Twenty years ago today I started working in vocational ministry. My first ministry job was as an Assistant Youth Pastor at a church in Goldthwaite, Texas. As I've looked back over the last 20 years of my ministry career & life, here are a few lessons I've learned (in no particular order...)
20 Lessons In 20 Years
1. God has been incredibly good to me. The last 20 years of my life God has used me in ways disproportionate to my own skills & abilities and has given me opportunities beyond my wildest dreams.
2. Ministry is better with a best friend. I did almost 10 years of ministry without Johanna by my side. It's better...and way more fun...when your best friend is your partner in ministry as well.
3. It's all about Jesus. Ministry is good. Church is good. But Jesus is better.
4. There is nothing that fills my should and creates fire in my heart more than seeing people far from God find life in Jesus Christ. I'm addicted to life-change!
5. Don't EVER, EVER, EVER sacrifice your kids and family on the alter of ministry. The church will find another pastor. My kids have one dad.
6. Don't do ministry alone. Bring friends along. Make life-long investments in people. I feel bad for the pastors who say "it's lonely at the top." Life's too short to live that way.
7. Believe in people. I believe that the biggest contribution that I've made to developing leaders over the years is believing deeply in people & releasing them to do what God has created & gifted them to do.
8. Choose grace. If given the option, always choose grace. It sets you apart from the rest of the religious world.
9. Have fun. Ministry can be hard. There will be difficult days. But I GET TO do this. So have some fun.
10. There is no substitute for hard work. If you're in ministry, you have ZERO excuse for laziness. Dreams don't work unless you do.
11. Say thank you. You didn't get here alone. Leading in ministry means there are tons of people helping you accomplish God's call on your life. Let them know you appreciate them.
12. Get some mentors. My life has been INCREDIBLY BLESSED by some amazing mentors & spiritual fathers that have poured their lives into me. It's made me a better husband, dad & pastor.
13. Break down barriers to the cross. Don't put "secondary" stumbling blocks that keep people from coming to Jesus. Keep the main thing the main thing.
14. Learn to hear from God. Tune your ear to his voice & follow his lead.
15. Grind. Ministry is hard and sometimes tedious. Get up everyday and GRIND.
16. Don't believe what they say. You are not as good as they say you are. But you're not as bad as they say you are either. Listen to Jesus.
17. Being a dad has made me a better pastor & leader. There's something about being a physical father that helps you become a better spiritual father.
18. Love people. Mess and all. That's what Jesus wants.
19. Never put religiosity before relationship. Here's what people want to know: Can I belong before I believe? Can I come to the family before I come to the faith?
20. Jesus is enough.