I recently finished up ten years in pastoral ministry and I keep wishing I had a time machine. Not only would I tell the younger pastoral version of myself to emphasize faithfulness and to pray more, but I have a few more that are on my mind (scrawled on a piece of paper that as sitting in my car—which has since been lost in the roughly six months it has taken me to restart this series).
Any time you enter into a ministry job (I think this might generalize to other jobs, but I’m not sure) there is an (often) unstated expectation that you’ll start changing things around. “Where are we headed?” becomes a pretty normal question. Different people have different expectations for their church, and they want to know what you are going to do, and how you are going to do it. That’s all fine and good—I might be the same if the roles were reversed—but these questions put a unique pressure on ministry leaders to get something done and to get it done quickly.
I graduated from Dallas Seminary a little over ten years ago. At that time I was 25 and we were expecting our first child. I knew so much.
August 1st will be the ten-year anniversary of me starting pastoral ministry (in a paid capacity) and will also be the one-year anniversary of my time at Genesis. (I guess I like to start things August 1—perhaps to coincide with the school year.)
I’m still a pastoral ministry spring chicken—at least that’s how I feel. At the same time, I often think about the ways in which my perspective on ministry has changed over a decade. What would I do differently if I could start over? What would I do more of, and perhaps do it with more intensity?
One topic comes to mind almost right away: when it comes to pastoring, faithful is better than fast.
I’m not sure if most think like I do—probably not. Ask Courtney and you’ll know that I’m a bit neurotic. In a few weeks we will hit the 10-year mark since graduating from seminary the first time. Ten years. That’s shocking to me. I’m just a few months from ten full years in pastoral ministry. Honestly, that isn’t much time. I have many more years to potentially flame out, but I pray that I don’t (and would ask you to do the same).
So, in celebration of (almost) ten years, I decided to blog on the dumb things that cross my mind while working at a church. Consider it one part humor and one part personal confession. I doubt most people think like I do, but here are a few things that still cross my mind ten years late.
So, if you’re new (or old) to the blog, then you’ve noticed that I have been writing more. Writing with a great frequency is something that I’ve wanted to do for a while but simply haven’t set up the time for. I’ve started to budget the time and have done a decent job at keeping it. So, for those who do read this blog with any regularity: I have a question for you.
What are some of the best things that I can write about? What are the posts that you find most beneficial? Why types of things do you want to hear? (Ok, those were questions, but they all orbit around the same idea.)
I wrote on Monday on some of my observations about going through a reading plan, memory plan, and preaching plan as a church. I forgot to mention another area where we aligned: our small group discussion. Our groups that meet throughout the week do not have to do a discussion guide that is synced up with the sermon text, but it is provided for them should they want to.
But that isn’t why I’m writing today. Today I wanted to write about a follow-up thought that shows another angle of this aligned approach. This whole plan has been a great discipline for me in how I think about preaching, and I believe it has been good for our church, but there is another side to pursuing corporate disciplines like this and then how to apply it pastorally:
Earlier this week, I wrote about how there is very little in this life that I actually did by my own strength. In fact, the things that perhaps I should be credited for are usually the things that go poorly. If I just slow down—if I just take time to reflect on where I am in life—I can see that it had little to do with my own power and might. With just a tiny bit of perspective I can see that my strength got me nowhere.
Why, then, do I still spend so much time taking credit for things that I had little hand in bringing about? Why do I have such pride in the things that “I” do? For the past three semesters I have been serving as a GTA (graduate teaching assistant) with an online class at Dallas Seminary. It’s one of the intro pastoral ministries classes and the content of that class has helped to remind me as to why I still try and take credit.