Please Pray for Your Pastor Today

This message is for those of you who have pastors, not for those of you who are pastors. It's simply a request that you pray for your pastor today.

Why today? Many pastors find Mondays discouraging. It's part of the weekly rhythm that pastors experience. On its own, it's not a big deal.

But some pastors are already discouraged. They've been under attack, or they're dealing with criticism, or they've been hurt. Pastor's wives also struggle with this. Many times they hear criticisms but have little chance to respond, and aren't there when things get resolved.

The more I hang around pastors, the more I learn that many are hanging on by a thread.

Your pastor may be doing great, but I doubt he'd complain if you prayed for him today. But your pastor may not be doing well. Please pray that your pastor will rest in God's grace, find strength and nourishment, and will be filled with courage to face the challenges of a fresh week.

Please pray for your pastor today.

What I'm Learning

Here's some of what I've been learning lately:

The importance of learning - One of the smartest pastors I know always says that he's learning from me. At first this puzzled me. Now I've figured out that he approaches every conversation with a learning mindset. He models for me the importance of asking good questions. I'm learning from him how important it is to continually learn, not just from books but from others and from life.

The importance of finding good role models - For years I had a lot of the right theology, but not many examples of people who were applying that theology effectively in a similar context. Now I've discovered quite a few and it's helped me a lot. Some of these models are ones I have to observe from a distance, but others are friends. I love guys who are robust theologically, clear thinkers, and neck-deep in ministry. Every time I'm around them, I'm encouraged.

Trajectories matter - I've watched people in ministry long enough to see the trajectory of their lives. I can see how easy it is in ministry to become embittered and wounded and less healthy. I get that. I also see some pastor friends who seem to be increasing in humility and grace and exude joy. I'm trying to learn everything I can from them. Coincidentally, these guys have a solid grasp on the gospel and are working out the implications of the gospel in their lives. They demonstrate for me the importance of watching one's life and doctrine closely (1 Timothy 4:16).

The importance of church planting - My ministry has been about church renewal more than church planting. I have a growing desire to be part of church planting as well. Some of the most effective ministries I see are church plants. I'm growing to see the importance of church planting more than ever before.

I'd love to hear what you're learning.

What I'd Do Again

Billy Graham got me thinking about what I'd do differently if I could turn back the clock 20 years. I do have regrets, but there are some things I'd do again if I had the chance.

I'd learn from others again. I've been privileged to learn from some amazing pastors. I knew that I needed good role models, so I purposely looked for opportunities to intern under pastors I respected. This was one of the smartest things I did.

I'd build a strong network again. I'll never forget a meeting that went off the rails when I was a young pastor. I needed pastor friends then, and I had them. I've been intentional about building relationships with other pastors, and this has enriched my life and ministry deeply.

I'd take the long view again. In many ways, ministry isn't measured in months or even years. Taking the long view has helped me weather some situations that looked pretty bleak in the short term.

I'd make midcourse corrections. I can look back and see a couple of major midcourse corrections that I made in the course of my ministry. Of course, I'd prefer to have been heading in the right direction in the first place, but I'm glad that God graciously allowed me to repent and to grow. One course correction involved preaching; the other involved a shift toward gospel-centered ministry.

Tomorrow I'll post on a few lessons I'm learning right now. I'm interested in hearing what you would do again in your ministry if you could turn back the clock and do it all over again.

Some of My Regrets

I've been pastoring for almost twenty years now. This is long enough to look back and wish that I had done some things differently. Here are just a few.

I wish I had prayed more. This one has to go to the top of the list.

I wish I had studied more. I can pinpoint times in my ministry that I was sloppy in my sermon preparation. I can't tell you how much I regret this now. In terms of other study, there are books that sat on my shelf that I should have read sooner, and other books that I read that should have gone in the trash.

I wish that I had understood myself more. Now that I'm in my forties I have more of a sense of who I am and what I'm called to do. I also have more of a sense of my limitations. This only comes with time, so I don't know how much I'm allowed to regret this. Maybe I'm just glad I have a stronger self-understanding now.

I wish that I had been more fad-resistant. I wish that I'd stuck to the core and worked out the basics of ministry focused on Christ and his work rather than getting caught up in the latest books, conferences, or movements.

I wish I had focused more on discipling others. The work of the ministry is people. I wish I had been more intentional about targeting and discipling men.

This could be a horribly depressing list. One of my friends asked me recently if I struggle with regret. It was a liberating question for me, because it helped me realize that God's grace is enough even for the mistakes I've made as a pastor. My trust isn't in my record with its ups and downs but in Christ.

Tomorrow I'll be posting on some things I'd do again.