3 Worst Mistakes I’ve Made as a MinisterPosted on: September 10, 2015, by : Jeremy A Walker
There are a great many failures that I have made as a minister, but when I look back at my ministerial life, I am confronted with a few overarching themes that derailed the work of my church. I look back and notice that some, if not all, of these failures corrupt the message of the gospel. It is with that in mind that I try to illuminate these failures, and shed light on the truth of the gospel. It is in my weakness that Christ is revealed to be strong. I’ve ranked these in order of the level of destruction I have seen as a result of them being made.
Failure #3: Trying to separate Discipleship from Evangelism.
For whatever reason, I believed in my early years of ministry that a message was either Evangelistic or Discipleship oriented. I thought that to share the story of the cross of Jesus was to engage evangelism and to dive into the depth of the Christian walk was discipleship. But that is simply not true.
The truth of the matter is that we cannot separate Discipleship from Evangelism. We cannot separate them because Jesus didn’t make a distinction between them. When he spoke to his disciples about what it meant to put their faith in him, or what it would look like to follow him, he spoke of both of these activities as if they were synonymous. He made statements like, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” Matthew 16:24
Jesus doesn’t talk about having to pray a prayer, then get baptized, then start to follow Jesus. He says that the daily activity of the follower of Jesus is to intentionally follow Jesus.
So how is this a bad thing?
The problem comes from my distinction between people I thought were Christians, and those that I thought were unbelievers. I made a distinction about people based on things I could see, not things that only God could see. I began to tailor my lessons based on what I thought a person or group needed, not what the Lord would have me to say. Instead of teaching the whole word, I taught simple fragments of scripture that were less than what they could have been.
Failure #2: I thought my private life could stay private.
Oh what a fool I was. If anyone has ever been in a leadership role in the church, you can attest to the fact that our personal lives have an enormous impact on those who follow us. If we are unfaithful in one area, we will be seen as unfaithful in another. The standard for Christian teachers is high because we are given authority over the flock. Authority that comes from the Father carries a demand for righteousness as well. This isn’t to say that a teacher/preacher/minister can be perfect, but that a person’s desire to war against sin is as important as their study of the scripture.
When students hear the lesson and it is brought from a heart that is broken before the Lord, the Holy Spirit is faithful to see good work being done in the hearts of those who hear. However, when a wicked heart attempts to convey Godly thoughts, the ear of the listener will be shut up by a God who will not be mocked. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve delivered a lesson/sermon that should have been effective, but it wasn’t. It had great foundation in the scripture, it was carefully and clearly delivered, but because my heart was corrupted by sin, my message was weak and without Spiritual Power.
The solution is simple. I must always be on guard to make my personal life as public as possible so as to deny the evil one the ability to take hold. I must make my heart open to my students, and show them what it means to fight against the flesh and battle against darkness. Only then will they see that this life we are called to live is one of victory. Not on our own merit, but on the actions of our Christ.
Failure #1: Thinking it was about me.
This is almost self-explanatory, but I’ll try to elaborate. I’m sitting in my office on a Thursday morning looking over the group I have signed up to go to an event. Youth Camp, Mission Trip, D-Now, a Retreat, or whatever event was coming up, and I look at the number and my heart begins to sink. It sinks because I allowed Satan to link a number to my value as a minister. I let him determine the focus of all of the work that had been put into the event. I let him convince me that the success or failure of the event was a direct reflection of me.
I find myself in my office agonizing over the decision that one of my students made recently. He/she chose to continue to act in a way that was unhealthy, and they are now paying a serious price for that decision. I think, “If only I’d done more…” (or some other self-centered statement) I let Satan convince me that I can save a kid. No need for Jesus. I Got THIS!
I notice that the room is sparsely populated one evening. A few faces pass by the window and I immediately think, “They think I’m doing a bad job. I better come up with an excuse for the low number…Oh, I know. I’ll remind them that the school is really busy these days and we have kids who are very active…yea…that’ll work.”
I notice that on one particular Wednesday evening I don’t have enough chairs. They weren’t removed from the room, we just have enough kids to fill them all and more are coming in the back. By the time the lesson starts, the room is packed. Smiling faces are everywhere, and we’ve hit a new record attendance. A few faces walk past the window and I know they’ve seen how many kids are here. I immediately start thinking, “That’s right! Who’s the man??? Bet you’ve never seen this many kids here at one time before, huh! Guess somebody needs a raise!”
When I make ministry about me, I rob God of the glory he deserves. I make success or failure about me, not about him. The fact is, a group of 2 kids are as important as a group of 200. We struggle to believe this, but it’s true. The success of a church/ministry is not tied to a leader, it’s tied to Jesus.
Ministry is a hard thing, and I don’t do it perfectly. But these are some things that I am actively trying to combat. I want to make sure that the Lord has complete control over our direction, our lessons, and our activities. If I am to be the man that God wants me to be, I must be willing to get out of the way and yield to his direction.