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Joe McKeever: My Seven Worst Mistakes as a Pastor

4. I failed to master the craft of preaching early enough.

What I needed was one-on-one instruction from a mentor. The classroom classes on preaching did not work for me. I was too much of a rebel, I’m thinking, looking back. Too determined not to make my sermons sound like everyone else’s. And therefore, I failed to pick up some needed pointers on basic sermon preparation that could have made me more effective much earlier.

I’m 70 years old. (I started to add, “If you can believe it.” lol. You can, but I can’t. As Thom Rainer said toward the end of his article, “This life is so incredibly brief.”)

I feel that I’ve finally learned to preach. Not as good as anyone else, but just the way the Lord wants me to do. As far as I can tell, I’m preaching the best I’ve ever done right now. A little late, perhaps, but one does what he has to.

5. I wish I had achieved a proper balance in my self-confidence and kept it.

I was in my mid-30s and pastoring the wonderful First Baptist Church of Columbus, Mississippi. A missionary who visited our church and sat in the congregation said to me later, “I have never seen a preacher who is so relaxed in the pulpit.” I’m still trying to figure out whether that was good or bad.

I think it was a reference to my cockiness. Over-confidence. The feeling that “I can do this.”

In time, the Lord would send along some church members—and in one case, an entire church—with the assignment to clip this young upstart’s wings. And they did. I went to the other extreme in my confidence, even wondering if I could do this at all.

Somewhere in the middle is the road. It’s a confidence in the Lord Jesus Christ, a confidence that He called me into this work and is accompanying me, and “it’s about Him, not me.”

6. I wish I’d had a stronger, more consistent prayer life through all the years.

Everyone says that, don’t they.

It’s true. Period.

7. I regret that I was not a consistent and persistent soul-winner for much of my ministry.

Very early in my pastoral ministry, I set myself to learn how to approach strangers and steer the conversation to spiritual things and to lead those responding to Christ. When we brought a pastor or evangelist to our church, I would take him visiting with me in order to learn from him. I attended the conferences, took the training, did the work and led a lot of people to the Lord.

So what happened? What happened was that the pastoral work gets busy, the denomination calls, the phone rings, the invitations to do this or that multiply, and soul winning visiting and even casual witnessing become a thing of the past.

I’ve heard this story from numerous pastors over the years. Some were successful in holding to their evangelistic personal work, but only by saying ‘no’ to other things. It requires a discipline that I did not exercise and wish I had.

Thank the Lord I’m still alive, still in the work and still have the opportunity to finish strong. That’s real big in my book right now.  

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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.