John Ortberg, pastor at Menlo Park Presbyterian Church outside San Francisco, responds to our question today:
If I could begin ministry all over again, I would spend time seeking to become a healthier person, emotionally and spiritually. I spent a chunk of time serving in an area where I simply did not fit well, where some of my deepest convictions were not congruent, because I was not self-aware enough to have a clear sense of what I valued and believed. I was stuck in a tradition and setting that was familiar and comfortable, but where I did not feel like I could truly be myself; where I could not really talk about the ideas and beliefs that resonated most deeply in me. And I needed people’s approval too much to be able to serve them well. And my neediness made me too defensive to be able to learn from the criticisms that are inevitably a part of ministry.
If I could start all over again, I would spend more time in solitude getting ready for ministry. I would have spent more time getting feedback from people who knew me best. I would try to walk through the pain of letting go what I thought I needed to do and who it was I thought I needed to be so that I could have served with more freedom and effectiveness. I would try to put less pressure on my wife to be committed to my success, rather than to embrace her own gifts and calling.
I would have read Dallas Willard sooner.