Reflections on Nearly Three Decades of in Ministry

I’ve now been in ministry for 28 years. I started in February of 1994. I started thinking about…

I’ve now been in ministry for 28 years. I started in February of 1994. I started thinking about what I’ve learned over the years, serving churches of various sizes and types and speaking to and meeting with countless Church leaders across the country.

Over these nearly three decades of ministry, I’ve served at church plants, small churches, medium-sized churches, large churches, and on staff at 3 mega-churches. I’ve served in rural, urban, and suburban settings. I’ve served multiethnic and diverse congregations and homogenous congregations. As a consultant, I’ve been blessed and honored to serve over 200 churches in the last 16 years.

The following are some thoughts that I had while reflecting on my ministry career. These are in no particular order and I’m sure I’m leaving something out. I may add more later. Here goes:

  • God uses weak people for His Glory.
  • God uses broken people. God will break you eventually. It seems that brokenness is an ongoing thing.
  • God uses us despite ourselves.
  • Everyone goes through pain in their life.
  • Hurting people hurt people.
  • Depression is real.
  • We all have highs and lows, mountains, and valleys.
  • Death stings and families grieve – no matter how old the deceased is.
  • God pursues me.
  • Servants/volunteers are precious.
  • As the Word says, “Be ready in season and out.”
  • Often people will come to you for help or counsel and you realize you’re more messed up than they are. Hah!
  • We all stumble and fall – some harder than others.
  • You can’t have success, wins, breakthroughs, and innovations without risks and failure.
  • Smaller churches are usually the most creative and innovative. I watch them for inspiration.
  • Weddings, funerals, and new births happen non-stop.
  • I’ve said it before: Sunday comes every week – it’s relentless!
  • Baptisms are extremely important and special – never take them for granted.
  • Some pastors/ministers are just plain mean. I started to say jerks, but that wouldn’t be nice.
  • Sometimes God asks you to stay somewhere when you’re begging to leave.
  • Sometimes God asks you to leave when you want to stay and fight.
  • Never let a denominational affiliation keep you from pursuing friends in ministry. Some of my closest friends/brothers and sisters in ministry are from different denominations.
  • God can and often does speak through lost people to you.
  • Most pastors don’t know any lost people. I said: “Most pastors don’t know any lost people.” You have to be INTENTIONAL to get out beyond the four walls and form relationships with those that are not like you, don’t believe like you, and may NEVER enter the doors of your church.
  • God’s creation/nature is His gift to you and should not be taken for granted. Let it refresh, refocus, encourage, and inspire you.
  • God changes lives. We simply get to partner with His Spirit.
  • Some people will refuse Christ. I have watched people with blinded eyes reject the Gospel and no academic or theological argument or debate could convince them of the truth. God has to draw them to Himself and open their eyes. You can’t debate someone into the Kingdom.
  • When you feel your weakest, God uses you mightily.
  • The Word truly is a lamp unto my feet.
  • Prayer warriors are God-sends.
  • I’m thankful for my mom, my wife, and a few precious people that consistently intercede and pray on my behalf.
  • Your spouse is along for your wild ride and weathers each storm with you. Sometimes things people say about you hurt them worse than you.
  • Leaders take bullets. Better have your shield up.
  • YOU CAN NOT MAKE EVERYONE HAPPY. Someone will not like you. Get over it.
  • Your devotional life is key. Go too long without it and eventually you’ll get spiritually dry and crash and burn or burn out.
  • Real ministry happens in small groups. Corporate worship is wonderful, but I really see God move in home groups and recovery ministries like Celebrate Recovery and Divorce Care, etc.
  • When all is said and done, the people, the memories, those you’re closest to, those that are so special and you’re special to them, are because of unplanned, out-of-the-ordinary events, crises, emergencies, tragedies, etc. It’s hardly ever your “job” or what you get paid to do or is on your job description that God uses to allow you to grow closer to an individual or group of people.
  • Life is messy. Don’t oversimplify.
  • Stop sending people and money overseas if you’re ignoring your own backyard/city. Some of the poorest and most lost people in the world are in your community. The US is the 4th largest unreached people group in the world. Christians in Africa send missionaries to us. Read that again.
  • I’m still young in ministry and there are many, many far much wiser than I.
  • Don’t boast in your strengths – you can do those in the natural. The supernatural kicks in in your weakness that’s where God’s strength is made perfect/evident.
  • The Bible tells us in Romans 12:18, NIV: “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Be kind to everyone, but give yourself grace and realize you will always be the villain in someone’s story.

I’ll end with 5 quotes from men I respect:

  1. “The world for which we were trained no longer exists.”- Pete Briscoe
  2. “We as a church don’t have a mission. The mission has a Church.” – Reggie McNeal
  3. “As I look back over fifty years of ministry, I recall innumerable tests, trials, and times of crushing pain. But through it all, the Lord has proven faithful, loving, and totally true to all his promises.” – David Wilkerson
  4. Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God.” – William Carey
  5. “Go straight for souls, and go for the worst.” – William Booth