Twenty Years in Ministry: A Reflection

I’ve now been in ministry for 20 years. I started in February of 1994. I started thinking about…

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I’ve now been in ministry for 20 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.

The following are some thoughts that I had while reflecting on a plane trip a while back. These are in no particular order and I’m sure I’m leaving something out.

1) God uses weak people.

2) God uses broken people. God will break you eventually. It seems that brokenness is an ongoing thing.

3) God uses us despite ourselves.

4) Everyone goes through pain in his or her life. I’m living proof that there is a purpose to the pain. As Rick Warren says, “God never wastes our pain.”

5) Hurt people hurt people.

6) Depression is real.

7) We all have highs and lows, mountains and valleys.

8) Death stings and families grieve, no matter how old the deceased is.

9) God pursues me.

10) Servants/ volunteers are precious.

11) As the Word says, Be ready in season and out.

12) Often people will come to you for help or counsel and you realize you’re more messed up than they are.

13) We all stumble and fall, some harder than others.

14) You can’t have success, wins, breakthroughs, and innovations without risks and failure.

15) Smaller churches and church plants are usually the most creative and innovative. I watch them for inspiration.

16) Weddings, funerals and new births happen non-stop.

17) I’ve said it before: Sunday comes every week.

18) Baptisms are extremely important and special, never take them for granted.

19) Some pastors/ ministers are just plain mean. I started to say jerks, but that wouldn’t be nice.

20) Sometimes God asks you to stay somewhere when you’re begging to leave.

21) Sometimes God asks you to leave when you want to stay and fight.

22) 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.

23) God can and often does speak through lost people to you.

24) 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.

25) God’s creation/ nature is His gift to you and should not be taken for granted. Let it refresh, refocus, encourage and inspire you.

26) God changes lives. We simply get to partner with “the genius of the Holy Spirit” (as Dave Browning says). I’ve come to learn (the hard way) only God saves. Only God heals. Only God restores. And only God can set someone free from whatever they struggle with (pain, pride, addiction–you name it.

27) 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.

28) When you feel your weakest, God uses you mightily.

29) The Word truly is a lamp unto my feet.

30) Prayer warriors are God-sends.

31) I’m thankful for my wife, my mom and step-dad and a ton of precious people that consistently intercede and pray on my behalf. Don’t be afraid, ashamed or too proud to ask for prayer!

32) 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.

33) Leaders take bullets. Better have your shield up.

34) You cannot make everyone happy. Someone will not like you. Please try to move on and get over it. Not even the President has a 100% approval rating. Leadership is not for the faint of heart. For the tenderhearted, yes, but you must be strong and courageous.

35) Your devotional life is key. Go too long without it and eventually you’ll get spiritually dry and crash and burn, or burnout. I’m speaking from personal experience. Allow God’s Living Word to refresh, revive, encourage and guide you.

36) 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. At my church we say, “Life happens best in circles, not rows.”

37) 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.

38) Life is messy. Don’t oversimplify.

39) Please don’t just send people and money oversees if you’re ignoring your own backyard/ city. Some of the poorest and most lost people in the world are in your community. The U.S. is the 4th largest unreached people group in the world. Christians in Africa send missionaries to us. Read that again.

40) In my experience, it seems every breakthrough or victory by God is followed (and often preceded) by attacks from the enemy. Be alert, full of hope and don’t let the enemy steal your joy. “The joy of the Lord is your strength.

41) I’m still young in ministry and there are many, many far much wiser than me.

42) 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.

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.  â€“ William Booth


*** The above post is an excerpt from my book Church Leadership Essentials available on Amazon through Rainer Publishing (now available in print).