We all make mistakes. And God can use all of our mistakes, missteps and mess-ups as essential ingredients in transforming us into his masterpieces!
Over the last 27 years of full-time professional ministry, here are my 10 worst ministry mistakes:
1. Not prioritizing prayer
Until 2008, prayer was the caboose, not the engine, of my ministry efforts. Sadly, it took The Great Recession to see true progression in my prayer life. Now prayer, specifically intercessory prayer, is driving my ministry efforts forward in ways I never could have imagined. Learn from my mistake in this area and let prayer propel your life and ministry efforts forward (1 Timothy 2:1-8.) You will not regret it because God will do “exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or imagine …”
2. Putting ministry before marriage
Twenty years ago my wife and I had a blow up during a Bible study where I eventually came clean about my “mistress” called ministry. It was embarrassing (since I was the pastor of the church) but liberating at the same time. The cat was finally out of the bag because everyone in our church soon discovered (thanks prayer chain!) that there was a giant pain point in our marriage.
This phenomenal church rallied behind us and helped us make strides in our marriage. Since then we have experienced steady progress toward victory. I thank God for a loving, strong and committed wife who has been willing to journey with me through a quarter of a century of failing forward toward a healthy marriage.
3. Separating evangelism and discipleship
For years I viewed evangelism and discipleship as distinct Christian priorities. There was growing deep in disicpleship and then there was going wide with evangelism. But over the years God has made it clear to me from his Word that both are so intertwined that separating them risks breaking something precious.
When Jesus said to his disciples in Matthew 4:19, “Follow me and I will teach you to fish for people,” he forever linked evangelism and discipleship. As my friend Doug Holliday says, “Any disicpleship that doesn’t begin with evangelism and end with evangelism is not Biblical discipleship.”
As a result of this realization, we have identified seven values that can help any youth leader build a youth ministry that is effective when it comes to winning teenagers to Christ, equipping them to grow in their faith and unleashing them to reach others. Apply these seven values in your youth ministry context and you will discover the power of keeping evangelism and discipleship side-by-side, not separate.
4. Ready! Fire! Aim!
Last year I had the privilege of going to a shooting range with a ministry partner and he let me shoot his sniper rifle. He coached me through the process and really helped me learn how to aim. He explained to me that an inch off the bull’s eye at 100 yards means completely missing the target at 1,000 yards.
What’s true in shooting rifles is true in leading ministries. If we are one inch off the bull’s eye God has for us in ministry, we may completely miss the mark a decade from now.
Working with great “sharp shooters” like our President, Debbie Bresina, and our Vice President of Ministry Advancement, Phil Hildebrand, has helped me slow down, take a deep breath and take true aim before I squeeze the trigger. This ready/steady process has moved us from a “Ready! Fire! Aim!” ministry to a “Ready! Aim! Fire!” one.