We are certainly to move forward from past failures and regrets. Paul told us to “forget what is behind and reach forward to what is ahead” (Philippians 3:13).
But we can learn from the wisdom of others, even if it includes their past struggles and failures.
So I asked several pastors if they had any specific instances in their pastoral ministry where they wish they had a do-over, an opportunity to reverse something they said or did.
To the person, each pastor laughed at my question, not because the question was pointless, but because the answer was so obvious. Every pastor has one or more desired do-overs.
Here are the seven most common I heard, with a representative comment from a pastor.
1. Said or wrote something out of anger.
“I wish I could have waited a few hours before I responded. I think everyone needs to put a heated email in the draft folder and wait 24 hours before choosing to respond or not to respond.”
2. Obsessed with one or a few critics.
“I spent way too much time worrying about and responding to just a few negative people in my church. I now realize that my ministry lost its focus, and I neglected the healthier members of the church.”
3. Failed to admit a mistake.
“All I needed to do was to say I made a mistake and apologize. Instead, I dug in and let my pride take control. My ministry at that church never recovered. It was the primary reason I left less than a year later.”