The experienced pastor and author John Ortberg responds to a question on Scott McKnight’s blog. The question is “knowing what you know now, what would you focus on from the beginning of your ministry”. His response is:
If I could begin ministry all over again, I would spend time seeking to become a healthier person, emotionally and spiritually. I spent a chunk of time serving in an area where I simply did not fit well, where some of my deepest convictions were not congruent, because I was not self-aware enough to have a clear sense of what I valued and believed. I was stuck in a tradition and setting that was familiar and comfortable, but where I did not feel like I could truly be myself; where I could not really talk about the ideas and beliefs that resonated most deeply in me. And I needed people’s approval too much to be able to serve them well. And my neediness made me too defensive to be able to learn from the criticisms that are inevitably a part of ministry.
If I could start all over again, I would spend more time in solitude getting ready for ministry. I would have spent more time getting feedback from people who knew me best. I would try to walk through the pain of letting go what I thought I needed to do and who it was I thought I needed to be so that I could have served with more freedom and effectiveness. I would try to put less pressure on my wife to be committed to my success, rather than to embrace her own gifts and calling.
I would have read Dallas Willard sooner.
Reading into my own situation what does this mean? Yes – solitude and seeking God for what and where to minister, and doing this more. Perhaps is means doing less stuff, or at least prioritising better so that the urgent but unimportant doesn’t crowd out the non-urgent but important. Perhaps it means finding out the gifts that God has given me and ministering from them, delegating where appropriate.
And perhaps it means reading Dallas Willard…