Admit it, sometimes ministry is more frustrating than fun. What if the person who robs you most of the joy of ministry is you? Perfectionism has robbed me blind over the years for several reasons. Although I still struggle with it, the freedom I have in Christ has made my ministry more fulfilling in recent years.
Here are a few reasons perfectionism doesn’t belong in the pastorate.
Perfectionism invokes legalism.
Perfectionism is when you try to make others jump over that bar you have arbitrarily set for them or yourself. Ministry is far too messy for perfectionism to be practiced. A more realistic perspective allows for mistakes, setbacks, and opposition. You were saved by grace and need to pastor by that same grace.
Perfectionism steals our joy.
For most of my adult life and ministry I have been accused of being an overachiever, which can be both a compliment and and an indictment. The upside of achieving is the reward of getting stuff done. The downside of being driven is that you sometimes drive yourself and others crazy in the process.
Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. (Proverbs 30:5)
God’s Word is flawless. God’s Son is flawless. God’s shepherds are not.
Perfectionism leads to unfinished tasks.
And tell Archippus, ‘Pay attention to (fulfill/complete) the ministry you have received in the Lord, so that you can accomplish it.’ (Colossians 4:17)
I used to take inordinate amounts of time writing sermons or blog posts like this. I do both just about every week these days and enjoy writing more than ever. I often quenched the Spirit by overthinking every word or phrase in attempt to get it right. I know I am not alone in striving for perfectionism in the pulpit instead of trusting in the power of God to transform lives through His Word, as opposed to my own words.
My speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not be based on human wisdom but on God’s power. (1 Corinthians 2:4-5)
Perfectionism is based on fear.
“This is my first church and I’m terrified,” a Mississippi pastor in his late thirties told me recently. He is six months into his first pastorate.
Perfectionism robs many pastors of the joy of ministry because it is unrealistic and unbiblical. Remember that your competence comes from Christ, not yourself.
It is not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God. He has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter, but of the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:5-6a)
Protect the joy of your ministry by refusing to let perfectionism sneak into it.