“When it’s all said and done, what do you want to be known for?”
That’s a great question. One that I’m hearing more and more regularly from men whom I respect. It’s one that, if we’ll allow it, can really shape how we do things as leaders. I’ve heard that Ed Stetzer and Mark Driscoll had this conversation. It’s rumored that someone had the same conversation with Rob Bell. While I cannot substantiate either conversation, there has always seemed to be this common chasm for Pastors between how we think others perceive us and how we’re actually perceived. So when we consider our “legacy” (if you will), or even our “Kingdom” reputation, it’s a question certainly worth exploring.
Below are some thoughts I read recently from a minister of 57 years. He was asked the question, “If you had the opportunity to do it again, what would you change?” It’s kind of like the same question but from the other perspective. I decided not to give the name of the Pastor, it’s really irrelevant to whether or not we should or could identify with his statements. I’d just challenge each of us to let the statements stand on their own. Take ’em or leave ’em.
Question: If you had the opportunity to do it again, what would you change? What would you do differently?
1. First of all, I would do nothing until I had been filled with the Holy Spirit. I would lock myself in with God and not come out until I was absolutely sure that His anointing and empowering were upon me. As a young pastor, I knew nothing about the baptism and filling of the Holy Spirit. That loss was tragic to me and my congregations.
2. I would develop a life-style of prayer that was unrelenting. My “closet” would become more important than my pulpit; my private devotion more prized than my public preaching. My meditation more valued than my ministry. My continuous conversion to Christ and death-of-self would become my greatest pursuit. I would be more concerned about “glowing” than showing.
3. I would zealously commit more Scripture to memory and seek its deepest meaning. I would let the Bible speak for itself rather than listen to others’ claims about it.
4. I would seek to love everyone more eagerly, more generously, more obviously.
5. At the same time, I would waste no effort on insincere Christians and “false brethren.” While I would cultivate a merciful spirit, I would confront and expose religious tradition, falsehood, abuse, without hesitation. I did not always know to do that. Everyone suffered because of it.
6. I would focus on a “Kingdom” ministry and nothing on denominationalism. In my later years I came to see the hypocrisy of denominational division; it is a delusion for which truth and integrity are needlessly sacrificed. Good men reject each other for the sake of a false, sectarian identity. Being “orthodox” for the sake of protecting myself or others would never again be a consideration. I would become radical for God rather than remain a decoy for the devil.
7. I would more boldly preach against pride, self-centeredness, false piety, and egotism in my church and leaders; instead, I would expect genuine humility, godliness, sincerity, in all who worked with me. I would absolutely stop the “elitist” spirit in deacons, elders, etc. Everyone holding church authority would submit to deliverance ministry and discerning of spirits or not function.
8. I would fight church politics as a deadly disease.
9. I would never again allow church leaders to usurp a God-given vision for the sake of protecting their own appearance and self-esteem.
10. In many ways I was naive; too trusting. I would never do that again; instead, I would base my trust on people’s verified integrity and not on my assumptions about them. Were I to repeat my ministry, I would seek to be “wise as a serpent, harmless as a dove.” — But, I would definitely be more wise.
11. I would seize every opportunity to learn from older ministers, to explore their hearts and minds, and learn from their successes and failures. In my youth I traveled with men who preached in the 1800’s. I would devour as much information as possible from every stream of church history and intensify my education in those areas that directly benefitted the Kingdom of God.
12. In my personal life, I would more carefully expose everything to the investigation of the Holy Spirit, to Scripture, godly advisors, and my heart-conviction. A God-given ministry is too valuable to be wasted on self-deception, religious hobby-horses, or the previous generation’s prejudices. I would want to hear what “the Spirit is saying to the churches” and move forward with that alone.
13. Theologically, I had to escape my Calvinism long enough to quit blaming God’s sovereignty for all the negative circumstances in life, exercise the spiritual gifts and authority Jesus gave me, and take full responsibility for my ministerial success or failure. I did not do that soon enough.