To be honest, this post is both confession and catharsis. I think about my years as a pastor, and I regret both some things I said and things I didn’t say. So, here are some of those things I wish I had said:
- “Yes, I messed up.” I should have said that after I poorly led through a business meeting, wrongly interpreted a text, blindly placed too much faith in another believer, etc. I could continue the list, frankly.
- “You will not talk to another member of our church body that way.” I wish I’d said those words in a kind but stern way to more than one church member. My peacemaker tendency often prevented me from doing so.
- “No, I will not officiate at your wedding.” I didn’t learn early enough to “trust my gut” when I questioned a couple’s compatibility during pre-marital counseling. Looking back, I’ve learned my gut was seldom wrong.
- “The Bible is clear about the necessity of church discipline.” Few churches in my day did church discipline. I fell into the same pattern and allowed too much sin in the camp.
- “I feel like I’m dangerously close to burnout.” I didn’t tell anyone because I thought for sure I could work my way out of it . . . and I burned out.
- “Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.” I am who I am today because of church members who loved me enough to allow me to grow while they tolerated my youthful mistakes. I’m sure I didn’t say “thank you” enough.
- “That seems really immature for a believer.” Maybe it’s easier for me to say these words now that I’m 55 years old, but I wish I’d said them much earlier in my ministry. Maybe just one Christian who had been a baby believer too long would have grown some.
- “I thank God for our staff member, __________________.” None of them wanted public praise, but I still did not publicly thank God enough for the faithful members of our leadership team.
- “I believe that some of you are called to be pastors or missionaries.” Rather than challenge members with these possibilities, I waited for them to come to me. Now, I’m not convinced that’s the best approach.
- “You can no longer serve in that role.” I realize these are hard words to say, but I allowed too much mediocrity to continue among the people of God.
- “I appreciate your thoughts, but that’s not really the point of that text.” Too many times, I gently brushed aside a faulty interpretation of a text. Now, I would still be gentle, but I’m much more inclined to raise issues when the Word is wrongly interpreted. Too much is often at stake.
- “Please forgive me.” My mistakes were numerous, and I offended folks along the way. I wish I’d run to these words before I typically ran to excuses to cover my failures.
What would you add to this list?