How do you know when God is closing one door in ministry and opening another?
I get this question a lot and have previously addressed it, but recently I have received it more frequently, so I decided to write about it again. (I always note that this post is written about my experiences for people who may currently need it.)
Several times in my ministry, first as a layperson and since then in vocational ministry, God has called me to leave one ministry and begin another. It can be a scary place to face the unknown, yet know that God is up to something new in your life.
Through the ministry of Heal Your Servant, we have four scheduled weekly conference calls. Every call is unique, and most are filled with surprises. Sometimes we will have one person on a call, and other times we have several callers.
On a recent phone conversation, I had one individual call in. I introduced myself. He then gave me his name. As is customary, I began a short prayer, asking God for His wisdom.
I concluded, and instead of hearing the words, “Amen,” I heard, “Why do you do this?”
It was as if the Lord had been preparing me for this question.
The youth ministry I grew up in was amazing. I was offered so much activity and was infused with so much passion that I was always serving somewhere.
Each week started with Sunday school, followed by Sunday service and a meal out with fellow youth groupies. Sundays ended with the evening service. On Monday nights, we went street witnessing, on Wednesdays we had youth group (all of the “mature” students served in multiple capacities), and on Friday nights we did ministry at the nursing homes.
My spiritual life was packed with social activities and service opportunities, and I owned my kingdom responsibility. I wanted to make a difference, and I wanted to win the world.
I have been doing some form of pastoring for almost 30 years, and I have certainly been a sucky pastor on many occasions. So, I hope you can learn from my failures and use them too. Here are seven ways I've been a sucky pastor at some point or another.
1. I was a sucky pastor when I allowed myself to get burned out. I forgot a very simple fact: If you don’t take care of yourself, you will not be able to care for others! A burned-out leader is a dangerous leader. Please care for yourself emotionally, and make sure to do whatever it takes to fill yourself up on a regular basis.
John, a leader in a church I assisted as a consultant, admitted to me what I’d heard before from seminary students and church leaders alike: “Dr. Lawless, I don’t always pray like I should. I know better, but prayer isn’t easy.”
I’ve heard something similar so many times that I’ve begun asking for more details. These findings are anecdotal, but here are my general conclusions about why church leaders struggle with prayer.
Once in a while, a pastor has to make a tough call.
Do you speak out on a controversial issue or not?
Yes, you could come down hard on the latest political correctness issue dividing the country and enraging both halves.
You could address the racial matter driving the liberals crazy and inflaming the conservatives to near-incineration.
You could take a public stand on what your community is experiencing, knowing that many on both sides of the issue are upset with the others.
Some will insist you should take a stand.