Pastoral Reflections: Reminiscing on 25 Years of Ministry

Dr. Randy White

This year (2015) I celebrated 25 years of my ordination and completed 12 years of pastoring First Baptist Church of Katy, TX. As I conclude this milestone and now move into a different phase of ministry, I made a list of 22 Pastoral Reflections. Over the next few weeks, I’ll take a moment to write on each of these, one at a time. (To see the series, click here)

Reflection #1 – The arrogance of youth is fun while it lasts, and embarrassing when it’s over.

Having turned 50 this year, I guess I can no longer consider myself “young adult.”  I feel like life is just begun, and I pray that my best years are the years of the future.

As a young Pastor, I had all the answers. I knew how to preach, teach, counsel, lead, grow a church, run a business meeting, make a church budget, advertise, control inflation, stop terrorism, eradicate racism, motivate the lazy, slow down the work-a-holic, end addictive behavior, and elect a godly man to office in order to fix all our problems.

At 50, I don’t know how to do any of that.

My apologies to those who had to work with me when I knew all the answers. Thank you for your graciousness, because you always smiled and loved me.

In the early years, I was sold out on leadership principles. When I went to the bookstore (which was often), I would go to the business section (in a Christian bookstore it is called the “leadership” section, but it is the same material). I read every book John Maxwell wrote (and even thought they were good). I read books by business executives like Harvey Makay, autobiographies of business leaders like Thomas Watson, Jr., and dozens of “how to” books on leadership principles.

In reading all these books on leadership principles, I don’t recall ever hearing a fellow pastor, or a seminary professor, or even a church member saying, “why are you wasting your time learning to lead?” I suppose that they thought (as did I), that I was preparing myself for leadership opportunities ahead. It seemed like a noble endeavor.

Looking back, I would skip all the leadership books and I would learn the fundamentals of Bible study earlier. I would have better learned Greek and Hebrew and the unequalled strength of knowing how to learn what one Scripture passage means by cross referencing it to other passages that use the same Greek or Hebrew words. Had I done this, I would have avoided some embarrassing sermons about vision, based on a totally erroneous interpretation of Proverbs 29:18, and built on what I had learned in the books I was consuming.

As a young pastor, I wanted all the awards, and I worked hard to get them. I knew the “growth spiral” of basic fundamentals that would make my churches grow (and they did). I was an expert at “Flakes Formula” for church growth. When the denominational report came out each year, I wanted to be the “fastest growing,” and then, in a few years, wanted to be the biggest of the association.

I got the awards. I don’t even know where they are today.

Today, I’d rather go back and learn the Bible. I’ve got a long way to go to understanding this unending book. I’ve got even longer to applying it to my life fully.

The older I get, the more gracious I become with people, and the less interested I become in popularity or prosperity. I hope I’m shedding some of the embarrassing aspects of youth (wishing I could keep some of the zeal and energy…not to mention hair!) I want to treat people graciously and pastorally, knowing that they are just people–fallen, sinful, hurting, loving, wonderful people.

Just like me.

Next: Growing a crowd -vs- growing a church