I know. When you read the title, it is abundantly clear that there are more than four things I would change in the fifteen plus years I’ve spent in ministry. But for the sake of time and all things holy, I’ve narrowed it down to my own version of a top four sort of thing.
As I look back over my years of ministry, there are so many things I am glad I did and have been a part of. Things like taking high school students on stateside and overseas mission trips, and standing with one foot on either side of the equator. Leading a VBS in inner city Minneapolis under the direction of a sweet elderly lady named Doris, who I’m pretty sure was old enough to have gotten off the ark with Noah. Or building a house from the ground up for an underprivileged man in 100 degree heat. Or being a part of city- wide outreaches and seeing hundreds of people place their faith in Christ.
I hope you understand that these aren’t bragging points. Far from it. They are simply glimpses of ways God has chosen to involve me in His work throughout my adult life. And for these I am very grateful and undeserving. But having spent some time looking over the events of my past, particularly my past in public ministry, I must admit there have been some pretty deep regrets to go alongside the good times. I’ve chosen in this blog to share a few of them with you. Don’t worry. I’m not about to jump off a cliff. I just feel the need to be very transparent with how I view a few specific things I’ve experienced under the banner of church work, with the desire to not repeat them.
#1 – My own hypocrisy of leading students to love and serve people unconditionally at other places (i.e., overseas or across the country), while failing to provide consistent opportunities for them to do the same at home. Don’t get me wrong. I love missions work and missions projects, and we did take advantage of some great opportunities in our own area. But it wasn’t nearly as “lifestylish” as it could have or should have been in my opinion. It’s not that we didn’t provide opportunities, but I needed to bring in a much more balanced approach in this, starting with leading by my own example. There is just something deeply hypocritical of the picture taking opportunities of students loving on kids overseas or in some other land away from home, which do not also translate into picture taking opportunities of those same students loving on kids and serving in their own back yard.
#2 – I have been more committed at times to church “rules” than I have been to the hearts of the people affected by those rules. Let’s be very honest. Very few churches are what I would consider to be healthy churches. Healthy churches require healthy leadership and healthy structures in order to thrive. You can take this however you feel led, but I have watched the democratic rule of church government absolutely ruin churches, stunting their growth and keeping people divided with business meetings that in no way honored God. I have also experienced under-accountable pastor-led hierarchy turn awry, leaving all kinds of lasting debris. If I had it to do over again, I would have put my foot down and fought much more diligently for the good of people and fought much harder against the tide of church political correctness or unhealthy church systems. On the other hand, I don’t regret one bit of time and effort and energy spent investing into people’s lives and trying to do everything I could to help better the local church. Though sadly, one experience rarely comes without the other.
#3 – Allowing the downsides of ministry to rest on my shoulders as I walked into the doors of my home. I don’t think this was dramatic or extremely out of balance, and I’m pretty sure my family would testify to the same. But I know without a doubt that I spent way too much time being emotionally absent rather than present at home during certain phases of my ministry. And time, as you know, is one of the many things you can’t get back.
I want to press pause for just a minute. You may be thinking that my attitude right now is one of negativity and woe is me blah blah blah. It isn’t. Or that I’m wallering in the sea of past regrets. I’m not. The joyful memories of my time in public ministry FAR outweigh the negatives. But I also think there are appropriate times to be a little more honest about our assessments of the past and hopefully grow toward a much healthier future as we seek to serve Christ and others.
#4 – Missed time with people outside the church walls. I was no recluse by any means. But there’s just something about time spent where people live their life that seems to deepen relationships like nothing else can. Moments I needed to cherish as a church leader, I often rushed through just to get it marked off the calendar.
I have no idea what any of this means to you, but I hope in some way the thoughts I’ve shared from my perspective as a minister will encourage you and inspire you to take thought of how you are spending your days. Feel free to share your thoughts on this, as well as any ideas of things you would like to do differently in days ahead in whatever God has called you to.