I would be less serious. I would laugh more. I was too serious the first fifteen years of ministry. Serious people miss the punchline—and there are lots of them. We’re funnier than we think—and quite a bit more weird. When I started laughing more at the church where I was pastor, so did others. The older I got, the less serious I took myself. And the less serious I took myself, the more serious I took God. Interesting. And the more you laugh, the less likely you take up offenses, which wouldn’t hurt.
I would treat failure less seriously. That means that I would take more risks, which is what I have been doing “lately.” I would realize that failure is not final. I was more cautious as a young pastor, which also made me more legalistic. I didn’t want to draw outside the lines, and I didn’t want you to, either. Sorry about that. Failure hurts more than success, which makes it a good teacher. Losing games can teach us things that winning cannot. Failures in our young adult community are great growing experiences, as long as we don’t take them too seriously. Good parents and pastors don’t. I decided as an old man to let the young adults make more of the mistakes. Why should I be the only one messing up?!
I would believe in people. I would give them a bigger piece of the pie. If they could preach, I would let them. Pastors become bottlenecks. People in the pew believed in me. I wish I would have believed more in them. It would have helped me to release them into their God-appointed destiny. Now Karen and I love to believe in people. Jesus did so much that He left it up to them. They pulled it off. Surprise!
I would slow down. I worked too fast. I would be more deliberate about loving people and listening to them. I would not run the marathon like it was a 100-yard dash. I would take days off and full vacations. My family deserved my time, which is what I have learned to do now. I worked as if it depended upon me. Yeh right!
I would rejoice more in what we had, not in what we might get. I would smell the flowers. Vision causes us to look toward the horizon, but values cause us to see what is in front of us. We need a balance between praying for what we don’t have and thanking God for what we do. I needed more of the latter. That makes people more fun to be with. Vision is over-rated. A friend with the small church would have enjoyed it more had he been able to thank God for what he had rather than wish his church was bigger. Disappointment does not build faith.
I would treat tension as a friend. I have found that tension acts as the gauge on the dashboard, telling me something I need to observe. When I look at it and even thank God for it, it always leads to good change. I used to avoid it as a pastor. But here’s is the neat thing: I do have it to do over. I just turned seventy, so I can put these things to practice for the next twenty-five years. Care to join me?