10 Reflections on 40 years of Ministry, Part 1

Today, forty years ago, I began my first full-time ministry role as pastor of Mt. Calvary Baptist Church in Harrison, Ohio. I was single, still an undergraduate student, and thoroughly lacking ministry skills. For whatever reason, God chose to use me in that role. Today and tomorrow, I pray my reflections are an encouragement to you:

  1. I do what I do because of the grace of God. I wouldn’t have understood that truth back in April 1981, but I do now. Ministry is a responsibility, but it’s primarily a gift from God.
  2. God is faithful . . . always. Like the psalmist, I look back and find no place where God has not been faithful in guiding me, strengthening me, and forgiving me. He has always held on to me, even when I’ve struggled. 
  3. The Word of God is powerful. I’ve known that truth intellectually (Heb 4:12), but I’ve also seen the Word do its work on hardened and disobedient lives. More than once, I’ve met someone who became a believer simply through reading the Word. 
  4. God and His people are really patient. I’m still learning lessons about walking with the Lord and leading people four decades into this work—some that I should have learned a long time ago. I’m grateful for patient grace. 
  5. Some of God’s people are problematic, but most of them are wonderful people. Every church has the few who seem to always be in the middle of conflict, but they’re far outnumbered by the many who walk with the Lord, love their church, and support their pastor. 
  6. Ministry can hurt . . . a lot . . . but the joy it brings is deeper still. More than once, I’ve thought about quitting ministry (stay tuned for tomorrow’s post), but the joys of seeing lives changed—including my mom’s life most recently—keep me going. 
  7. I’m much more a global thinker because of ministry. From the women’s missions leader who challenged me to learn about missions, to my first missions trip, to my work now with the International Mission Board, my perspective is much bigger because of ministry. And, my burden for the nations is much greater. 
  8. I’m “not all that.” I thought I was when I started ministry at age 20. Over the years, though, personal experience has shown me otherwise. I’m just a forgiven child of God clinging to Him. 
  9. Ministry as a single adult was good, but ministry as a married man has been better. I was single the first ten years I pastored. Frankly, I had more time to be with church members and to focus on ministry in those days; still, I’m certain I’ve been more effective with my wife by my side. 
  10. A call to ministry might take you in multiple directions. I knew I was called to preach at age 13. What I couldn’t have known then is that call would lead me to serve as assistant and senior pastor, seminary professor and dean, missionary team leader, and interim pastor. God has been there all the way.  

Veteran pastors, what would you add to this list? 


  • Robin G Jordan says:

    While I cannot claim to be a veteran pastor, I would add to this list, “Never underestimate the Holy Spirit. He can do amazing things and redeem seemingly unredeemable situations.” The classical Anglican Ordinal encourages pastors to pray daily for an increase of the Holy Spirit, for the Holy Spirit to fill every corner of their life and ministry and leave no place unoccupied. It is not only a prayer that pastors should pray for themselves but for every member of their congregation, particularly new believers. When we pray for the increase of the Holy Spirit, for the increase of God’s presence and power in our lives and ministries, we are admitting our need for God’s help and opening our hearts, minds, and ourselves to rely on his help. We are also trusting God to meet our need.

  • David Frasure says:

    Persevere. Trust God to be working His bigger plan even when you cannot see it.

  • Gordon Cloud says:

    The greatest metric of success is obedience to God.

  • revdotdavid says:

    Just published my new book – The Best Of The Best. 33 years of Pastoral Ministry for the glory of God

    Ministry Autobiography and 33 Significant Messages
    throughout each of my years in Pastoral Ministry
    1987 – 2020

    ‘A big congratulations to our dear Pastor David Barnes for the release of his new book, a compilation of the best messages God has inspired him to preach over the 33 years of his pastoral ministry. We had the privilege to see his life and his family’s life up-close and it is such an inspiration how he obeyed the call of God in his life’.


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