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Joe McKeever: My Seven Worst Mistakes as a Pastor

In terms of the will of God, coming here was no mistake. Only humanly speaking might it be seen that way. However, God is sovereign and He did some mighty wonderful things as a result of this faith decision: gave us a precious daughter-in-law here and then three super grandchildren, a church with a world of great friends, and then after 14 years He moved me into the leadership of the local Baptist churches just in time for Hurricane Katrina!

The point is God can bring good out of little. He knows what he is about. OK. On to my list of worst pastoring mistakes.

1. I should have found a mentor early in my ministry and made good use of him.

After majoring in history in college, I began pastoring. Not exactly great preparation for this work. My efforts were like trying to invent the wheel. I started from scratch in every sense of the word. What I wish I had known—and had the gumption to act on—is that behind the door of almost every Baptist church (and a lot of others) was a veteran preacher who would have been glad to spend time with this kid pastor and help him. All I had to do was ask. And I didn’t.

I didn’t ask because I didn’t know they were available. So I tried it all by myself. Over the years, I’ve worked to mentor a lot of young preachers. I remember what it was like being in their shoes.

2. I wish I had become a better, more disciplined student of the Word.

Now, my hunch is most of my professors thought I was a pretty good student. I made good grades. Not the best in the class, necessarily, but did well enough to get into the doctoral program without taking anything of a remedial nature. But I knew I was coasting.

What I wish I’d done back in college was to get with some excellent students and copied their study practices. As it was, I seemed to do as little as I could get by with.

Wish I’d applied myself more in the study of Greek and Hebrew. I took the required courses and enjoyed them. But I needed another year of each to have enough skills to function. When I meet a veteran pastor who can open his Greek or Hebrew Bible and read it, my heart is filled with admiration.

3. I wish I had made myself buckle down and begin to write books over 30 years ago.

I’ve written articles for Christian magazines almost from the time I finished seminary. The list of published works (like that) probably would number in the hundreds if there was any way of running them all down. But all along, I’ve wanted to write books. Over the years, I did write a couple and when the publishers turned them down, they were relegated to the closet floor. No telling where those manuscripts are now.

My dad was probably pleased by the eight books of cartoons I did with Baker Book House of Grand Rapids. They sold a combined total of 300,000. But he once said, “I want you to write a real book.” And I understood completely what he meant.

One day a few years back, I was wandering in Lifeway Christian Store on the campus of our New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. A man whom I did not know, and to my knowledge have never seen since, said to me, “You don’t need to be buying them. You need to be writing them.” Pow.

I’ve been trying. And on this blog, I have enough for a dozen or more books. But to organize and edit and then see them through to publication and marketing—those are major issues entirely. Sure wish I’d mastered this years ago!

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Joe McKeever has been a preacher for nearly 60 years, a pastor for 42 years, and a cartoonist/writer for Christian publications all his adult life. He lives in Ridgeland, Mississippi.