Most days I feel like I have the best job in the world; I am a missiologist at Baptist Theological College, which gives me the opportunity to engage with ministry practitioners at the cutting edge of what God’s doing globally. I love to be able to be a part of student’s growth and development academically and both undergraduate and postgraduate level, and especially enjoy exposing my students to hands-on mission experiences and observe how God shapes their lives for ministry effectiveness. As Registrar (Provost) I also get to be involved in the academic preparation of nearly 500 Seminary students enrolled in various degree programs, from Vocational Certificates to Bachelors, Masters and Doctoral degrees. The Seminary keeps growing and is drawing multiple denominations and influencing many with a much-needed evangelical, conservative approach. I love my students, I love my role, and have often heard them say; “God loves you and Dr. Des has a plan for your life”. That’s true, and for that, I do not apologize! Apart from my ‘day job’, I get to pastor at Ridgecrest Family Church, where I preach most Sundays and lead as part of the phenomenal team God has put in place. I love the Lord, I love my calling and I am committed to God’s mission, yet I often find myself struggling through some real disappointments in ministry that my training at Seminary had not prepared me for. Ministry is not for the fainthearted, and there are times when regardless of our job or calling, we have to deal with moments of disappointment and even despair. There are times, like many biblical characters, when I am disappointed with Jesus, largely because of my (unrealistic and non-aligned) expectations and when I feel that I have let him down due to my sinful nature and actions. There are also times when I and hurt and disappointed by the behavior and actions of others that profoundly affect my ability to serve God’s purposes in ministry without being cynical or jaded. Allow me to share with you some personal disappointments that you may also share, along with a few passages of Scripture to reflect upon. This is not an exhaustive list of all of my disappointments, or ways that I’ve disappointed people, but may be a helpful reflection for you. Be kind, not critical, as my intent is to share and allow room for openness among pastors, which I know is needed.
FIVE OF MY GREATEST DISAPPOINTMENTS
1. PRIVATE AND PUBLIC SPACE- Private life devoid of dependency upon God discredits our public ministry. What we do in public must be built on authentic, personal relationship with Christ. What we portray in front of people and who we are in private needs to be congruent. Many leaders struggle with this, and because of the church being a high-stress and high-performance/ demand place for pastors, leaders cannot always cope or perform at peak level and feel that portraying a preferred image of their lives over an authentic one wins favor with people. It doesn’t- or at least for long! Don’t be THAT guy, who leads from a sense of self and pride, and who becomes a faded image of what God intended. Lead from authenticity and humility!
2. LEADERS WHO DON’T LAST- The culture of rampant consumerism has infected the church, and I often feel disappointed when leaders in ministry throw in the towel because of personal preference issues that they are unwilling to talk through or work out. Spiritual maturity is high on my list of qualities a leader needs, yet there are so few who demonstrate an aptitude for perseverance. What I have learned is that God is at work in their lives too and that I am not the voice of the Holy Spirit to them. I call it the “Let it Go, Elsa!” Principle (from Frozen- and yes I do have 3 young girls). Releasing people, in spite of your own better perspective, allows God to deal with them in His way and doesn’t allow people to become stumbling blocks within a ministry that may be moving forward with the Lord. Blessed subtraction often leads to divine multiplication!
3. FRIENDSHIPS THAT FADE OR FLARE- I grew up with the understanding that Pastors cannot have or make friends within their church. This perspective is unhelpful and unhealthy quite frankly! I have wonderful friendships at Ridgecrest Family Church and thank God for this- however, I am aware that before I am a friend to anyone, I am a leader, and those roles are never to be confused. Friendships are a source of great joy to me but have also been the source of great sorrow. Striking a balance in this field will lead to much encouragement if you are able to balance the good out with the bad.
4. MENTORSHIP LIMITATIONS- Leaders that last have mentors that have been tested! I have been blessed to have wonderful mentors in the faith, who have shown me, in different ways how to love God and pursue His mission. Perhaps it is not my mentors that failed me, but I have tended to place too much emphasis on their success and significant contribution to the extent that I may have placed them on pedestals they did not deserve. No one is perfect, and no leader has all the answers, and although we will be profoundly impacted by our mentor’s failings, we are able to learn from those who have gone before us in ways, that if applied correctly, will shape us to be better leaders ourselves.
5. SIN THAT DESTROYS- This is a tough one for me as a pastor, as I invest so much into the lives of others that their journey seems intertwined with my own, and I often feel deeply responsible for their spiritual wellbeing. A reading of Romans 1, and the catastrophic effect of sin on the lives of people can be a source of great discouragement as a pastor. In the midst of this all, there is the realization that only God brings healing and reconciliation, and that our ministry, although important, has a specific role to play in God’s greater plan. Accepting our role and not usurping God’s is a helpful starting point to seeing God at work where sin seems to abound.
FIVE VERSES OF ENCOURAGEMENT FROM THE PASTORAL EPISTLES
- “But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness” (1 Timothy 6:11).
- “Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to your care. Turn away from godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge.” (1 Timothy 6:20)
- “I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these instructions to you so that, 15 if I am delayed, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and bulwark of the truth”. (1 Timothy 3:14-15).
- “To Timothy my true son in the faith: Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord” (1 Timothy 1:2).
- “Timothy, my child, I entrust you with this command in keeping with the previous prophecies about you, so that by them you may fight the good fight” (1 Timothy 1:18).
What are some of your own disappointments? What verses have spoken to you regarding this? Feel free to share and comment. DH