Avoiding Big Mistakes in Ministry

Posted by Aaron Buer on June 18, 2020

Have you ever had one of those, “How did I end up here?” moments?

Before smartphones and Google maps, it used to happen to me almost every other day.

Sometimes, we experience moments like this in life and ministry.

We end up in places saying, “How did I get here? I never wanted to be in this spot.”


I’ve been spending a lot of time in Proverbs lately and, in particular, a story from chapter seven.

The narrator of Proverbs gives us a story that sheds light on why we end up in undesired destinations.  

The narrator identifies the character of this story as a young man among the simple.

“Simple” people in the book of Proverbs are probably best described by this Proverb:

The prudent see danger and take refuge,
     but the simple keep going and pay the penalty.
                                                           (Proverbs 27:12)

Wise people recognize the danger and react accordingly.

Simple people don’t even realize they are in danger, not because they are dumb, but because they are inexperienced and don’t even know that they are in danger of making a poor decision. 

One reason we make mistakes in life and ministry is because when we are in new territory, we don’t recognize the dangers.

We just wander into trouble.

Sometimes, we are too proud to ask or overly confident in our abilities.

Either way, there is great wisdom in seeking out wise voices to learn from.


Who is someone ahead of you in ministry you could learn from?

Seek them out. Ask them thoughtful questions.  

The narrator of this story in Proverbs also gives us another reason why we end up making bad decisions in life and ministry.

He was going down the street near her corner,
    walking along in the direction of her house
at twilight, as the day was fading,
    as the dark of night set in.
                                                           (Proverbs 7:8-9)

Just an observation:  “her corner” probably isn’t in a nice part of town.

And, the narrator repeatedly describes when this young man is there, “at twilight...as the day was fading...as the dark of night set in.”

It’s like he’s screaming out, “DANGER, DANGER, DANGER!!!”


What did you think was going to happen here?

Another way we get ourselves into trouble in life and ministry is by ignoring the danger signs.

We think we’re strong enough, smart enough, or even invincible, and we walk directly into trouble because we ignore the danger signs.  

If everyone on your team is telling you, “I don’t think this is a good idea,” then maybe you should listen.

If a good friend is worried about you burning out, maybe you should listen.

If your body is sending signals that it is overstressed and fatigued, maybe you should schedule a vacation.  

Ignoring the danger signs can lead to all kinds of trouble.  

As the narrator wraps up his story about the young man, he shares something with his sons that, when I read it recently, jumped out at me.  

He tells his sons, 

Now then, my sons, listen to me;
    pay attention to what I say.
Do not let your heart turn to her ways
    or stray into her paths.
                                   (Proverbs 7:24-25)

The word that struck me is “heart.”


He doesn’t challenge them to keep their feet off that dangerous path: he challenges them to keep their hearts from straying into the dangerous path.  

The truth is when we have those moments of, “How did I get here? I never wanted to be here,” our hearts have often been in that place for a while, and our feet finally caught up.

The path to undesired destinations—big mistakes and failures in ministry—usually begins in our hearts, with what we choose to think about, dwell on, and daydream.  

And this is why the Proverbs challenge us to:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
    and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
    and he will make your paths straight.
                                                           (Proverbs 3:5-6)

Instead of trusting our hearts, we are challenged to trust in the Lord with our hearts.

In other words, we surrender our thoughts, desires, and attractions to him and allow him to direct our paths and keep us from those undesired destinations.

Thanks for reading.

Topics: Advice

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