1. I have learned that patience is necessary. Things don’t change in a day, neither do people. Ministry has to be approached as long-term and never as short-term. To think otherwise is to discover that time is not only a healer it is a provider.
2. I have learned that what you learned early will knock on your door again. Things that I received from my Pastor 35 years ago is now becoming useful. Some things I learned as an associate minister is coming to the forefront again.
3. I have learned that ministry is in seasons not in calendars. Every pastoral ministry has its seasons – winter (coldness), spring (renewal), summer (achievement) and fall (melancholy). If you think it will be well all of the time, you haven’t experienced seasons.
4. I have learned that ministry is a continual maturation. I am growing as a minister daily. The Apostle Paul even looked at himself and said “I die daily” and it’s true. There is a maturation that should take place in the life of a minister – otherwise the alternative is immaturity which can wreck a minister and his or her ministry.
5. I have learned that ministry is repetitive. What I go through as a Pastor is not a unique experience. When sharing some concerns about discipleship a pastor told me, “welcome to the club.” There is nothing new under the sun and what we go through in today’s modern church were some of the same afflictions in the early church.
6. I have learned that God wants nothing between you and Him. A few years ago, I held on dear to my reputation and honestly, my pride – and then God stripped both from me in a ruthless and painful manner. It caused great personal pain but looking back, I had placed those things between me and Him. He shook me to free me, He kicked me to release me, and then He broke me to make me.
7. I have learned that titles are not more important than production. I have been blessed with two honorary doctorates, but I no longer go by the title “Dr.” because the title doesn’t make the preacher. Production makes the preacher. I refuse to fall into the category of “he’s okay but he can’t preach” or “he’s a better showman than a teacher.” I don’t want to be known for my title, I want to be known for my service.
8. I have learned that storms are beneficial. Whew… I’ve been through some storms in ministry. But they do something and I noticed it from the last storms in Florida and New Orleans. Storms move everyone off your street. Storms clear the beach. Storms force you inside. Storms inform you that you are not in control. Storms always provide for a rescuer and lastly, Storms prepare you for the next storm.
9. I have learned that God is everywhere. When I was growing up some Pastors in Portland, Oregon called the city “the Preacher’s Graveyard.” Then I moved to Fresno, California and some preachers called it “The Preacher’s Graveyard.” Then I moved to San Diego and some preachers called it “The Preacher’s Graveyard.” Then I moved to Nashville . . . well, you get the picture. To deny God’s power in any city or any situation or any church is to make Him a liar. God is anything but a liar. He can move in any situation, any circumstance, any city. Remember, T.D. Jakes didn’t start in Dallas, he blew up in a small West Virginia coal mining area. Bill Hybels blew up in the suburbs of Chicago. Eddie Long blew up in the suburbs of Atlanta. It’s not where you’re planted it’s how you allow God to do the watering.
10. I have learned that I’m still learning. After 35 years, pastoring, schooling, apprenticing – I can never say “I’ve seen it all” because I haven’t. Generations change. Circumstances change. People change. If someone had told me 35 years ago that the then-dying model of one pastor in several locations would become popular again, I would have said you’re out of your mind. If someone had said 25 years ago that Conferences would eclipse conventions, I would have said you’re crazy. If someone had said 10 years ago that I would find more personal fulfillment in pastoring in the rural areas instead of the “big-city” I would have said no way. But things change.