I regret a lot of things. I regret the large sums of money my wife and I spent eating out when we were "DINKs" (Double Income, No Kids). I regret not buying a house sooner. I regret time wasted claiming to be "bored". I regret bad car purchases. I regret bad hair and clothes choices. I regret waiting so long to get my weight under control. I regret not dealing with my sleep apnea sooner.
The list goes on and on ... but my biggest ministry regret? That's easy:
Getting in the way of what God was trying to do in and though me because I pridefully thought I knew better than Him.
I was saved when I was 15, through a neighborhood youth Bible study and a dynamic youth ministry. Soon after my conversion, I was serving with friends in Childrens Ministry. I was growing in both faith and maturity, but not necessarily in ability. As high school was coming to an end and with college looming, I was challenged to pick a career path. Knowing I wanted to serve, having had such a positive youth ministry experience in 2 different churches (because of moves), I decided to pursue a youth ministry degree.
I started serving in both Middle School and High School youth ministry at the church I was attending, getting very close with the youth pastor at the time. I moved (again ... "story of my life" ...) back to the area of the church I was saved at and started serving in their Middle School ministry. From there, I helped at a church plant and was given the reins (along with another friend) to the middle school ministry. We started with 6 kids, and 2 years later were averaging in the mid to high 20's. We thought we were good and being somewhat successful, but we were both burned out and soon stepped out of those leadership roles. Assuming God had other plans for me I went to serve in the Childrens Ministry. Then, moving again, this time to be part of a church plant and serve in Childrens Ministry.
Ministry had become my idol. I was willing to serve as long as it would lead me to my chosen career. I was continually putting myself in a position to fail because I was trying to obtain my goal, my way. As I finished college and started to apply for ministry positions, if I got into the interview process, it typically came down to me and one other candidate ... who always got the position over me.
After struggling with depression and fears of failure, I had to ask myself some hard questions:
- What is God's plan for me?
- What does he require of me?
- How do I do that?
As I searched Scripture for the answer to these and other questions, the same theme crossed all questions: FAITHFULNESS.
Psalm 26:3 - For your steadfast love is before me, and I walk in your faithfulness. (ESV)
Proverbs 3:3 - Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart. (ESV)
Galatians 5:22 & 23 - But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. (ESV)
Faithfulness to His message and His methods. God's plan was for me to be faithful to what He called me to, not for a career but out of love for Him. God required that I walk in humble submission to Him and His leading. I do that by relying on the power of the Holy Spirit and following the model of faithfulness that Jesus demonstrated while walking the earth.
I got in the way. I let my ambition for a career come before my desire to be like my Lord and Savior. I wanted it my way, right away. I was too blinded by youth and ambition to admit I didn't have it all figured out. I wasn't being faithful to his message, thinking what I had to say was more important than the way He said it. I thought I had the best method figured out for reaching young people and that it would work wherever God put me.
What I learned:
- I tend to think way too small. God's plans are always bigger and bolder than mine and require us to walk in His strength. His plans are down right scary and stupid to attempt on our own.
- What I'm teaching needs to be in me, having an effect on me, before I ever attempt to teach/preach it. If it hasn't effected my heart, I'm just passing along information, not leading anyone towards transformation.
- Success and faithfulness are 2 different things. They are not equal. Faithfulness is far greater than success.
Are you being faithful to what God has called you to? Do you have any ministry regrets? Leave a comment.