After 45 years of life I guess it is kind of normal to be looking back at some of your past successes and failures even as you look forward to the years you have remaining. As chaplain for the Toombs County Bulldogs for the past ten years I have observed coaches prepare for their next opponent, Their preparation does not only focus on their next opponent but they are very intent on breaking down their own previous preformance on the field. They understand that to have a chance to win they can’t afford to disregard their own weaknesses and strengths. We can’t afford to spend more time looking back than we spend looking forward but to refuse to learn from our past will limit our ability to finish strong! I still have so much to learn but I would like to share a few things that I wish someone would’ve told me (and some things I was told and wish I would’ve listened to and applied) with the hope that it will make a difference for someone.
- “Do for One what you would like to do for Many”. When I heard Andy Stanley utter these words at a Newsping Church Conference in Anderson, SC. recently it was both challenging and freeing. It was not a call to disregard the needs around us but rather a challenge for those in ministry to be intentional…realizing that you can not be everything to everyone. Focus on “one”, invest in “one”, care for “one” and you will have a much greater chance of that “one” becoming “one” used by God to touch another “one”.
- Listen to and learn from people who are different from you. I have found that one of the greatest blessings in my life is the diversity that I have opened myself up to. If we fear that we may “lose out” or that our convictions will be compromised by listening to or learning from people who may view things somewhat different than we do, our convictions are probably not that strong to begin with. Learn all you can and let your relationship with God and your convictions be strengthened. Beware….the Holy Spirit is very likely to mess some of your “stuff” up. Embrace different races and different cultures and realize that God’s world is a great big world with many things for us to experience and enjoy.
- Just because you’ve “always heard it preached, taught, or shared that way” doesn’t make it God’s Word. I realize that statement has potential to cause some to be critical of this blog but I am so convinced that this has caused many in the church to not take the time to dig into the Word. Too many have relied on the same stories, same messages, and same sermon taglines attempting to survive off of a quick fix rather than committing the time necessary for real personal spiritual growth! Another aspect of this is that we elevate man’s opinion or our own to a place equal to the Word of God. Everything we have heard may not necessarily be truth or what was intended by Scripture. We need to hear the words of Paul as he mentors Timothy, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth” 2 Timothy 2:15 ESV.
- That doing “good things” does not necessarily mean you are doing the “best things”. In ministry it is very easy to say “yes” even when the answer should be “no”. It is so easy to over extend yourself because of fear of letting someone down. The results will most often be frustration, discouragement and even burnout. An honest, sincere, and necessary “no” will be more of a blessing than a careless “yes” to you as well as to the one making a request of you.
- “There is nothing noble about sacrificing your family for the sake of ministry.” Pastor Mark Driscoll may not be a favorite on your list but I was moved by a message I heard him share regarding the value that must be placed on family in ministry and the failure of many “heros’ to do so. Personally I spent too much time away from my wife and daughters. I was caught up in the “sacrifice” syndrome of ministry blinded to the reality that I was not honoring God because of the neglect of my family. There are some ministry things that a very important but none more important than taking your wife out on a date, attending your daughters softball game, and special times when you and your family get away.
- That taking care of your body through exercise and proper diet is vital and a reflection of spiritual discipline. A refusal to be responsible in what you eat and drink shows a lack of self control. Gluttony and drunkenness is sin. God’s Word warns against excess and directs us to a life of moderation for our personal and spiritual health as well as our responsibility to the Body of Christ and the world around us. Exercise requires us to abandon the trap of becoming lazy and can also offer a great time of personal reflection/devotion/worship. Neglect in the areas mentioned above are a greater hinderance than much of the church is willing to admit. Our casual and lighthearted about “fried chicken”, etc. as an excuse for our lack of discipline needs to be replaced with a sincere challenge to live wholly for Him!
I will stop here for now. The list of things I wish someone would have told me (or the things I was told that I wish I had listened to and applied) is my longer than a blog needs to be but I will follow up with more information that hopefully will be a help to those who read it.