One of My Biggest Regrets in Ministry

I’m directing this post to pastors-to-be, seminary students, young pastors, and older pastors who influence younger church leaders. If you don’t fit in any of these categories, however, I still encourage you to keep reading. Maybe something here will hit home for you, too.

One of my pastoral heroes was “Brother Jack” Tichenor. In fact, if you want to learn more about him, I encourage you to read this earlier post. He truly was a remarkable man—one of a kind. Hearing his name, though, also reminds me of one of my biggest regrets in ministry.

When I was a rookie pastor in 1981, Brother Jack strongly encouraged me to keep a journal of my ministry. “You’ll be glad someday you did,” he told me.

You see, Brother Jack kept a journal for each of the 60+ years of his ministry. Every day, he described the weather, recorded his activities, and noted any special events. He took pictures of ministry events, and he kept pictures in his journals. He led the first revival services in my first pastorate, and I still remember seeing in his journal a picture of the two of us after our first service together.

If Brother Jack had a meal with a church family, he recorded the meal in his journal, took a Polaroid picture of the family so he could remember them, and later wrote a thank you note to the family—a note that often included thanks for each dish in the meal.

In his journals were the names of new believers he baptized, couples he married, and people he buried. In addition to his journals, Brother Jack also kept the church bulletins over the six decades of his ministry. Spend a few hours reading through his journals and reviewing the bulletins, and you had the story of Jack Tichenor’s ministry. So significant were his journals, his personal papers, and the bulletins that Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville, KY now keeps that collection in their library archives.

I suppose you could argue my pastoral friend was a pack rat, but he could always look back to see the hand of God in his ministry and always look forward with hope. The story of his life captured in this collection was not a story about Brother Jack; it was the story of Brother Jack’s God.

Now, my regret. I didn’t take him up on his encouragement to keep journals of my ministry.

The older I get (I’m 59), the more I wish I could remember the folks I’ve baptized, married, or buried. I wish I had a record of revivals, homecomings, ordinations, and commissionings. I wish I had those pictures. I wish I remembered those names.

I wish I’d listened to my hero.

So, young pastor or pastor-to-be, learn from my mistake. Keep a journal, starting today. As Brother Jack told me, “You’ll be glad someday that you did.”


  • Pastor Al says:

    You know, Chuck, I make that three times in the past six or so months that you’ve posted about how we should all be writing a journal, while you confess to not doing it yourself! Do you think maybe God is trying to tell YOU something?? 🙂

    I’ve been keeping a journal for almost thirty years. I’ve taught Bible college students how to journal, and have also led seminars and workshops. I know it can be intimidating at first, but give it a try. Email me and I’ll give you some great tips to get you started. Blessings!

    • Chuck Lawless says:

      I hear your point, Pastor Al. I have begun journaling my reading, but I’ve not yet developed anything as extensive as what my friend did. Thanks for the kind nudge to email you.

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