Last Sunday marked 25 years in pastoral ministry. In those years I’ve seen ups and downs. I’ve preached, counseled, led, advised and cared. In looking back it is good to note some things I’ve learned, and even some things I need to remember. In Joshua 4:21-24, the Israelites set up stones to remember what God had done. “…What do these stones mean?… Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground.” It is good to remember. Here is part of my list.
1) People are people. We all come with strengths and weaknesses. People get hurt and hurt others. We try and fail. And sometimes we don’t try. The truth is the journey toward Christlikeness is tough. No matter who we are we want someone to see us and hear us. And sometimes we do some unhelpful stuff to make sure that happens. Sometimes I just need to love, especially because “I am people too.”
2) God is not static. He moves. His grace and love are forever, but they are applied to our lives and situations in different ways and at different times. This keeps God from being a boring, detached part of our lives. He leads and he also responds. There are seasons where seeds are planted, the crops are watered, the heat of the sun grows them and then there is the harvest. But there is no calendar or timetable on God’s growth chart.
3) There is always a time tension. Growth, understanding, and wisdom take time to develop! God works through the decades and the ages. So patience and the long-view are required. But God also shows us urgency. Now is the day of salvation. The door of invitation will shut, either at the point of death or the point of Christ’s return. So while we take the long-view, we have no license to neglect an opportunity.
4) I’m not indispensable. And thank God for that. His work will march on without me. Ahhh, but there is one area where no one can take my place – that is with my family. There are many pastors, but there is only one husband for Kris and one dad for Andrew, Michael, Philip and Jonathan. That must be my primary calling and responsibility.
5) Pleasing people isn’t necessary, but having their support is. It isn’t helpful to “play to the applause.” That just turns our lives and stomachs in knots. But when we rest in the approval of God and serve faithfully, we need people to support us. We all need the friendly arm on the shoulder. We all need to know that when the chips are down, there is someone in our corner. In other words, we can’t serve long alone. We need friends who will tell us the truth. And we need friends who stand with us while doing that.
6) What God has to say is more important than what I have to say. Without His Word or words are meaningless, powerless and fruitless.
7) Credit, Shmedit. It isn’t worth seeking because God deserves it anyway. And who wouldn’t rather live in the glory of God than the glory of man?
In case you’re wondering, most of these lessons have been learned through failure. There are so many times… and they continue, when I forget what it’s all about and who is really in charge. That is why it is good to have times to look in the rearview mirror and remember what God has done.
I thank God for Village Green for the great celebration last Sunday. They love and supported me and my ministry. What a joy! And I thank God that there has always been one person in my corner – – Kris. Even when I failed she saw me as a success. I’ve never had to doubt her love or friendship. And I’ve never had to wonder about her commitment to the calling God has placed on our lives.
What have you learned, how have you grown as you look in the rearview mirror? Please comment and share your thoughts with me.