Twenty Three Years of Ministry In the Rear View Mirror

On the last Sunday in September 1993, I was officially hired to be a preacher at a Church. I had preached several times over my first three years of college as a “supply preacher.” That means I preached one sermon on one Sunday and never came back. I suppose I had already preached at least 75 sermons by the time I was asked to go and speak at Urich Missouri at Christ’s Christian Church. I spoke the first time on Labor day weekend. The handful of people who attended that day liked the sermon enough to invite me back to speak the next Sunday. After three sermons, they held me after Church for a short meeting and invited me to come back every weekend as their preaching pastor. I agreed and that began my life as a preacher.

Since that first Church invited me to preach I have been the preacher in six Churches in four states. I have preached 48 or more times every year except one when I was between ministries. I estimate that I have preached over 1,200 sermons along with giving countless Sunday school lessons, youth group lessons and numerous other public teachings.

For twenty-three years my life has been about ministry. In this time I have learned numerous lessons about Church, about life and being a preacher. Here are a couple of things I wish I knew 23 years ago.

1.You never know when or how God will show up.
Frequently I am amazed at what I see God doing. People’s lives are touched by my worst sermons. Events that seem like failures can produce the most growth in someone’s life. A stubborn person will be exceedingly nice. Serving the Lord will be full of disappointing times but it will surprise you in the most unexpected ways. God usually shows up when we least expect it.

2.Remain faithful to God above all else.
People will come and go. Ministry fads will come and go. Musical styles will come and go. Every year will bring exciting new ideas and old ideas will be buried in the files. Change is a constant in ministry except for God and his word. Stay true to him. Pray daily. Read regularly. Worship completely. Never compromise your faith.

3.There is unChristian behavior everywhere, even the in the Church.
There are people in the Church who will manipulate, gossip and be downright mean. There are people like this everywhere, you just hope that changes when they come to Church. Sometimes they do and sometimes they don’t. Remember that everyone heard Jesus preach including the disciples, the Pharisees and the crowd who shouted “Crucify.” You have to focus on the good people and forget all the bad or ministry will kill your faith.

I know that if the preacher I am today had a chance to talk to me in 1993 I would have a lot to say. These three are the biggest things I would need to hear. I did not expect them. I thought God would show up all the time. I thought ministry methods were enduring and important. I thought the Church was full of wonderful people and everyone would love me. Those things were simply not true. Ministry is a place where I serve God day in and day out and sometimes he shows up and surprises me. Frequently he does it through some of his people in the Church. Real ministry is about serving God and nothing else. Never forget that.


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