While God is always teaching me new lessons, there are some things I wish someone had taught me years ago. Honestly, someone probably did teach me these and I was just not listening.
I wish someone had made me learn …
1. I Am Responsible for the State of My Soul. I am saved by grace through Jesus Christ. God wipes me clean and makes me new. After that I have had to learn that it is not my parents, my spouse or even my Church who are responsible for my spiritual growth. I must take the initiative to read, to learn, to serve and to grow. The Lord can put situations together and the Church can make everything available but the work is up to me.
2. Take Time to Develop Healthy Relationships. Great relationships do not just happen on their own. They take time together. That time together involves speaking and listening. Our marriage is like it is because of what we have or have not done. It is important to schedule time to develop relationships with our parents, our spouse and our friends. If you do not your relationships will suffer.
3. People Will Leave the Church All the Time. Early in my ministry I thought that if I preached a good sermon and was a nice guy people would come to Church and never leave. That is simply not true. People, even people I care about deeply, will leave for dozens of reasons. Some leave because of their family, others for the programming, and others from the lack of commitment. I once heard Lyle Schaller tell a Church congregation, “You are all going to quit, leave or die. I can’t count on any of you to be here in the future.” It’s true.
4. The Best Ministry is Seldom Programmed. The Church is usually at its best when people live out their faith in simple and beautiful ways. It happens when someone invites a person over for lunch. It happens when we make a quick stop by the nursing home. It happens when we write a note to that person God has laid on our heart. Church programming often comes off as half-hearted and forced. My biggest prayer is not that the Church will develop a program for everything, but that individuals will see a need and fill it.
5. Leadership will make or break a Church. This one cannot be overstated. The Church is always in desperate need of good and Godly leaders. This can mean your traditional elders and deacons, but it also means ministry leadership. When someone has a burden to do a ministry and they step and lead out of the depths of their faith something amazing happens. There is energy and joy and people’s lives are touched. Most Churches try to lead ministry by committee. It is seldom an enjoyable experience for anyone.
Each and every one of these lesson I have found to be true over and over again. Each year of my ministry God has underlined these truths in my heart. While I often forget them, I am trying to let these basic lessons guide my life and ministry. I hope you find them helpful.