I got into this gig of pastoral ministry because I love the church, wanted to teach and preach God’s Word, desired to make a difference, and to help people move along in their path of discipleship with Jesus. Sounds noble; yet, if I am honest, behind those words is not just some genuine altruism, but a significant dose of hubris that thinks I can, even ought, to change people’s lives. Eee gads! Even as I write that statement I hear the pride that believes church ministry success is up to me. I have come a long way, but still have a winding and stretching journey ahead.
I think many of us need to confess that our dreams for the church are this strange gooey mix of godliness and selfishness. I’ve always thought it weird that many pastors, para-church ministry leaders, and church elders’ aspirations for the Body of Christ line-up so well with God’s will for their lives. I just want us to entertain the notion that our dreams of lots people in attendance, big budgets, slick programs, and hungry disciples eating up the crumbs that come from our well-dished teaching may not exactly be what is in the mind of God for our ministries.
Allow me, instead, to introduce an alternative thought for us: being a good enough pastor. Yep, I said it. Just be good enough for the people in your charge. And if you are a parishioner, allow your pastor to be good enough without having to be the next Tim Keller or Billy Graham (or whomever your favorite celebrity preacher is). If we dwell with this fantasy of attaining some sort of great and impactful ministry long enough, we will inevitably be disappointed. And when that happens, the next prideful step is the belief that if I just do things perfectly, everything will turn out the way I, uh-hem, I mean God, planned all along. Oh, I certainly believe in the God of miracles and that Jesus is Lord over all. But I don’t always believe that God is into the dramatic. He seems more likely to show up, like with Moses in the cleft of the rock, in a still small voice in the quite ordinary and mundane quiet of the daily grind.
Not every sermon has to be a home run. Every conversation does not need to be a powerful encounter. Not every meeting and decision really has to be researched and prepared to death so that there is some sort of wow factor that impresses everyone with my superior skills… that is, God’s mighty power. You and I can do a good enough job in order to be faithful stewards of the gifts God has given, and obedient followers in the way of Jesus. Give everyone a break and let the Holy Spirit show up and do his job; we don’t have to do it for him – he is competent to accomplish what he wants to do whether we are awesome or not.
If this makes you worry, then you are not alone. But we all do have a choice. We can lay aside the anxiety and perfectionism and simply ask God for help to change what needs changing, especially in our own hearts. God cares a whole lot more about our humility; he can work with that. But if we hold onto our stubborn pride, God might end up breaking our wills, maybe even destroying our “godly” dreams before he will finally use us.
Can you be a good enough church worker? Can you live your life without everything having to be at the highest level of performance? Will you invite the work of God into your life so that he can bring the deep change he wants to bring? For this next year, let’s agree to drop the resolutions and sheer willpower, and allow God to make us into the leaders he wants us to be.