I remember the first time I was called a seasoned pastor. It doesn’t mean I’m wise; it’s just means I’m old.
As a seasoned pastor, I can look back and identify seven mistakes I’ve made, and I’m still tempted to make if I’m not careful.
Not prioritizing my walk with God. George Müller said, “My first great and primary business to which I ought to attend every day, was to have my soul happy in the Lord.” Ministry is an overflow of my relationship with Jesus Christ. When my relationship with God has suffered, everything has suffered, including my ministry.
Not loving my wife like Christ loved the church. There was a time that I didn’t see my family from Sunday night to Thursday evening. I poured my energy into the church, and neglected my responsibilities to my wife. I sacrificed my responsibilities as a husband on the altar of ministry.
Treating church like a business. “The pastors of America have metamorphosed into a company of shopkeepers,” writes Eugene Peterson, “and the shops they keep are churches.” I think we can learn from the business world, but I regret the times I thought of pastoral ministry in business terms rather than in biblical or theological terms.
Not giving enough attention to the ministry of the Word. Sermon preparation is hard. And it’s weekly. There’s always something more urgent that needs attention. I’ve sometimes been undisciplined and neglected to give the ministry of the Word the time that it needed.
Avoiding crucial conversations. Some of my greatest mistakes have been around avoiding tough conversations that simply needed to happen. So many mistakes could have been avoided with a commitment to candor: of speaking the truth with a high commitment to truth and a high commitment to the other person.
Not thinking strategically. I’m a fan of thinking strategically (as outlined in Simple Church) and communicating with clarity (as outlined by Will Mancini in Church Unique and God Dreams), but have often been more haphazard in my approach. I’ve learned that ministry is more effective when we’re intentional about what we’re doing.
Getting too comfortable. J. Oswald Sanders said, “A great deal more failure is the result of an excess of caution than of bold experimentation with new ideas. The frontiers of the kingdom of God were never advanced by men and women of caution.” I’ve sometimes prioritized comfort over holy, wise risk-taking.
If I could go back, I’d pursue these actions instead:
- Prioritizing my walk with God
- Loving my wife by guarding my time with her
- Thinking more theologically about pastoral ministry
- Guarding time for the ministry of the Word
- Holding difficult conversations when necessary
- Pursuing intentionality and clarity in ministry
- Taking holy risks
Seasoned pastors are often humbled pastors who, with God’s help, can learn from their old mistakes. There’s hope for all of us.