Internship Journal IX

Measuring Ministry

This semester I did what I’ve always wanted my teachers to do. I was transparent. I spoke out of weakness. I recounted the biggest failures in my life and the lessons learned from them. Unfortunately not everyone saw the merit in learning from my mistakes. In the end I think I’ve discovered at least one solid reason why people are fearful of speaking from their own personal failure. It hurts when people reject your message when so much of you is in that message.

I think I had an idealistic view of the teaching experience. For some silly reason I thought it might be like the classroom in Dead Poets Society. Perhaps in some ways it was. Things are rarely as simple as they seem. Advances usually involve some sort of cost. I really believed that the success in my career could easily be repeated in ministry. This hasn’t been the case. I’m not saying there haven’t been positive aspects to what I’ve done. Some people thought I did a pretty good job. It didn’t go as well as I expected, and I really want to improve.

In some ways it’s a lot easier to tell if you’re doing well as a web programmer. If you write bug free code in a reasonable amount of time and it executes quickly you’ve done your job. If you aren’t any good you can keep trying until you get it right and spend all night doing it. If a company pays you a significant amount of cash to write code for them then you are probably doing your job well.

If you want to evaluate what you do in ministry you need to rely on people’s opinions. One person thinks you’ve done well. Other’s think you are terrible. It’s hard to sort out the real truth. It’s hard to know what to believe.

  1. #1 by Graham Old on December 17, 2002 - 6:53 am

    I had a similar experience whilst preaching recently. My conclusion on it was that it was good for me; I learnt from it and confession (etc.) is good for the soul. Also, I guess that the ‘listeners’ will learn in the long-term. Even if they forget that one specific lesson, they’ll learn that vulnerability is a good thing.

    Grace to you

  2. #2 by Russ on December 17, 2002 - 8:39 am

    My experience in teaching tells me that it is a bit like gardening. Some things you do have immediate effects and some don’t show up until far into the future; you can’t always tell when your course of action is the right one for the plant you are tending; and two plants that get the same treatment and seem pretty similar can react very differently. Teaching is humbling, but I think it’s worth the effort. Blessings to you, and may God help you to grow as a teacher.

  3. #3 by Randall on December 20, 2002 - 9:15 am

    There are days when I’m convinced it would be better to be a earth mover.
    … “Todays work is to move this pile of dirt over to there. When it’s done you will know how well of a job you have done, by how much dirt made it over there. And you can sleep the deep sleep of the successful, because you have been a success at your work.”

    maybe that’s why a strong sense of calling is so important, to get you through days and days of singleminded obedience.

    Hang in there.

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