Are you one of the pastors operating out of a performance-based mindset? I certainly was.
Sure, ministry can be stressful at times. Rather than gritting our teeth and accepting this as normal, we can let the pressures of ministry reveal things about us—and our approach to life.
I remember being a busy pastor of a growing church in the 1980s, yet doing it for all the wrong reasons.
Every motivation I had for leading the church was based on performance. I stressed out over what the congregation thought of me as a pastor. Were my sermons moving? Did I orchestrate the board meeting with impressive leadership skills? Was the church growing in numbers? Did we have enough activities in the church to keep everyone excited about God?
Because I was on top of all these concerns, I looked pretty good. My goal was to keep shining, because everything in my life depended on it.
Don’t get me wrong, I loved God will all my heart and wanted to see His kingdom come to our city and in our church. But I was so confused and tired from trying to measure up that my true identity was lost.
Ministry is the most wonderful, and stressful, vocation. Service can be exciting and frustrating, full of hope and pressure, all at the same time. While most of us can relate to this, we need to take a breath and ask, “Is my stress based on a performance mindset?”
Allow me to define performance for you. Performance is when you get your sense of worth, value and acceptance out of anything or anyone other than God.
Are you someone who seeks your worth, value and acceptance from your church? Many spiritual leaders overlook this question and dig deeper into performance. We know where this will lead—yet we continue.
Trust me, I have lived a life full of performance, so I completely understand. Through counseling leaders over the years, I have discovered the battle to recover from performance stress while experiencing a life full of freedom is waged in two primary areas:
1. Resting in God’s performance. God’s nature is pure and completely objective, while the human mood is often subjective. The truth is, God is in a good mood, and we do not have to do anything more to get God to love us.
A performance mindset is triggered from shame. Many spiritual leaders have attempted to find solace by studying the varied doctrines of God and miss the realness of His pure love for them. It is so vital we know and have a foundational understanding of the true nature of God.
No matter how much doctrine a spiritual leader may know, a person will not experience victory from performance and shame until they has a true sense that God is always good and gracious. We need a continual reintroduction to the perfect Father and to gaze on His beautiful nature.
It is time to know that He actually loves being with you. God doesn’t want to use you in ministry; He wants to be with you in ministry. He enjoys you and isn’t disturbed with your immaturity and weaknesses. My friends, you no longer have to perform, because God’s performance is enough.
2. Being fascinated with a beautiful God. In far too many ways and in far too many places, the church is asleep.
We invest time and resources to be fresh, new, postmodern, attractive, fast-paced, contemporary, high-tech and relevant. Many spiritual leaders suggest we just need to quit being lazy, get up out of our church pews, and get to work!
Outreaches, Bible studies, committee meetings and the like are very important in the kingdom, but only when being completely fascinated with Him in all of His glory!
King David says it perfectly: “One thing I ask from the Lord, and this do I seek, that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek Him in His temple” (Ps. 27:4).
He could have said, “Lord, there are many priorities in life, but You are the most important priority in my life.” Instead, he said, “Lord, there is only one thing I desire.”
David made this declaration while looking into the face of our beautiful God. Dwelling with Him satisfies our soul, brings protection against our enemies, and stirs us to want more of Him.
When we sit at His feet, the outreaches into the marketplace will pierce the hearts of the unredeemed, board meetings will look more like prayer meetings, Bible studies will be fruitful, and divine revelation will explode off the pages of Scripture.
You were designed to lead from a place of rest. Now lead by resting in God and being fascinated with Him, for this is God’s process of bringing recovery from shame, anxiety, performance and ministry stress, allowing us to walk in His rest even in the midst of chaos.
His yoke is easy, remember?
Ken Winton is the author of the book Remember Who You Are. He is an international speaker, musician and mentor to ministers. His experience in church leadership, business, and international ministry has shaped him as a transparent communicator, helping people to live lighter. For more information, visit KenWinton.org.
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