While some people stay energized through a lifetime of demanding ministry, others seem to get seriously stuck. What makes the difference?
Let me introduce you to some people (names changed) who project a certain confidence in being, well, stuck.
- Rev. Bennett stopped reading ministry magazines and journals twenty years ago. “Why would I read that stuff?” he asked. “I could write every one of the articles myself—and twice as good as those simpletons.”
- Brenda used her church’s funds to attend a youth ministry conference. But, after the first session, she spent all her time in her hotel room and the coffee shop. “I know more than those lame speakers,” she said.
- Someone invited Cynthia to a ministry forum on homosexuality. She declined, saying, “Why would I go to that? I already know my opinion on that issue.”
- A businessman in the church handed Ben a new book on leadership. Ben thanked him but promptly shelved the book. “What ministry credentials could that author possibly have?” Ben asked.
This kind of know-it-all arrogance grinds ministry to a stale halt. And it leads to bitter, cynical, burned-out, stuck ministers.
Want to avoid this sad stagnation? Want to stay fresh? Want to feel refreshed? Be a life-long learner. Resolve to enter each day with the question, “What can I learn today?”
Let’s see how our four previously mentioned characters could approach their various situations—as learners rather than closed minds.
- Rev. Bennett: Read with a curious heart. Recognize that every writer possesses a distinct background, experience base, and unique perspective—from which you can benefit.
- Brenda: Listen to those you consider below you. Look, with an open heart, for that one nugget you can gain from those whom God places in your path.
- Cynthia: Eagerly go out of your way to entertain views that differ from your own. No one learns anything by insulating and isolating.
- Ben: Pursue opportunities to learn from those outside your profession or tribe. The freshest ideas often come from those in an entirely different place.
Don’t go stale. Allow God to make all things new—every day.
“Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don’t be impressed with yourself. Don’t compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life.” Galatians 6:4-5, The Message.
So, so, true! Our daughter is in 7th grade this year and that has been our ‘educational goal’ – to be a LIFE LONG LEARNER! In some ways our society discourages that, i.e. – graduation. However, learning is actually a blast!!!!, especially from the thoughts, discoveries and life stories of others. My nephew recently found a reprint of an article from Time magazine (1947) concerning C.S. Lewis, Clives Staples Lewis that is. I’m loving it.
Amen! Being a life-long learner is what has enabled me to stay in ministry for almost 25 years and still loving each new day!
I once suggested a pastors website to a young preacher and he got mad at me! I was dumbfounded. He was quite proud of the fact that he hadn’t had any type of schooling. “Taught by the Holy Spirit” was what he liked to say although I didn’t see much evidence of that, either! What I loved most about my Dad, who was a minister for 50+ years and the most knowledgeable person I’ve known, was that he never stopped learning! After all, that’s what the word disciple means: disciplined learner.
Deborah, you are a blessed girl with a dad that taught by example!!!
Thanks. I am a littled downed… just came to Oxford from Korea. Helped me to cheered up.