Here’s How Not to Screw Up Your Life


What can pastors do to not just survive but also thrive and embody 1Timothy 3:1-7?

Dear Elder/Pastor,

I’m concerned about you. I’m concerned about me.

It seems that just about every month I hear stories of elders/pastors who disqualify themselves because of:

  • Having an emotional affair with a staff member
  • Engaging in adultery
  • Struggling with various forms of addiction (porn, drugs, alcohol)
  • Egotistical, pride-filled leadership
  • Greed
  • Spiritual burnout

As leaders, when we implode and explode, our families, those we serve in the local church, and most importantly, the beautiful Name of Jesus, are ravaged.

Why do we implode and explode? And what can we do to not just survive being an elder/pastor, but thrive and embody 1Timothy 3:1-7?

I offer the following advice, first and foremost, to myself. I offer it not as an expert, but simply as a brother who loves Jesus, loves you, and loves the local churches we serve.


Do you remember when you first met Jesus and the wind of His glorious grace swept you off your feet and you couldn’t believe you were forgiven?

Do you remember when Jesus first whispered into your ear, “I love you?  You belong to my Papa now.”

Do you remember when following Jesus was not about church attendance, budgets, signing book deals, hiring church staff, or polishing your preaching skills?

Do you remember when EVERYTHING was worth less than Jesus? (Philippians 3:7-10)

Elder/pastor, this is where we must abide, in the unfailing, life-giving grace and love of King Jesus. Our ministry is the overflow of His ministry of grace to us (Ephesians 3:16-21).

We must not buy the lie that we can find greater joy and satisfaction from something or someone more than we can find it in Jesus.  He is our supreme pleasure.


While preaching at Saddleback Church, Pastor Rick Warren, one of my mentors, gave me some rich words of advice when he told me, “Derwin, three things destroy pastors; money, sex, and power.”  

He said, “I sold enough books with Purpose Drive Life to buy an island. But I wear a $14.00 watch and drive a 15 year-old pickup truck.”

Elder/pastor, what are your idols? What are my idols?

If it’s money, be generous and live to standards of the people in your congregation. Poverty and prosperity theology is sin.

If it’s power, make sure you have real accountability to protect you and the church from you.

Be a servant-leader. Some pastors love preaching to people more than they actually love people. This is a great sin.

If it’s sex, don’t hire a smoking-hot female executive assistant that you spend a lot of time with. That’s just DUMB.  Don’t meet alone with someone of the opposite sex. If you have same-sex attraction, be wise in creating boundaries that protect you from yourself.

Spiritual formation, or Christian maturity, is a process, kind of like being in the Holy Spirit’s spiritual crockpot. We can’t microwave maturity. It’s often painful. I recommend having mentors to guide you in issues of the soul. Professional counseling is a wise investment too.

Here’s the point, the Gospel of grace calms our hearts and gives us the freedom to be secure enough to be vulnerable and transparent about our idols. In our weakness we are made strong.


I heard Pastor Eugene Chu drop this spiritual gem: “Pastor, you are the CEO of your own spiritual health.”

Our physical and spiritual health is the engine of our souls. Exercise keeps us sharp mentally, boosts our energy and reduces the chances of getting a life-threatening disease.  

My book, Limitless Life: You Are More Than Your Past When God Holds Your Future, really ministered to my soul.

Elder/Pastor, I pray this blog helps you and me to be faithful.  I love you.  And I am cheering you on!

Marinate on that,

Pastor Derwin

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