By Dennis Garcia
In my first pastorate, I wanted to get a pulse on how our congregation felt about the direction and progress we were making as a church.
A mentor suggested I hand out index cards during a business meeting and on one side, ask people to write down three things they were excited about with the church, and on the other side, write one thing they wish was different.
The next morning, the worship pastor asked me about the feedback on the cards. I immediately shared the top three areas we needed to address and how I thought we needed to approach them.
Then he asked, “What about the other side? What are people excited about?” I had no idea. I never even looked at the other side. The only thing that concerned me was what we needed to do to improve and grow.
Dino Senesi, author and Send Network Coaching Director and the North American Mission Board, said, “Leaders are pathologically disappointed.”
I know this is true in my life, and I believe it to be true for most driven leaders. We’re constantly looking for ways to improve.
My wife gets rather annoyed with me when we visit other churches because I’m always looking for things that could be better. This constant drive for bigger and better can be a great asset, but left unchecked, it’s also a tremendous liability.
There’s good news, however. There are actions we can take to help keep our pathological disappointment from turning us into constant cynics.
Here are five practices that have helped me over the years.
1. Remember the Gospel.
Many times, the quest for better is deeply rooted in the idea that our worth and value come from our success as leaders. This is antithetical to the gospel.
Our value comes not from what we do but from what Jesus has already done on the cross. Our value comes from our position in Christ, not from our performance.
When we’re pathologically disappointed, we need to look inward and remind ourselves our best efforts will never earn God’s favor. We’re favored because we’re in Christ.
2. Pause and Reflect.
Take some time to pause and reflect on where God was obviously active throughout your day. Take a moment to review each day through the lens of God’s activity.
When we pause and see God is at work in our lives, it pushes back the feelings of disappointment and allows us to develop an attitude of gratitude. It should encourage us when we see God at work.
3. Keep A Gratitude Journal.
A gratitude journal helps us see and appreciate all that’s going well. When I’ve practiced this discipline, I’d usually spend 2-3 minutes each night making a list of people, events, and things for which I was grateful.
Making this a regular part of your life keeps you from only focusing on the areas of your life that need improvement.
4. Celebrate the Wins.
One of the questions my mentor asks every time we meet is, “What’s going well for you?” This question forces me to pause, recognize, and celebrate the good things that are happening.
When evaluating a worship service, a sermon, a ministry program, or even the church at large, we must take time to ask, “What went well?”
5. Redefine Success.
Kingdom success isn’t measured by results but by inputs. In the church world, we typically view success in terms of attendance, baptisms, and budget.
Success in God’s eyes, however, is measured by faithfulness. When we see our lives through God’s eyes, it keeps our perspective pure.
As church leaders, we must never get complacent and settle for the status quo. It’s equally wrong, however, to fail to appreciate the journey that brought us to this point and, in doing so, fail to recognize what God is doing moment by moment.
In our constant desire for excellence, let’s not become critical to a fault.
DENNIS GARCIA (@dennislgarcia) is the husband of Toni, father of Miranda and Kephas, and church planting catalyst serving in Southern New Mexico for the North American Mission Board.