I’ve been a minister for quite a while now. Most of those years have been in three churches. One church was in Florence, Alabama. One was in Kansas City, Missouri. The church I have been with the longest is in Waco, Texas. Most of my duties have included preaching, teaching, serving/leading, and walking with people through some difficult times of life.
After many years I have learned a lot. Here a few things I have learned that make a significant difference in my ministry:
1. I have learned to treasure encouragers. Tonight I am thinking about the encouragers who are in our Sunday morning class and in our life group. Am I ever blessed! Consider making a list of the encouragers in your life. Thank God for them! Consider making a list of those you are intentional about encouraging. Have you thought recently about the importance of your ministry with these people?
2. I have learned that many people behave in ways that I should not take personally. In my earlier years, I took so much personally. Someone would display their anger or say something insulting, and I would immediately wonder what I did wrong. Of course, that possibility always exists. However, I have learned that often I am seeing the overflow of anger fueled by that person’s loss on some other front that has nothing to do with me.
3. I have learned the best thing I can do for the church as a minster is to take care of my life — my spiritual life, my body, my emotions, etc. I have been called to be a good steward to what God has given me. Besides that, far too many people and far too many churches have been hurt by ministers not dealing with their "stuff."
4. I have learned that being spiritual does not mean that I must allow a dysfunctional family or a mean-spirited person to beat me into a pulp. Being spiritual does not mean that I simply be passive and compliant regardless of the actions of another. I have not been called to do whatever a human being in the church might want me to do. For me to do whatever another might want is not necessarily love or servanthood.
5. I have learned that there is no substitute for getting serious about my own formation into the image of Christ. Again, the most powerful thing I can do as a Christian minister is to simply be who I have been called to be. As I reflect upon my life in Christ, I see a person who desperately needs the grace of God. At the same time, I want to begin each day intending to be the person God has called me to be.
6. I have learned the importance of laughter. Genuine laughter at no one else’s expense can add much energy to our lives.
7. I have learned that I am very expendable. The church I am with could find someone else to minister in my place. While I am working in an important capacity, I personally am not essential. I am present with these people by the grace of God.
8. I have learned the freedom of forgetting myself. I have watched men and women over the years who were overly self-conscious and saw how much energy they put into maintaining a certain image. Then, I have seen friends who just seemed to forget themselves (their accomplishments, their gifts, their knowledge) and simply desire to be fully present with other human beings.
9. I have learned the value of listening. One of the greatest gifts that I can give another person is being a friend who listens and never repeats what I have heard.
10. I have learned that the church belongs to God and that it is not my deal! I failed for too many years with this one. For too many years I felt so responsible for what people did and for what the church did. I would internally accept the blame for whatever went wrong because after all, "I should have done something." I have learned that this really is God’s church and is led by God.
What else would you add to this list?