In the August 5, 2010, edition of the Baptist Message (our Louisiana state weekly), Lifeway President Thom Rainer talked about 7 mistakes he had made in his ministry. Give him credit, he admitted that if he wrote about all the mistakes he’d made in the Lord’s work, “it would have to be a multi-volume series!”
Before getting into my list, Thom’s deserves a look-see.
He wishes he had spent more time in prayer…given his family more time…spent more time sharing his faith….had loved his community more…had led his church to focus more on the nations…he wishes he had focused on critics less…and last: he wishes he had accepted the reality that he cannot be everywhere and meet every need.
My hunch is that almost everyone who has spent a few years in the Lord’s work can say ‘amen’ to everything on that list. My second hunch is that there is no one among us without regrets we did not do more of this and less of that. In fact, the more years you log in this work, the more scars you accumulate, the more experiences you pile up, and the more regrets hound your attempts to sleep.
“A pastor lives in a world of unfinished jobs.” That’s one of my foundational truths. If the preacher cannot learn to turn it off at night, he’ll never get any sleep and not last. There’s always someone else who needed a call, a meeting that needed planning, a sermon going neglected. There’s always something.
“Regrets? I’ve had a few….” I’m hearing Reverend Frank Sinatra’s voice in my head now.
Want my list? Pull up a chair; this may take a while. I have 10 mistakes as a preacher, 10 as a pastor, 10 as a visionary leader for my church, 10 as a leader of the church ministerial staff, 10 as a denominational worker….
Get the idea? Anyone who does anything for the Lord and mankind in this life is going to do a less than perfect job.
No one wants to grovel in regrets. I assure you I don’t. (Even though I’m still going to give you my list.)
But there is a huge reason for not going into a litany of our failures and mistakes: God works even in our mistakes and can make good emerge from them. As a result, even though we look back and see the times we dropped the ball, we give thanks for what He accomplished through it all.
If you plotted on a graph the “advancement of my ministerial career”–as Paul said, “I speak as a fool”–you might conclude that I made a serious boo-boo in moving from Charlotte NC in 1990 to suburban New Orleans. Until then I had progressively moved upward. Suddenly, I’m taking a nosedive and assuming the leadership of a church one-half the size of my previous congregation. The new church was still smarting from a massive blowup 18 months prior. Money was tight, feelings were raw, leadership was fleeing.
In terms of the will of God, coming here was no mistake. Only humanly speaking might it be seen that way. However, God is sovereign and He did some mightly wonderful things as a result of this faith decision: gave us a precious daughter-in-law here and then three super grandchildren, a church with a world of great friends, and then after 14 years He moved me into the leadership of the local Baptist churches just in time for Hurricane Katrina!
The point is God can bring good out of little. He knows what he is about.
Okay. On to my list of worst mistakes as a pastor.