“Things I’ve done wrong and things I’ve done right” – Lessons from Tommy Nelson


“Things I’ve done wrong and things I’ve done right”

This morning as we kick off our annual staff retreat, Tommy Nelson from Denton Bible Church came to bless us with lessons learned from decades of ministry.

The essence of ministry is your own personal quiet time. Do basic things well ALL of the time.

  • Tommy gets a new bible about every 18 months and begins marking it up. He sits down 3 times a day to spend time in the word. The Bible is the wisdom of God in your hand. The greatest advantage is having God’s truth. You can only be a parrot of others for a while. You need to know it.

Study in depth.

  • Read others. Read Schaffer, CS Lewis. Have a deep reading life.

Know your spiritual gifting.

  • God has made you to strike a certain key. Learn to strike it. Know what you do. Know who you are.


  • Protect your nights. Protect your days off. Protect your weekends as best you can.
  • When you go home, rest and replenish. The American culture has turned night into day. We have no rest. As a result, Americans have invented burnout. God didn’t make you to be this way.

Play every day.

  • Look forward to what you delight in. What do you love? Ecclesiastes says 7 times to enjoy life.

Lay hands on no man too hastily.

  • Don’t put someone in leadership based on initial impressions. You are saved by grace, you progress by legalism. You earn it. You can’t be 4 out of 5. A bad leader will sink you. Make certain it is the real deal.

Be friendly with all men, but don’t make friends too quickly.

  • Certain people will hide who they are to use you. People earn the right to your council and trust. Be careful with the council of your friends.


  • The reason you are in the ministry is because you delight in God, you delight in people, and you delight in bringing the two together. Do it. Don’t be too covered up in duties to do what you delight in. Invest your time in those who want to get after it.

Allow in your ministry for the stars to rise.

  • Your inside track needs to be for the stars. 1 out of 5 people in your church won’t be obedient no matter what you say. But there are some who will lead no matter what. You can’t frustrate them no matter what. Open up the inside track for them. Otherwise they will find someone who will. Churches tend to be Kmart. We only teach at the lowest level. It shouldn’t be. Parachurch and seminaries exist because the church won’t teach deep truth to those stars that want it.

Do the work of an evangelist.

  • If you aren’t winning people to Christ, you and God aren’t on the same page. If you don’t focus on evangelism, you build big heads instead of burning hearts. Make fishers of men, make burning hearts. Seek and save the lost.

Know the difference between things that must not change and things that must.

  • Don’t change you doctrine, your purpose, your standards. There are things we don’t want to be “relevant” in. You are anchored to the rock. Does the audience change? Sure. Your methods must change.

Take the position of God and draw it out.

  • Don’t avoid sections of scripture. Bible exposition keeps you honest. You can’t avoid it and you can’t hide behind it. Then put your bible into compartments, don’t build your own and shove it into.

Christianity is deep magic.

  • It is the most amazing story ever. Because of that, you run your ministry on magic. You pray. God does amazing thing. Ministry is not just imposing morality. We are asking God to open hearts and set captives free. Do you feel like you have to “resort to prayer”. You should pray first. Be in touch with the magic of the story.

Do not sacrifice your family.

  • People go to church until someone puts on a better show. Don’t sacrifice your family to put on a better show. Don’t make your kids hate your church because it took their daddy. Keep your family together. When you are home, be home.

Beware of money.

  • Money will get you in trouble. Stay away from it. Money has screwed up a LOT of ministries. Don’t touch it. You are in an occupation that is not known for great wealth. Money is the last thing on the agenda. You have to be smarter than most. You may have more money in your family tree than most. You won’t make money like other smart guys like you can make. Can you live with that? Can you go to your 20 year reunion and be ok with that? Doing ministry for money is an abomination.

Beware of the “killer d’s”

  • Deception, disqualified, distracted, division, discouragement.
  • You have to get along with people, don’t get shipwrecked.

Beware of adultery.

  • We are an occupation that lends itself to adultery. Whatever part of our brain that responds to spiritual truth is what responds to romance. Encounter leads to enjoyment which leads to expediting, which leads to expression which leads to euphoria which leads to experience.
  • If you think you can’t do it, you are in trouble. Watch your heart.

Stay conservative in your theology and liberal in your outreach.

  • Don’t be quick to change things doctrinally, but in the area of ministry we want to throw our money away liberally in mission and evangelism.

We aren’t going to establish utopia while we are here.

  • Things are going to get worse and we are going to be combatting it.

Ascend to the ministry, don’t jockey for position.

  • Most of you are going to move around. Don’t be sitting around ready to jump to a new position. Don’t do that. Move because you are so good at what you are doing and because you can grow something else with what you know.

Don’t say anything ever that you are afraid of being repeated.

  • It’s scary when you are worried about something that you have said.

Never try to cover things up

  • Christians don’t tolerate scandal. Deal with it and make it public. Don’t hide it.

Life Lessons from Chuck Swindoll

Chuck Swindoll blessed us this morning with life lessons learned from ministry. Great wisdom. The notes below are rough, but I did my best to capture as much as I could.

I was raised by the greatest generation. Self sacrifice came natural. My maternal grandfather had the greatest influence on his life. So remember the impact that you will have on the younger ones. My family loved Jesus. My mother shared a proverb that she prayed over me. “A man’s gift makes room for him and brings him before great men.”
Some of you have no idea how God is using you or will use you. Years from now, you will be so glad you were faithful.

I would any day trade my youth for wisdom and truth.

1. I should tell people how I feel about them now, not wait until later. It will help them.
2. I’m not even aware of the things people notice and remember. They watch when you don’t think they
3. I’ve seldom felt sorry for things I didn’t say, but often for what I have. Watch your lips.
4. Being real is a lot better than trying to look spiritual. Be who you are. Accept how God has made you and become real. People know you better than you think.
5. 12 words that change your marriage. “I am wrong. I am sorry. Please forgive me. I love you.”
6. It doesn’t pay to talk anyone into or out of a big decision. Don’t think you can talk God’s will into anyone. God is at work in their lives and that struggle is part of God’s work.
7. Corrie Tenboom. “Hold everything loosely. Or it will hurt as the Father pries your fingers from them. Even your children.”
8. You can get a job anywhere, but why would I want a job when I have the chance to fulfill a lifelong calling.
9. When you fit, things flow. Don’t force it. If you don’t fit. Get out.
10. Be intentionally and passionately crazy about your spouse.
11. It’s hardest at home. Church is simple compared to home. I could run three churches easier.
12. Days of maintenance far outnumber days of magnificence. That’s life in ministry. Very little in ministry is “fantastic”. Still worth it.
13. Some people are not going to change no matter what. Some people choose to walk away from the truth. You can’t change them. You want to. But leave it to God.
14. If you have a day off, take it. What good are you when you’ve blown it or burned out?
15. Perception overshadows reality. Your reputation may hang on someone’s misconception. Truth will win out. You will never win them all, so quit trying. Gal 1:10.
16. Often it’s the hard thing that’s the right thing. Take risks.
17. Stop saying “never” and “always”.
18. Some things aren’t really worth the sweat. Lighten up.
19. You can’t beat kindness. “Young man, I don’t know you and you don’t know me, but whatever it is that is wrong, I care. And I’ll stay here with you as long as you want to”. It’s always appropriate to stay kind. Even when administering discipline. Do it with a heavy heart. Be kind.
20. You can’t beat fun. Learn to start living.
21. You’ll make lots of mistakes. It’s ok.
22. Walk with Jesus. It’s worth it.

Teaching Kids to Encourage Others

Everyone needs encouragement.  Sometimes it’s the little words of encouragement that get you through a rough day.  Sometimes it’s those little words of encouragement that can change the direction of a life.

This morning on the way to school, I had a chance to ask my 1st grader how she could encourage someone today.  The conversation turned into a discussion of what it means to be someone who encourages others.  She replied with examples of the things she might say to someone… “Your hair looks really pretty today”, “I really like that dress, it looks nice”, “You did a great job on that picture”, etc.  As we arrived at school, she headed off to the door and I watched her having a discussion with one of her classmates.  I was too far away to know what was said, but I could tell by the fact that they were both looking at the girl’s dress that my daughter had complimented her on how she looked.  The smile on the little girl’s face made my day.  We’ll never know, but just maybe it made her day too.

But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin – Hebrews 3:13