This year marks my twentieth year to pastor what researchers call a megachurch—a church averaging over two thousand people in weekly attendance.
Statistics on pastoral tenure in churches suggest that for a pastor to remain twenty-eight years in the ministry, let alone in one church, is unusual—especially when twenty of those years are overflowing with the needs of a large congregation.
As I recently realized that this is my twentieth year to pastor a “megachurch,” I jotted down twenty lessons God has taught (and still is teaching me) through these years.
So many of these lessons were learned through painful experience. Most of them I did not (and could not) learn in Bible college. Many of them would have been easier had older pastors shared them with me in advance.
Each of these lessons end in the word anyway. Why? Because serving and leading people by faith is always an uphill, seemingly contradictory battle. Evidence and experience suggest it’s time to let up, to give in, or to wash out. But faith presses forward…anyway!
So here they are—in no particular order—twenty lessons from megachurch life:
- God blessed the simple faith of younger years. Although greater knowledge and experience can make decisions seem more complicated, keep leading by faith anyway.
- Pastors who rejoiced with you in your early years may grow silent as you are blessed. Love them and be grateful for their influence anyway.
- People will come and go along the way. Stay anyway.
- Some will assume a larger church is like a machine—built on programs only. Keep praying anyway.
- Critics will analyze and comment. Learn what you can and serve God from a pure heart anyway.
- Financial needs will always be pressing. Press forward anyway.
- Haters will hate and slander. Love anyway.
- Technology, media, and movies are increasingly appealing and seem to compete with the simplicity of preaching. Preach the Word anyway.
- Most people will not see the hours of study invested in continually preparing fresh sermons. Study anyway.
- Very few will understand the complexities of developing vision and leading by faith. Dream and seek God’s face anyway.
- The realities of stress, weariness, and emptiness will come. God can and will renew. Go on anyway.
- Others may credit you for ministry fruit. But without a loving staff, faithful deacons, and a gracious church family, the ministry is not possible. Thank others anyway.
- The spiritual intensity of some will lessen. Faithfully ask God for renewal anyway.
- Political leaders (both conservative and liberal) will come and go; culture will shift to greater godlessness; and society will be less tolerant of Christianity. Faithfully pray for revival anyway.
- Ministry pressure and demands will steal time needed for personal enrichment and family development. Make time anyway.
- You will feel guilty for taking needed rest. Rest anyway.
- Administrative responsibilities will threaten to rob your prayer time. Pray anyway.
- People will accuse your motives—assuming they know about you what you yourself do not even know. Serve God from a pure heart anyway.
- God will prompt you to give, love, or labor more—even when you are not sure you can. Obey quickly anyway.
- A tendency (especially after age fifty) is to grow reticent toward large projects. Have faith anyway!
And the greatest lesson of all? It’s all of grace anyway!
What God has done at Lancaster Baptist Church over the past twenty-eight years can be attributed only to His grace.
Every day, I’m reminded that I can’t do this alone. I can’t lead myself—much less a large church!—in my strength. But every day, I’m also reminded that God is able and that His grace is sufficient. And every day, I’m increasingly grateful for the team of staff and the gracious church family God has coalesced here. It is my joy to serve with them in ministry.
And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.—2 Corinthians 12:9
Yes, it’s all of grace. Circumstances change, pressures rise, and fatigue sets in. But God’s grace is constant…so keep serving Him anyway!