REAR VIEW MIRROR WISDOM

For our recent church staff retreat our senior pastor asked me to reflect on my 44 years of ministry. He asked me to share what I would do the same, and what I would do differently, if I had it to do all over again. I settled on four things I would do the same and four I would do differently. I thought some readers, whether working as a member of a church staff or not, might enjoy reading a shortened version of what I said.

If I had it to do all over I would make the same moves I made. During my 44 years of ministry I made two moves and a third one following what I thought was the conclusion of my work as a pastor.

My first ministry was as a part time youth minister while a student. Upon graduation I became full time, stayed just over another year, and then after five years moved to Philadelphia to lead a small church. In some respects my years of youth ministry were the most exciting and fruitful.

I stayed almost 10 years in Philadelphia with a loving congregation and had the privilege of continuing my education at Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Princeton Theological Seminary, and Temple University. Although the church did not grow numerically as much as I would have liked, our 10 years in Philadelphia were great years for me as a pastor and for our family. We left the East Coast and moved to Southern California to plant a church.

I had the privilege of planting Discovery Christian Church in Moreno Valley, and after 30 years as senior pastor, I stepped down as I thought it was time for a change in leadership and I was running out of gas. We stayed two more years and then moved to Amarillo to be close to our grandsons. There are no adequate words to summarize our satisfying and fulfilling time in California.

In looking back I don’t think I stayed too long or left too soon in any of my three ministries. I do, however, think it is interesting that there were a few people who were negative about each of our three moves — not about our leaving, but about where we were going. (I am currently the part time pastor to seniors at our church and also the Bible teacher at our local high school.)

If I had it to do all over I would show more grace and more quickly admit when I was wrong. With the passing of time I did become more gracious, but not as early as I should have. I also matured to the point of being willing to acknowledge mistakes. One of the greatest examples we can set for others is to admit when we were wrong and ask for forgiveness.

If I had it to do all over I would again make my personal growth and learning a priority. I was committed to reading as much as I could to keep on developing professionally in ministry, intellectually, and in my walk with the Lord. I was pleased that every former staff member who spoke at my retirement thanked me for challenging them to keep on reading and growing.

If I had it to do all over I would do less; I would not preach as much as I did or feel the need to be involved in so much that was taking place in our church and ministry. I would share more of the load with the competent staff members who were a part of our team.

If I had it all to do over I would again make my family a priority. I never told them they had to do something, or couldn’t do something, because I was a pastor; I challenged them to do or not do certain things because they were Christians.

While our children were young Friday night was family night and we stuck to it. Jan and I went to every game or event in which our children participated that we possibly could. We wanted them to know they were important to us. We also regularly planned and took family vacations.

If I had to do it all over I would be a better son to my parents. One of my regrets is not being more involved with my parents as well as being more intentional about having our children involved with their grandparents. Of course, distance was an issue, but I could have done better and wish I would have.

If I had to do it all over I would again deal with church staff the way I did; showing them respect and love as well as supporting, protecting, and caring for them. I was not too open to receiving criticism of them and tried to give lots of public recognition for the good God added to our church and ministry through them.

If I had to do it all over I would make sure I defined success appropriately. In looking back, I’m not sure I always did. Sometimes pastors focus too much on what bigger churches are doing and rob themselves of the joy of their own church’s progress.

As we all know, we don’t get to do things over. The challenge, and our hope, is that we don’t do too much damage, and that we learn along the way. I am grateful for the opportunities I have had in ministry and for the request to look back and reflect on them. I hope my observations are helpful and thought provoking.

(If you would like to read more about my experience in ministry you may be interested in a book I wrote after I stepped down from Discovery entitled A Pastor and the People: An inside Look through Letters. Click “my books” on this site to learn more about it and/or how to order it. Let me know if you would like to read the introduction and I’ll email you a PDF.)

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NOSTALGIA?

For the past several years while on road trips and listening to oldies but goodies on the radio, the music has taken me back to my time in high school. Up until recently I would tell my wife the songs made me melancholy, but I don’t think that is the best word to describe my feelings. Last week I watched a video on Facebook posted by a guy I went to high school with of Simon and Garfunkel singing “The Sounds of Silence” and commented on the post: “listening to this takes me back and impacts me in ways I don’t fully understand.”

As I reflected on my comment, I wondered if nostalgic was a better word to describe my feelings. I looked the word up and the dictionary definition of nostalgia gets close to describing what listening to the music instills in me: “a sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations.” While I do not have a “sentimental longing” to return, I do have a “wistful affection” for my years of high school and college as well as “happy personal associations.” As happy and excited as I was to graduate from high and college, I clearly remember those were not the only feelings I had the night I graduated from high school and the day I graduated from college.

So much was going on not only in my life, but in our nation and the world during those eight years from 1965-1973. I’m sure readers who experienced those years remember the seismic changes, the progress, the unrest, and the tragedies. There certainly was a mixture of “the good, the bad, and the ugly.” I would guess those who are younger have heard reports and stories about what were tumultuous years.

As I write this post I am back in Cincinnati where I grew up and lived until 1975. This afternoon I drove back to my hometown, through the neighborhood in which I grew up, past where my high school used to be, and by a variety of other places. I had dinner with a high school friend I haven’t seen in 48 years. Tomorrow I’m having lunch with two long time friends from my youth ministry while I was in college. I am not feeling melancholic, but I do have a lot of wistful affection.

Even though it can be cruel at times, memory is a precious gift. It’s not just the music of my high school and college years that make me nostalgic, but lots of other things as well that remind of the life I have lived to this point. I am grateful as I look back, and optimistic as I look forward. And I am reminded of the truth of three trite phrases I have often heard and repeated myself: “things will never be the same,” “we can’t go back,” and “life goes on.” But that does not mean we cannot remember the past with wishful affection.

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photo credit: Steve.Bernacki <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/50194260@N00/3856900987″>Simon & G-funk</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;

LOOKING BACK – TWO YEARS LATER

This week marks the second anniversary of my stepping down after 30 years as the founding and senior pastor of Discovery Christian Church. The last two years have been interesting and challenging; and I thought it would be good for me, and hopefully interesting to you, to share some of the things I have learned.

It’s not the same for everyone, but change is hard for me.

Being the pastor of a local church has been one of the greatest blessings of my life.

I love to preach and teach the Bible.

There is a lot about being a pastor that I miss; and also a few things I don’t miss. In some respects guest preaching is the best of both.

When you have been preaching for 40 years at first it is hard to sit and listen; but with time it gets easier and becomes to you what you hope your preaching was and is to others.

Churches, pastors, and people are different—and that’s a good thing. No one should insist that people, pastors, or churches all be the same.

Teaching at the university level is not as easy as it may appear; teaching is great privilege, but grading papers and tests is tedious.

Some university students don’t really care to learn, some want to learn, and some care too much about their grades.

Some friendships endure, some fade over time.

Even after all these years I am not finished learning the Bible or growing as a Christian.

Some sins are really persistent.

The respect that comes to a pastor/professor from so many is gratifying but also humbling—and I’m not saying that just to sound good.

Getting older is not as bad as some people suggest; but neither is it a piece of cake.

I love to play golf (even though I’m not very good).

Writing books is difficult but fulfilling; selling them is not one of my favorite things to do.

Posting a weekly blog is a good discipline that does a lot more for the writer than the readers.

Speaking of discipline, healthy eating and regularly exercising—as a diabetic—is a real challenge.

It’s a lot better for others and yourself to be patient, kind, pleasant, and understanding. Why be a complainer, a grouch, or a critic?

Being easily angered is nothing to be proud of—look it up in the book of Proverbs.

I am pleased with and proud of my two children—Audrey and Rob.

I love being a father; but being a grandfather is also wonderful.

I have made many mistakes as a pastor, husband, and father; unfortunately, I can’t do any of it over.

My wife Jan is the most generous, selfless, and loving person I know or have ever known.

Looking back, I’m confident the timing as well as the process we followed in my stepping down after 30 years as pastor of Discovery Christian Church was right.

To conclude on a seasonal note, 15 m & m’s are not even half of what ought to be in any packets we pass out for Halloween!

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Photo courtesy of Jan.

SURELY BEEN GOOD TO ME!

When I went to bed earlier tonight I took a moment to thank God for the opportunity, privilege, and challenge to preach this morning at Westwood Hills Christian Church. I hope it is obvious why I call it an opportunity and privilege, but the challenge aspect was that it was a totally new message/sermon from an assigned chapter in the New Testament: I Corinthians 6.

As I lay in bed thinking about God’s blessings I began to reflect on my life going back to my childhood, years in high school, time in college, and beyond. I thought of friends with whom I had so many experiences and so much fun, of adults (parents, teachers, elders, preachers, youth ministers, and professors) who had such an impact upon me, and the wonderful people in the four churches I served over the course of 44 years God brought into my life who loved me and whom I loved.

There is also the blessing of my wife, Jan, to whom I have been married 42 years; our daughter, Audrey, and son Rob; and our two grandsons, Bobby and Ryan.

For some reason a song we sang in my youth group when I was in high school came to mind that I could not get out of my head. I got up and went to my computer to see if I could find the lyrics and had no trouble at all finding the song. Here are words of the chorus with the words as I remember how we sang it:

Singing Lord, Lord, Lord; surely been good to me,

Singing Lord, Lord, Lord; surely been good to me,

Singing Lord, Lord, Lord; surely been good to me,

That is something the world couldn’t do!

Do you ever have times like this? If you do I’d love to hear your thoughts. Leave a reply below or send me an email at bobmmink.com. Feel free also to share this post on social media. Now I’m going back to bed.

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/24566159@N00/2451480923″>Thank You Note Letterpress</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;