, and unstoppable.
These two have definitely been trailblazers during the 73 years Bishop Coleman has been in ministry. They have been at the helm of an awakening which transformed the lives of many people across north Mississippi – and beyond.
May you be a trailblazer, too!
P.S. This is an adapted excerpt from my book, Extraordinary: The Remarkable Life of Bishop Hardy Lee Coleman, Sr. Available in paperback and on Kindle at Amazon.com