This Monday, November 10, marks my first full year as the Lead Pastor at Prairie Flower Baptist Church. In other words, I have survived my first full year in the ministry! I am so very grateful and thankful to be the pastor of such a vibrant, growing flock. We have accomplished much this past year, and I cannot wait to see what God has in store for us in the next year.
So…what have I learned in my first year as a pastor? Answer: Many things and below is a snapshot of some of the major lessons I learned this past year:
1) God is incredibly merciful. Friends, it is significantly easier to preach a sermon than to live a sermon. Practicing what I preach has been (and will probably continue to be) one of the most challenging aspects of my public ministry. Don’t get me wrong…I love God’s Word…I love the privilege I have to study it each week and to explain it each Sunday, but living these truths in the Monday through Saturday of my real life is difficult. I have stumbled and fallen many times this past year…that is why I am so thankful for grace and mercy!
2) People love communication. I have learned that you can never over-communicate. In fact, people remember most what you repeat most. This is especially true in the context of a non-profit organization. People love to be in the loop. One phone call…one blog post…one announcement…or one message is hardly sufficient for people with busy lives. They need active, efficient information that is communicated in a variety of different ways. I have learned that an informed people are a happy people – at least most of the time.
3) I desperately need my wife. The Bible states in Proverbs 12:4a, “An excellent wife is the crown of her husband.” So true. There have been many moments this past year where I have felt defeated or depressed, but my wife has always been right there…ready, willing, and able to lift up my head and to point me in the direction of Jesus Christ and the Cross of Grace. She has kept me grounded and humble, always reminding me that preachers, like everyone else, need rest and fun too. She smiles when I preach about Jesus, but I do believe her heart sings when I start to look like Him as well. I can honestly say that I understand our great God better because of the love and support of my wife. I have learned that preaching God’s word every week is an incredible joy, pastoring a growing church is exhilarating, but having a good wife in the ministry is priceless.
4) Fear dominates my heart. This is perhaps the most sobering reality that I have learned about myself this past year. That is to say, I am dominated by fear of man. I truly fear what people think of me. Will they like me? Will they accept me? Thus, I become almost petrified with any little criticism or negative comment that comes my way. This is wrong…this is sin…but it’s true nonetheless. Yes, I have made this a matter of prayer, but this is something I battle nearly every day in the ministry. And let me say this…if you are looking for everyone to like you in life, don’t go into the ministry – don’t pursue a leadership role. I have learned that there is no secret to success, but a surefire way to fail is to try to please everybody…this is simply impossible. I have made Galatians 1:10 my prayer this past year, “For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ.” I have learned that there will always be critics…there are always unhappy, disgruntled congregants, but at the end of the day…I seek to please Christ, not men!
Well, there you have it. Four lessons learned in one exhilarating/exhausting year. And yes, God has been so good. He has proven to be so faithful…and I long to continue to serve Him and Prairie Flower Baptist Church for many years to come. I don’t know what the future holds, but I do know who holds the future…and that, my dear friends, provides comfort.