If I Could Start Over (part one)

coffee19.jpgThere are some realities about ministry with and to a church that I wish I had known thirty years ago.  Much of what I have learned about congregational ministry came through study, reflection, and thinking.  Yet, on another level, I have learned so much through the daily experience of this work.  

The following are some truths that I have learned about this kind of pastoral ministry after thirty years of working with churches.  If I could start over with what I know now:

1.  I would know that it is critical that I love the congregation.  There is no substitute for loving these people.

2.  I would know that all ministry is service.  It is first service to God on behalf of people.  Today, ministry is often reduced to a career in which the language of the marketplace has become more pronounced while far too often the notion of a calling has become diminished.

3.  I would know that my prayer life and daily time in Scripture are critical to my ministry.  In fact, these and other spiritual disciplines are incredibly important for anyone who wants to remain fresh for the long haul.

4.  I would know that reading thoughtful, challenging books, articles, etc. is extremely helpful to ministry.  Reading that helps me understand Scripture and the church and broadens and deepens my thinking is invaluable.

5.  I would know that the evil one wishes to destroy every good thing that happens in the life of the church.  It seems that his work is generally focused on corrupting our hearts and consequently diminishing our love for Jesus and other believers in the body of Christ.  

6.  I would know that dealing with the negative emotional baggage in my life can be an incredible blessing to my family and to the church.  Far too many churches suffer from leaders who have never dealt with their anger, their loss, and their sense of inadequacy.

(more later…) 

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

28 thoughts on “If I Could Start Over (part one)

  1. Number 6 is perhaps one of the most important issues hindering those in ministry. Providing adequate emotional and spiritual support during ministry training should be mandatory in every seminary and/or Christian university.

    My take is everyone in ministry needs a trusted mentor/counselor who can help guide him/her through the emotional strain of ministry.

    Will you be in San Diego in February for NPC?


  2. Jim,
    I agree with your points. I would suggest a book by Andrew Purves, The Crucixion of Ministry. I found it very affirming of the lessons I am finally learning in my ministry now that I’ve passed 50.
    He says that it took him until 60 to learn some of these lessons. He suspects that one must experience a degree of frustration in ministry before one is ready to accept total dependence upon Christ in ministry.
    Excellent book. I’ve posted a few quotations at Kingdom Come.
    God Bless,

  3. No. 6 is so important.  How we need leaders who are willing to be honest – about faith, doubt, pride, anger, jealousy, selfishness, lust, despair, hopelessness, sleepless nights, joy, heartache, sorrow, etc.  How can we trust our leaders to deal honestly with scripture (and what an awesome/terrible task that is!) if we can’t trust them to deal honestly with their own thoughts and feelings?

  4. Thanks for sharing these thoughts.  They are an encouragement to me this day.  (Ever get the feeling that someone else is in your head….well for the past week or so YOU have been that someone.  Thanks)  I appreciate the wisdom you share as I look at where God is leading me…and as He speaks to me through your words.  Good stuff.

  5. Ditto to what others have said re: #6. When I finally did that, I noticed a marked “turn around a corner” in my ministry. If I could start again, I would spend far more time in people’s homes listening than I would in a church office.

  6. this is a very encouraging post.  i think it would be encouraging to those that are serving a congregation as well as other believers that are living the faith.

  7. Steve,I agree very much with what you said regarding the need for a trusted mentor/counselor.  What a difference this can make!Yes, I will be in San Diego.  Hope to see you there. 

  8. Mark,I like you comment and the list of concerns you mentioned.  I think that some of us may be aware of what is going on in our emotional life but just aren’t dealing with it.  Some of us many not even be aware.  Maybe a good question might be, "How can I become more self-aware?" 

  9. Ron,I read Purves’ book about a month ago and found it to be encouraging.  I really like what he says regarding depending on Christ in ministry. 

  10. Dave,Your words are very encouraging to me today.  I am glad that what you have read here has been encouraging and helpful to you.I appreciate the comments you make. 

  11. Barry,I think you have hit upon where many of us are.  It is challenging to continually put some of these into practice.  It has been helpful to me to regularly reflect on my ministry to become aware of the gaps.For instance, sometimes, when I do this kind of reflection it will dawn on me that I have really neglected one of these in my ministry.   Then I make adjustments.  Just saying that I face a similar challenge at times and can appreciate what you are saying. 

  12. I look forward to reading the "more later" part of this post, brother. I also agree with the voices who have chimed in on #6. Blessings,-bill 

  13. If I could start over (and, by the way, I am so glad that is not an option!!), I would be much more patient with myself, with God, with my family, and with my church. And I would be much less fearful. If I could have only listened to my own sermons about faith and trust, I would have known that God really is in charge and that everything really will be OK!

  14. Bob,
    I agree with you completely. Unfortunately, much of the structure of denominations make those attitudes nearly impossible. The dirty seceret of Christian leaders is that we really don’t trust God.

  15. Amen to John’s #22. I think it comes with a bit of age and a lot of experience! The older I get the more impressed (and overwhelmed) by grace I become!

  16. Bob,Thanks very much for your comment.  I like what you said.  I too would be more patience with the church.  (At times I have been so impatient.)I also like what you said regarding becoming less fearful. 

  17. John,Well said.  I like the way you said it– "I am amazed at what I am kinder and more gentler about…"Do I ever resonate with this!  In earlier years, I experienced so much inner turmoil over my frustration and dissatisfaction with people.  Being kinder and more gentle with people has also lessened my inner turmoil.