I couldn’t help it. I just started thinking about the other 10 lessons I’ve been learning, and up came a few more. So…I’ve laid them all out for you here just as I have done in the previous article.
So here we go!
- Learn to be humble, or God will humble you Himself. Humility isn’t about walking around with our head to the ground, it’s about realizing and walking in the reality of who we are in light of God, and knowing why we do what we do. If we begin to think the ministry flourishes because of us and because of what we can do…then God won’t mind humbling you to remind you. Most times, if you don’t handle this with God in private, He will expose it in public. I think most would agree, handling it in private is a FAR better route.
- It isn’t about you. Sorry folks, if you go into the ministry thinking of all the ways to build up your own empire, you will find out soon enough how quickly your empire will fall. It may not happen right away, but ultimately your kingdom will crumble. God doesn’t need another Napoleon for a pastor…He needs another Paul.
- You are not an island unto yourself. As much as it hurts to have people come in and out of your ministry on both good and bad terms…these moments cannot define us as a pastor. They cannot force us into isolation. Isolating ourselves doesn’t protect us from the slings and arrows of the enemy. It doesn’t keep us from harm. In fact, I would dare say it does more harm than good for your ministry overall as people begin to label you as unapproachable, or cold, etc. If ministry is about people, we cannot be an island unto ourselves.
- You’re going to make mistakes; own them and learn from them. It’s true. You’re not perfect. On this side of heaven, you may never be. And you will make mistakes both great and small. The best thing you can do is own them. Don’t blame-shift. Don’t try to hide it. Own it. Be transparent enough with your flock that you messed up and then learn from it. Don’t just say, “Yeah I messed up” and then leave it at that. Let that be a teachable moment so that you don’t repeat said mistake.
- Don’t let your mistakes paralyze you and keep you from moving forward. Like I said, you’re going to make mistakes. The Lord knows how many I’ve made. But the key to this is not allowing your mistakes to paralyze you from moving forward in your ministry. Our mistakes do not define us. They may be our teachers, but they cannot become us. The moment our mistakes “become us” is the moment we have succumbed to the paralyzing effects of failure. As the old song goes, dust yourself off and try again.
- Be teachable. Yes…you as the pastor are probably the primary teacher in your congregation, but that does not mean you suddenly stop being a student. The moment we stop learning is the moment we stop growing. Every time we prepare for a sermon…we are being taught. Every time we interact with a member in our congregation…we are being taught. Every time we make a mistake and then correct it…we are being taught. Every moment is a moment for both teaching and learning. Never stop being a student. Ever.
- There can be freedom being bi-vocational. Look, every pastor desires to be full time in their ministry. And no doubt, when a pastor has to be bi-vocational, it brings with it some limitations. Your schedule may not be as flexible as you like. You may not be able to make all those wonderful pastor conferences, breakfasts, and weekday gatherings that you want to be part of. But there can be a sense of freedom being bi-vocational. For instance, you become less concerned about what you are teaching and preaching because the threat of losing your income is greatly diminished. I know it seems odd, but think about it…how many of you want to jeopardize how you care for your family? No one! So, many pastors are hesitant with what they preach, say, or do because it may cause people to leave. And if people leave they take their money with them. And if they take their money with them then your ability to care for your family diminishes. BUT, if the church is not your sole means for taking care of your family financially, then suddenly that burden is a lot lighter and you feel more at liberty to speak on the things you may have otherwise avoided. In my last article, I did say pastors shouldn’t allow the potential of people walking to prevent us from touching on certain things. So I’m not contradicting myself here. I’m just speaking of reality from experience.
- Betrayal happens. If Jesus, God in the flesh, was not immune to being betrayed (by not one but two of his 12 closest disciples), then what makes us think that we ought to be immune? It’s not a question of IF, but a question of WHEN. That said, this doesn’t make betrayal any easier. Especially when it comes from those who we deem closest to us. Please note that this shouldn’t mean that we become people walking around constantly suspicious of those around us. But, there does need to be a certain level of care taken to guard our hearts regarding the inevitable.
- You are not alone. Sometimes it may feel like it. But you are not. If you are actually alone, it’s because you put yourself there, not others. I have found that when I felt alone, God always had a way of reminding me that I was not alone. He would send people to me via email, text, a call, or in person to let me know how much they love and appreciate me and that they stand with me. Those moments stay with a pastor. Especially when their words prove true. I recall a certain Old Testament prophet who struggled with this as well. Elijah thought he was alone. But God reminded him that there were thousands of faithful ones. We may not have thousands of faithful ones to us, but I can almost bet that there are more faithful to us than not. Don’t let the ones who aren’t distract from the truth of who is.
- Don’t be a bull in a China shop. Change takes time. This is one of the hardest lessons I have learned. Especially as a young pastor. I so wanted to see effective change happen in my church that as soon as I took a position in a church I was flipping tables and changing everything I laid my hands to. Sometimes change takes time. A pastor must use extreme discernment on how fast they push change with their people. Too fast and people will turn on you. Too slow and people turn on you. Learning how and what and when to communicate is also key. But always keep in mind that change will almost always take time. And probably more time than you anticipated. But if we are willing to acknowledge this and work with this, then we will see a tree of fruit that will have deep strong roots.