Each of us in ministry longs for spiritual health and gospel success. We desire fruitful and effective ministry. No doubt much our perceived ministry success is beyond our control. We cannot save people because salvation is God’s prerogative. We cannot foresee all the challenges that will confront us in the coming year. And we cannot anticipate the heartbreak of our congregants.
But there a few things that are somewhat within our control this year. By giving attention to them, we can avoid unhealthy patterns of belief and behavior that will limit our effectiveness.
1. Avoid believing that your ministry depends upon you.
Sometimes we hold too tightly to the glorious burden of pastoral ministry. We act as if our church’s success or failure is singularly because of us. No doubt pastoral leadership and preaching are important. But we are not indispensable. Our ministries are only interims. Our ministries depend upon God.
2. Avoid believing everything your critics say about you.
It is wise to listen to our critics and attempt to learn from them. But if we buy into all that our critics say about us, we might experience leadership paralysis. Believing our critics can also be reflective that we fear man.
3. Avoid believing everything that your supporters say about you.
It is wise to listen to those who encourage us. But we must avoid the pursuit of their praise. Identifying ourselves as all the good things people say about us is not really honest and can lead to spiritual pride and independence from God.
4. Avoid speaking too quickly.
We can make our own problems or exaggerate ministry challenges by speaking without thinking. Sometimes, we just need to be quiet. Not every situation requires our voice. Pause. Think. Pray. Speak when necessary.
5. Avoid leading without collaborating.
Likely, we’ve all been there. We’ve had the idea that is just the right thing for our church. But it was not received well, and now we are discouraged. Sometimes, it is not our ideas that are the problem. Often, it is our method of vision casting that is the problem. We failed to collaborate with others and build a coalition that will strengthen our vision and share in the implementation.
6. Avoid preaching without the power of the Holy Spirit.
In preaching it can be very easy to rely on our giftedness, our skills, and our study. But power in our preaching does not flow from our gifts, our efforts, or our skills. Power flows from the Holy Spirit. Make sure you pray and seek his power before stepping into his pulpit.
These unhealthy pastoral patterns can damage our ministry effectiveness, but this list is not exhaustive. What other unhealthy patterns can you think of that we should avoid in the new year?