10 Lessons I’ve Learned After 19 Years With One Congregation (Part 2)

In August, I will have been with the Crestview Church in Waco, Texas for 19 years. This is 19 years of preaching, teaching, leading, serving, funerals, weddings, and going to many, many elders’ meetings.

Through these experiences, I have learned a number of lessons. (You can find part 1 here.)


Not every Sunday is going to be a home run day.

Yes, there are those “home run Sundays.” There are those days when everything seems to click and it is so obvious that God has been at work in a powerful way. Most Sundays (at least in my experience) are not like this. You hit a single or a double. You get to first or second base. However, you will be up to bat next Sunday and perhaps will advance another base or two.

I’m saying that it is important to be thankful to God for whatever good is done on a given Sunday. Look for the small moments of encouragement. Be grateful for some progress, however, you often will have to accept this by faith. There are many Sundays when you wonder if you have done any good at all. I’ve learned that I need to trust God and to believe that he will see that the faithful preaching of his Word bears fruit in some way.

It’s all about your expectations.

When I first began preaching, my expectations of people were way too high! I was constantly disappointed in others. My assumptions on the front end were skewed. For example, I thought that everyone who was connected in some way with our church was trying to live right. It wasn’t everyone’s personal weakness that was the surprise but that we were not even united in our intentions.

Meanwhile, my expectations of God were far too small. I didn’t really believe in him to do amazing things through prayer. I didn’t really expect God to do anything in my life. Consequently, I lived with a strange set of expectations for both the church and for God.

I began to grapple with this and lowered my expectations of people so that anything that a person did that was good was an act of grace. Meanwhile, I began to raise my expectations of God, thanking him for the grace that I experienced in him whether I witnessed his power or not.

Your own growth won’t happen by accident.

Growth, development, and maturity often happen during the course of life. However, I have learned that it is very important to be serious and intentional about my own growth. I read, went to conferences/seminars, took classes, and asked many questions of those older and wiser. I learned to do this “on purpose” and developed a rhythm for my own growth.

Today, I continue to do the same. I am still very intentional about my growth. Far too many ministers have become overconfident in their knowledge and skills and have virtually shut down what they used to do for their growth.

Temptation is often sudden and unexpected.

Some temptations I expected and some I didn’t. I don’t think I expected the frequency and the suddenness of all kinds of temptations. Pride, ego, impurity, and hatred can all come racing out of your heart and into your brain within a split second. You read your Bible that morning as you prepare for the day and by noon you find yourself wanting to say something to a friend about a guy you don’t like in order to make him look stupid! I have learned to prepare to be tempted and be humble about the power of temptation.

Discipline can be your friend.

To a minister in a church, discipline can be a welcome friend. There are so many surprises, so many unexpected conversations, that certain disciplines can be a welcome friend. For example, I have found that starting my day early, with an open Bible, book, and journal is a daily rhythm that helps me get oriented to the new day. The first thing I do each morning is make a fresh cup of coffee and begin this routine.

At the end of the day, I go to the gym and work out. This is a discipline that I do 4 to 5 times per week (if possible). This discipline helps me come alive again at a time of the day when my energy level drops. It also impacts how I feel when I go home later. This is incredibly important to me and has given me more stamina for my work.

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