If you’re reading this, you’re older than you’ve ever been.
That’s no big deal. Right?! But age should mean something in terms of maturity.
I’m still shy of the half-century mark. However, I’m not the same man I was when I started in ministry. My approach when I began was, well, naive and less mature.
I thought I knew everything I needed to know. I thought my giftedness was going to revolutionize my region. That’s the nature of naivety.
The older I get, the more I know I need to grow more. But quite honestly, there are weeks when I feel inadequate. There are dark moments when I think, “I have no clue what I’m doing.” Then I remember where I came from and see that I have grown.
Granted, some people grow older but do not become better. Experience alone does not mean improvement. But evaluated experience from various mistakes can cause leaders to improve dramatically.
I’m serving in what I will describe as my fourth major assignment as a God-called church leader. I’ve seen a lot more than I initially thought existed, led through a lot of egregious seasons, and learned a lot from those experiences.
What’s different about me? A whole lot!! But I’ll only point out three that might help my ministry peers.
1) I don’t wait around for permission to lead. That’s what God called me to do.
When I was a younger man, I assumed I needed permission to do anything other than preach and teach. Nowadays, I presume more leadership than ever. Granted, some of this has to do with organizational culture.
Nonetheless, there’s a vast difference between the assumptions of my past and the pastoral leadership I now presume daily. That doesn’t mean I act as a lone ranger. I listen to staff and welcome input from my council, but it’s up to me to lead.
2) I don’t take it personally when people refuse the invitation. It’s my responsibility to give it and theirs to respond.
If you think I should have always thought way, you’re right. But I haven’t. However, that caused me to improve. I needed to look outside of my circle and learn different methods.
I ain’t too proud to beg. Yet, I now refuse to think it’s my fault if people don’t respond. I lament it on Sunday, and by Monday morning, I’ve mentally moved on towards the next service. In every service, some souls need to commit to Christ, holy living, and deliverance from an assortment of vices. God is always willing to help every soul, but the decision to call upon Him and receive is their responsibility.
3) I don’t take the highs and lows as epic indicators of my success. They are just different legs of the journey.
Consider the emotional ups and downs that are a significant part of the ministry. I like to celebrate every little high, and I try to accentuate them with gratitude. But many emotional lows come along, too, because we are people, and people let each other down.
I’m also thinking about the attendance highs and lows of worship services. People get consumed with their own lives, and their attendance usually does not reflect my leadership. Sadly, many people base their attendance on the weather or attend services when they can’t think of anything better to do. God is not impressed with this lack of discipline. And I refuse to get depressed about it.
God and His Word define my success. I am successful because I’m faithful to God’s call for my life, and I’m growing in the gifts He’s given me. If I am devoted to those two, and my relationships with those I love the most are in harmony when I die, I’ll consider myself having finished well.
Let me sum this up for my ministry-minded peers. 1) Learn the big difference between what it means to assume and what it means to presume. If you know the way, then lead. 2) Learn to refuse responsibility for others’ free will. It’s their responsibility to follow God’s leadership. 3) Learn to define success as what happens throughout the journey. Don’t be led astray by the highs and lows; grow on.
I want to learn from you too. So consider this question if you’re near or past the half-century mark. What are some life lessons that are clear to you with the advantage of Spirit-filled hindsight?