3 Things Every Pastor Should Unlearn


Here are a few things that I learned and accepted early in my ministry that I’ve worked to unlearn in recent years.

#1  Problems Are Bad

I have actually learned that “real problems” are wonderful. People without real problem go crazy and invent things like base jumping. I think if it weren’t for problems I probably would have burned out on ministry a long time ago. Every problem I face reminds me that I’m still needed and has made me a better pastor in the end. Finding solutions to problems is what gives me energy and makes me excited to jump out of bed in the morning.

#2 Conflict Is Destructive

I used to hate conflict. I avoided it at all costs. What that attitude created among the teams I led was artificial harmony. There were things that needed to be said that weren’t said. Issues that needed to confronted that weren’t confronted. A ministry without conflict is destined for mediocrity. What I’ve learned is that conflict isn’t bad. Conflict doesn’t destroy teams. Not knowing how to handle conflict is what destroys teams.

#3 Never Quit

I’m not even sure when I bought into this philosophy or where I picked it up, but I distinctively remember thinking that if I introduced a new idea, a new service time, a new ministry, etc., that we had to work it until it was successful. If you end something or quit something it’s admitting failure. What a ridiculous way of thinking! These days when I introduce a major new initiative I almost always introduce it as an “experiment” giving me an easy out to quit it if it’s not working. We’ve got to find a way to normalize “quitting.” It’s okay to quit something. In fact, you probably need to quit something right now in order to get to where you want and need to be.

 Anything you’re trying to unlearn these days?

27 Responses to “3 Things Every Pastor Should Unlearn”

  1. Thanks for the thoughts, Pete. So true – I’m finding more and more those truths, especially about #1 and #2. My natural tendency is to think that conflict and problems and issues are bad things, when in reality those are often the catalysts that God uses to grow our leadership and grow our relationships. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Shari says:

    Yes. Unlearning this: to worry means to care.
    It does not mean I don’t care if I don’t worry.
    It does not mean that I’m “not doing anything or enough if I am not worrying.

    Not only is it ok not to worry, it is a biblical mandate. My mother, (has a PhD in worrying) taught us the opposite, both in word and action. I have been unlearning this lesson for years.

    • Joe Pote says:

      Oh, excellent point on the worrying, Shari!

      Isn’t it funny how we can feel guilty for NOT worrying, when Jesus has told us to cast all of our cares upon Him?

  3. Jimmy says:

    This is great thanks! I love the line, “A ministry without conflict is destined for mediocrity.”

  4. Frank says:

    Unlearning that “Guilt is part of being a Christian.”

    Although not ingrained/indoctrinated at the hands of a misguided pastor, parent or mentor, it is something that I picked up at an early age. It is taking some time to work through and understand the grace and love that is offered unconditionally.

  5. J Pettigrew says:

    I tend to avoid creating conflict, especially with those in authority over me. This often prevents me from “saying something that really needs to be said. After letting it eat at me for a while, I finally speak up, and it almost always becomes just what God was trying to make happen in that situation. Sometimes, you just have to be willing to speak up and let God handle that sick feeling in your stomach. :) Thanks for sharing this, Pete.

  6. Bobbie Adams says:

    Actually 1,2,3 is a good start to list that I need to do. Thanks Pete. I knew I was drawn to u for sum reason. Now I know.

  7. Joe Pote says:

    Ah, the wisdom that comes with experience!

    Good advice, Pete, and not just to pastors. Most of us have to “unlearn” these responses in mutliple areas of life, incuding home and work.

    I am a bit concerned about your desire to jump, though. I don;t usually expect to see a reference to base jumping in the same paragraph with a reference to jumping out of bed. I know you live in Tennessee, but I hope your bed is not located on the edge of a cliff… 😉

  8. Great advice, Pete. Interestingly enough, my blog post today was entitled Three Benefits of Being Wrong (http://wp.me/p2fSH9-5v). When it comes to the issues you mentioned, it’s great to acknowledge that what we’ve always been taught wasn’t necessarily right!

  9. Tim Inglis says:

    Hi Pete,

    I just followed a link here from Twitter and I loved your post mate. The funny thing is that I watched a Jenetzen Franklin video last night on “Removing the ‘Quit’ Option”, so your last point was interesting. I think what we often do is lose focus of the things that we should or should not quit. We’ll hear a message like Ps. Franklin’s and think that to quit ANYTHING is a sign of weakness.

    Sure, we should never quit “the race” as the Apostle Paul put it -and this was actually what the video was about- but you are 100% right that we shouldn’t stick to things to the point of distraction.

    One of my lecturers last semester made the point that most people who burn out in ministry do so because they work so hard at what God HASN’T called them to do. These are the things we need to be able to quit with no guilt attached.

    Again, loved the post. Great insights my friend, thanks.

    God bless,


  10. Tamara says:

    I’m trying to unlearn this:
    “You need to earn your place in ministry.”

    Because the fight isn’t worth it, when by God’s grace I am gifted for, and able to do ministry.

    “Depression means you can’t lead.”

    Because that’s just crap.

  11. All good, Pete. Here’s one I’ve had to unlearn: “Being called means you must suffer.” True in some ways, no doubt, but pastors sometimes endure too much at the hands of their own people because they believe it is their calling to be overworked and undervalued.

  12. Great. Especially #3. They say that George Washington was a great general because he knew when to retreat. Not only that, but in the book of Acts, the scriptures tell us that the disciples attempted to enter Asia, but the Spirit suffered them not.

    Dr. Force

  13. Eht Ledifni says:

    JESUS LOVES MUSLIMS – 1.5 billion Muslims don’t know Jesus is God and loves them, JESUS LOVES MUSILMS is an anonymous letter to all Muslims free on scribd, please tell everyone, share and tell the world!


  14. Eht Ledifni says:

    JESUS LOVES MUSLIMS – 1.5 billion Muslims don’t know Jesus is God and loves them, an anonymous letter to all Muslims free on scribd, please tell everyone, share and tell the world!


  15. […] Pete Wilson confesses that there are three things he learned early on in ministry — about problems, conflict and giving up — that he later had to unlearn. […]

  16. […] Pete Wilson on 3 things every pastor should unlearn.  […]

  17. Kathy says:

    Great thougts!
    I wrote about the disservice (especially in ministry) we do to spout the NEVER QUIT advice!
    Thanks for all you do!
    A G A Ministries

  18. Tim says:

    The number one thing I learned as a young pastor was to quit the clergy system of pastoring and take up ministering free of charge. 1 Cor. 9
    1. “preach the word, in season and out..” does not mean lecture the word for 30 – 45 minutes, zero participation from any other body member, zero interaction from the gathered priests, zero reproductivity to other men (Luke 6:40) Preaching is not a gift. It is a ministry for the whole body. If believers don’t articulate their faith when they are with their fellow saints, they won’t do it with the lost (vast majority).

    2. The “full time ministry” only for clergy is totally corrupt exegesis. Every believer is in full time ministry. 1 Cor. 15: 58 “my brothers…always give yourself fully to the work of the Lord…”
    Col. 3:23,24 “whatever you do, work at it… as for the Lord, not for men…”

    3. Pastoring is not for just the few gifted at it Eph. 4 “God gave some to be…”. It is for EVEYONE who ASPIRES to it and qualifies for it (no seminary required). 1 Tim 3:1 “Here is a trustworthy saying: If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer, he desires a noble task”

    These are only 3 of many more substantive reasons. The system, coast to coast and every brand of church experiences the tragedy of perpetual dependency, non-reproductivity, consuming 75 – 85% of their “giving” to buy programs mostly for themselves, zero “one another” expression during the “worship” hour and much more. The worst part is both the clergy and laity love it this way. If you show them the Word on God’s design they will scoff and self justify with bogus excuses that demonstrate a severe twisting of God’s Word. True shepherding, like the chief shepherd, is driven by example in full mutuality and reproductivity. Luke 6:40

    I had a distinct experience where i “felt the call to the ministry”. I soon realized that experience was driven by emotion and the traditions of men. Praise God I am on a path to learning what the ministry really is.

  19. Thank you Pastor Wilson.
    I am in the earlier stages of different leadership roles at my church and I have started to see these a bit. Putting them together and clarifying them are helpful.

    K, bye

  20. Kent says:

    Thanks to our education system. Mistakes are bad, conflicts are bad, etc. These are the things our teachers tell us to avoid making mistakes. In fact, we live with them everyday, we need to learn to love them and how to solve them.

  21. […] few weeks ago, Pete Wilson shared 3 Things Every Pastor Should Unlearn. The scary part is that each principle Pete addressed is a widely accepted and shared belief among […]

Leave a Reply