I have spent quite a bit of time in my ministry career attempting to prove myself, whether it was through my worth as a communicator, teacher, or visionary, or simply as a pastor. This common struggle plagues most pastors and church leaders, so I know I’ve not been alone. Unfortunately, most pastors fail to admit their desire to achieve some sort of ministry success that will justify their value and work.
Sadly, this feeling that plagues so many pastors isn’t some grievous sin in and of itself; but it does lend to our crafting the art of lying. Pastors are expected to have all the answers for their people, cure spiritual apathy, and deliver a message that will not only please the ears, but will be under twenty minutes. So when we, as pastors, realize that we fall short in any of those areas, we don’t want to admit it—not to our people, not to our leadership teams, and not to our spouses. Once in while, when were alone and we can’t hide behind the busyness of life or the people that pull at us, we’re confronted with the liar within. The result: sadness, fear, and the feeling of being trapped.
As pastors realize their deficiencies, few make them known and even fewer embrace them. The result? They become proficient at the art of lying and hiding. The reality is: this is true not only for the pastor and ministry leader, but for the “lay” person as well. All of us are desperately trying to hide our warts, not wanting to be fully known and certainly not wanting to appear as failures.
The pastor and even the “lay” person must realize that there is nothing to prove. Unfortunately, however, anyone who has been a Christian for any length of time knows how to lie and hide. Remember when we first came to faith? There was a genuine humility and realization that Jesus was all that we needed. There was a willingness to admit shortcomings, sin, and our need for Him. So, what happened? Why are we living as though there is something to prove?
There are so many factors that contribute to our lying behaviors: fear, shame, pride, selfishness…the list could go on. Let us not forget that Adam and Eve’s first move post-fall was to hide from God. At the heart of it all, there is a lack of trust, and the idolatry of self. Living out the Gospel as a leader means trusting that the Father has our best interests in mind even when they aren’t the most comfortable for us.
Whether it is a failure or success, a high or a low, He is with us through each and every step of life. Dan Allender noted in his book Leading with a Limp, “Clearly the disillusioned and best leaders are those who have nothing left to prove because they have known both failure and success…when you admit that you can’t do everything, you are then free to more fully embrace the call of God.” Those words are so true, yet so easily ignored.
There is nothing to prove. As I write this, I’m reminded of the apostle Paul’s words in Philippians 3 in which he lists his many “worldly” accolades. As he finished this list of ways he’d “proved” himself, he wrote: But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord (Philippians 3:7-8).
There is nothing to prove because what we need and what we want is found in Jesus Christ. These may seem to be simple words for us as pastors and ministry leaders, but they are also so easily forgotten amidst the busyness of our lives and the chasing after gains and ministry successes. There is nothing to prove because Jesus has proven it all. May we be found in Him, not having a righteousness of our own that comes through the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith… (Philippians 3:9).
Join us for Rooted 2015, an intimate youth ministry conference, where we will explore how the good news of God coming to mankind in the person of Jesus Christ offers student ministers and teenagers, hope, healing and connectedness.