Pastor and Christian Leadership Resources

Murphy's Law in the Ministry

  • Ron Walters Vice President of Church Relations, Salem Communications
  • 2010 2 Sep
Murphy's Law in the Ministry

Murphy's Law warns, "If anything can go wrong, it will go wrong-and at the least opportune time." Some might even say Murphy was an optimist.

To prove the point, Dear Abby reprinted the following four-day typographical nightmare published by a small-town newspaper:

Monday: For Sale - R.D. Jones has one sewing machine for sale. Phone 947-0707 after 7:00pm and ask for Mrs. Kelly who lives with him cheap.

Tuesday: Correction - We regret having erred in R.D Jones' ad yesterday. It should have read, "One sewing machine for sale, cheap. Phone 948-0707 and ask for Mrs. Kelly who lives with him after 7pm."

Wednesday: Correction - R.D. Jones has informed us that he has received several annoying telephone calls because of the error we made in his classified ad yesterday. The ad stands correct as follows: "For sale - R.D. Jones has one sewing machine for sale. Cheap. Phone 948-0707 after 7:00pm and ask for Mrs. Kelly who loves with him."

Thursday: Notice - "I, R.D. Jones have no sewing machine for sale. I smashed it. Don't call 948-0707 as the telephone has been taken out. I have not been carrying on with Mrs. Kelly. Until yesterday she was my housekeeper but she quit."

If anything, Murphy is an equal opportunist - the people of God know him well. Scripture is filled with godly men and women who never saw him coming. It's no wonder Job has become our patron saint. That also explains why an offering plate is never dropped until it's full of coins.

On the evening before I began my first pastorate, Murphy was at the airport to meet me. I arrived safely, but my luggage didn't. My host, a short but rather large man, loaned me his suit to wear for my first Sunday in the pulpit. The coat was three sizes too big, and with each hand gesture the sleeve would slide down over my fingers. The short-legged pants bunched in the front and only reached half-way down my socks.

Pastoring is where things can-and often do-go wrong. Maybe that's why Jeremiah begged to resign...twice! And, not surprisingly, God told him no...twice!

Come to think of it, our heroes have never lived charmed lives. Maybe that's why they're our heroes-the residents of Easy Street have nothing to teach us. We admire those who climbed into the ring against outlandish odds, who dared to believe God's promises in the worst of times, who desired the favor of God more than man's. 

  • Why else would skinny-armed David question his nation's faith just before he dropped Goliath with one divinely lasered rock? 
  • Why else would Gideon challenge 135,000 hardened Midianite soldiers with his band of 300 horn-blowers? 
  • Why else would Daniel throw open the windows, allowing all to see his defiance of Babylon's "No Praying Zone"? 
  • Why else would Peter and John openly preach their best sermons under the harassing threats of the local religious thugs? 
  • And why would history be filled with martyrs who cared more about proclaiming their message than about preserving their lives.

The ministry is filled with tightropes and landmines. We are why the word "dare-devil" was invented. And still we gladly do it. Though we come home bruised and exhausted, with little to show for our efforts, we're confident we've fulfilled His assignment. We may get tired in this work, but never of it. Our confidence in God won't let us.

There's lots of greener grass out there luring us to other fields. But none of it could ever replace the sense that we're right smack-dab where God wants us.

"If I traveled to the end of the rainbow as lady fortune did intend, Murphy would be there to tell me the pot's at the other end."


Ron Walters
Vice President of Church Relations 
P.S. If you're looking for great preaching tools, don't forget Preaching Magazine. It's my favorite. Check it out at Do your congregation a favor by subscribing. 
Copyright 2007 by Ron Walters

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Original publication date: April 13, 2009