I have been thinking about mistakes that one can make in a ministry which are deadly. No, I don’t mean deadly in that a person could get reprimanded or even fired over these behaviors (though that is possible). Rather, I am suggesting that these are behaviors that rob us and our congregations of everything that ministry is supposed to be. These are behaviors that can wreck a ministry in a church.
1. Regularly violate the confidence of others. A fast way to lose the trust and the credibility of a church is to communicate what others have told you in private conversation. I once heard a person say, "If you don’t want it spread throughout the church, don’t tell him!" She was talking about her minister. That is very sad.
Conversation is a sacred trust. Men and women will often express thoughts, concerns, feelings, ideas, etc. through these conversations. On more than one occasion I have asked myself, "If I were to repeat what ___ said to me in conversation, would he/she be shocked or hurt that I told this? I have found that simply reflecting on this question has curtailed the temptation to talk when I should not.
2. Let yourself go. Pay no attention to your speech or your conduct. Practice little if any self-discipline. Don’t exercise or make any effort to stay fit. Be a poor steward of your body. Pay no attention to any need for restraint when it comes to spending. Buy what you want even if it means that you are accumulating credit card debt. Does your spending reflect a life that values wisdom or does it reflect slavery to immediate gratification?
The reality? When I pay little or no attention to these kinds of things, my credibility with others may begin to suffer. After all, what does it say when I choose to ignore my daily life before the Lord while I encourage others to get serious about their own daily discipleship? (I may argue that my credibility should not suffer but the reality is that it often does.)
3. Fail to invest in relationships. There are some people who make little investment in their marriages or in the lives of their children. They then wonder why these relationships often suffer deeply at a later point in time. How many ministers have failed to really invest in relationships in the church and then under pressure and stress realize that the connection with the church is really only superficial? How many ministers have gone into churches connecting with those who agree with them and remaining disconnected from those who differ with them over some issue or approach to ministry?
(Note: There are many, many people who have never seen a healthy marriage up close. Some of these same people have never seen a healthy parent/child relationship up close. There are others who have never really seen healthy friendships up close. Through no fault of their own, many of these people grew up in homes where none of these were modeled. I have married couples where the bride or groom had never been a part of a family where a wife or husband function in a healthy manner. (I want to suggest that it might be very, very helpful to seek out good models of what it means to have good, healthy, Christian relationships.)
Earlier this afternoon, I called the 800 number of a firm that handles credit cards for an on-line travel service. I called the number because I received an e-mail yesterday telling me that I owed an amount on their credit card. Hmmm. I don’t even have their credit card. Well, this was frustrating.
When I called the 800 number, I received an automated voice message that said, "Please continue to hold for the next relationship manager." I am not sure what the credit card company meant by "relationship manager"; however, there are times when I wish I had one. After all, investing in our relationships is very important.
I’m interested in what you are thinking. What would you add to these "Deadly Behaviors of Ministry"?