30 Things I’ve Learned in 30 Years of Ministry

Thom-RainerIt was 30 years ago that I began serving a small rural church in southern Indiana. I was so incredibly green then; I’m glad I didn’t always realize it.

I loved those people in that church and, for some reason, they loved me too. I had to be one of the most inept pastors in history, but they just continued to show me grace and love me even more.

Three decades later, I reflect back on what I’ve learned in ministry. Some lessons came rather naturally; others were very painful.

  1. God is always faithful. Always. Always. Always.
  2. My family is my greatest gift beyond my salvation. I wish I always realized it.
  3. I spent too much time worrying about things that I can’t even remember today.
  4. I took too many criticisms personally. Most critics weren’t mad at me.
  5. I always grow stronger when I spend time in the Word and in prayer.
  6. My wife endured a lot in our ministry. I needed to minister to her more.
  7. When I can laugh at myself, I am more effective in ministry.
  8. I learned to be more compassionate through the deaths of my parents and grandson. I can now understand the pain many experience.
  9. I am always hurt when I hold grudges.
  10. I need to ask for forgiveness more quickly.
  11. I need friends to share both the joys and the challenges of ministry.
  12. I wish my sons had not seen my frustrations when I was a pastor.
  13. Life is short. Live it totally for Him every moment.
  14. Some of my most miserable days came when I grew jealous of others in ministry.
  15. Some other miserable days came when I lived to please people rather than God.
  16. Children are young but for a season. Some of my greatest joys have been with my three sons.
  17. I’m not nearly as smart as I sometimes think I am.
  18. I am always wiser when I listen to the wisdom of others.
  19. The devil is always looking for a way to trap me (1 Tim. 3:7).
  20. My success is not measured by the size of my church or the prestige of my organization.
  21. I’ve had a lot of grace shown to me. I need to pass that gift forward more.
  22. Some people who disagree with me have proved right.
  23. I need to mentor more men.
  24. I am rarely as diligent I should be sharing the gospel.
  25. Every church has some really mean people. God has called me to love and serve them too.
  26. I fight pride more often than I’d like to admit.
  27. Some of my worst moments in ministry were when I lost my temper.
  28. Encouragement works better than harsh words.
  29. I need to read more.
  30. My grandchildren are almost perfect.

What have you learned in ministry? What can you add to this list?

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Thom S. Rainer is the president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. For the original article, visit thomrainer.com.

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