I never want to put my church, my family or myself through the public horror of the first list. And I pray for healing and restoration for the churches, families and pastors who are dealing with it. One of the wondrous aspects of Christ's grace and redemption is that you can move to the third list after having been on either or both of the first two.
But we need to be aware of both lists because, while the failures in the second list are not as obvious as those in the first one, they can be just as dangerous and long-lasting.
Not all ministry failures happen in spectacular or public fashion. Many, maybe most, occur through the relentless drip-drip-drip of discouragement, disappointment and criticism.
The temptation to trade down and become cynical, sell out, or settle for business-as-usual must be resisted as firmly as the temptation to flame out.
I call them trade-downs because, in most cases they’re not about good people who abandon their principles entirely. Instead, they’re trading down. From the best to something less. Long-term integrity for a short-term win. God-honoring risk for financial security. Ideals for expediency.
Success or failure in ministry isn’t always obvious. The tendency to exchange the best things for less-than-the-best is hard to resist if we don’t keep ourselves alert to it.
We seldom celebrate consistency, integrity and humility as much as we should. But those are the character traits that make for real ministry success. And they should never be traded for anything less.
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