Making and Mending Pastoral Mistakes

We are fallible men, charged with a phenomenal task, which often outstrips our abilities and sufficiency.

As Pastors we make mistakes. Let’s not be surprised by them, let’s listen carefully to them, let’s learn and grow in our ministry, let’s be ready to repent and make restitution for where we go wrong. The health of our hearts demands it, the health of the church depends on it.

It is something we may not like to acknowledge to ourselves and to others, but as Pastors we make mistakes – regularly and sometimes even repeatedly. We are fallible men, charged with a phenomenal task, which often outstrips our abilities and sufficiency. In the mix and mess of our lives, and those of others, errors are bound to happen. In this post I want to explore what we should do when we make the wrong move in ministry, suggesting some safeguards against getting things wrong, and some steps of recovery when we do. I am not here handling moral failure or ministry defection, but rather the ordinary and mundane mistakes that are made when we are doing our best to honour Christ.

Anticipate your mistakes

One of the surest ways to make mistakes is to believe that they will never happen, or that I am in some way cruising above them at high altitude. Pride and complacency, and a sense of independent sufficiency, are the first moves towards getting things wrong. It is vital that we honestly assess the task before us, and feel the tremble of inadequacy, the very live possibility that we will fall short in how we seek to serve Christ. This is not to encourage paralysis but perspective, it is not a call to scupper our good intentions through fear of default, but to weigh what we do against the bias of our faulty perspectives and defective abilities. Part of this anticipation might be to arm others for the fact that there are times when I will need to be corrected, or when I will need to row back from a previous position.

Choose your critics, and then trust them

There are, sadly, many church members and leaders who will not do our ministry good. Among them might be the hyper critical individual who can spot a fault in the stripes of our shirt, who has made it their goal to employ their ‘gift’ of discernment as fully and loudly as possible, at every opportunity available. Such people are not the critics we need to credit with any airtime. We can be the whipping boy for the disappointments and dysfunctions of other people’s biographies, we can be the focal point for undiagnosed issues in the individual levelling the charges, and we must solicit help from other leaders to work out when this is the case and how we are to handle it. Listen to the voice of the callous critic, take to heart what they have to say, and your longevity in ministry will be horribly reduced.

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