This year I am approaching 35 years in ministry. I’ve served as a singles pastor, discipleship pastor, teaching pastor, church planter, and as a lead pastor where I currently serve. I’ve served in the Deep South (the land of grits), the Southwest (the land of Mexican buffets), the Far West (the land of fish tacos), the Mid-West (the land of Chicago hot-dawgs), and now in Canada (the land of poutine; I wondered what that was too. Google it). Three kids, one grandchild, and four books later, each experience has made me a more rounded leader. Yet, as I look back, I think I’d have done a few things differently. Here’s a list of my do-overs.
Do you know how to let go? Let me pull a page from my story to help you think through this question. Over the years my wife has left a trail of young couple’s Sunday school classes and ministries. In each church we served Judy started or expanded such a ministry. However, she has always done something that caused me to cringe, at least until I saw the wisdom of her actions. She builds a healthy class, trains leaders and turns the ministry over to the class members. In short, she knows how to let go.
Henry Ford once told a leadership team, “Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black.” Obviously that opinion did not last. Ford Motor Company, at some point, had to change. We now see cars of every color imaginable.
1. I should have found a mentor early in my ministry and made good use of him.
After majoring in history in college, I began pastoring - not exactly great preparation for this work. My efforts were like trying to invent the wheel. I started from scratch in every sense of the word. What I wish I had known - and had the gumption to act on - is that behind the door of almost every Baptist church (and a lot of others) was a veteran preacher who would have been glad to spend time with this kid pastor and help him. All I had to do was ask. And I didn’t.
This article was birthed while cutting and clearing trees on my property. It is amazing how God shares insight and inspiration when we least expect it. When we put our minds in neutral God speaks to our subconscious minds to give us clear thinking and (usually) some of our best work. The best work phrase is not my assessment of this article. LOL!
Several years ago I got a tweet that a large church in the southeast was starting another campus in the county where I started a church more than 20 years ago. The new church started out with more than 1,000 attendees on day one. The church I started finally reached 500 after 14 years. I must confess that unpleasant emotions crept into my heart when I read this tweet. The curse of comparison had reared its ugly head. When we pastors compare our work against others, what are we doing to ourselves?
A few years ago I was running in Philadelphia. It is one of my favorite cities in which to run. I love the Fairmount Park System because I can run for miles in new territory.
On this particular day, I set out to explore a several-mile loop around a portion of the park. Shortly into my run, I entered the park in front of a young college-aged girl running at the same pace with me. (I assumed her identity based on the college sweatshirt she was wearing—and the proximity to a local college.)
Silence is an awkward visitor! This past week my wife was away visiting friends and family. The silence created by her absence created an empty spot in my spirit while she was gone. I talked to our dog Lucy more than ever. She seemed to understand. At times like this I can sense the loneliness widows/widowers face. Silence is a companion to loneliness.
How would you define the thought behind this statement? "I have been very zealous for the LORD God of hosts; for the children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone am left; and they seek to take my life." I Kings 19:10 (NKJV) Obviously the title of this article reveals my take away on this statement by Elijah. Do pastors struggle with self-pity?