I am writing this article on my 62nd birthday.
Yeah, I’m a real party animal.
Let me shoot straight. I have so much for which to be thankful. God has blessed me immeasurably, none of which I deserve. If my ministry were to end today through death or disability, I could only praise Him for the life and ministry He gave me.
But I am assuming I have a few more years left in ministry. And this point in my life is both a time of reflection and looking forward. I want this fourth quarter of my ministry to make a difference for His glory. To be clear, I want to avoid seven dangers in my last years of ministry. And I know I can succumb to any and all of these dangers without His strength, His mercy, and His plan.
1. Coasting. Lord, show me how to give my all for You. Wake me up to the reality of coasting if I ever move in that direction. Remind me that laziness is not just a bad work ethic; it is a sin and affront against You.
2. Hanging on. I pray I will not hang on for just another paycheck. I pray I will place the timing of my ministry in God’s hands, not my 401(k). I pray I will not love my position in ministry so much that I can’t hear Your voice when it’s time to move on.
3. Weariness. Ministry is not for cowards. Yes, there are the constant streams of human critics but, even more dangerous, ministry is spiritual warfare. I pray I will not grow weary, but find my strength in God through prayer and the daily reading of His Word.
4. Misplaced identity. My identity is not president, pastor, or church staff member. My identity is in Christ. If my identity is in my present vocation, I will not let go when it’s time. I will hold onto the idols of ego, self-gratification, and ephemeral titles.
5. Change aversion. My prayer is I will always be open to needed change, that I will not leave the work of change for the one who follows me. I pray I will still have the courage and strength to make the tough decisions, not to kick the can for another time and another leader.
6. Failure to stay current. It’s a challenge to keep up. Change is hitting us so rapidly. I could get lazy and not read, not be challenged by others, or scream that the way we’ve always done it is just fine. In my later years of ministry, I pray I will not succumb to the temptation of no longer learning.
7. Regret. For sure, I’ve made plenty of mistakes. If I wrote a book about stupid things I’ve done in ministry, it would have to be a multi-volume series. But, in these latter years of ministry, I can’t look back. I can’t wallow in the self-pity of past stupidity. The past is past. I look to God’s future.
Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind, and reaching forward to what is ahead, I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:13-14, CSB)
May those verses be my theme for the years I have left to serve the One who has called me, strengthened me, and given me the great promise of His presence and power.
This article was originally published at ThomRainer.com on July 24, 2017. Thom S. Rainer serves as president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Among his greatest joys are his family: his wife Nellie Jo; three sons, Sam, Art, and Jess; and nine grandchildren. Dr. Rainer can be found on Twitter @ThomRainer and at facebook.com/Thom.S.Rainer.