In the Coronavirus craziness that we’ve been living in for several months, everyone in ministry has been faced with hard decisions, challenging questions, and a lack of answers to those questions. We’ve developed amnesia about how things used to be. We’ve felt upside down in our current situations. And we’ve found ourselves terrified of what the unknown future could look like.
If you lead in ministry, and you’re able to take a step back, now is as good a time as ever to evaluate your current situation in ministry and take to the drawing board of what may need to be dropped, developed, or refined.
If you’ve ever been in a pressure situation in life outside of this season of ministry, you will understand the following statement—pressure always reveals reality. In sports a pressure situation will almost always demonstrate who is elite and who is average. Ministry is not void of this truth. In fact, ministry may be one of the places that we see this most clearly.
When the pressure is on in ministry and we feel the weight of every decision, of every implication, and of every life, it will often lead us to see who we really are. We may see our weaknesses more obviously than before. We may see a reliance on ourselves for stability and wisdom. We may see an insecurity or fear of failure. Or we may see a joy that is found in Jesus alone. No matter what we find, pressure in ministry will almost always reveal our true selves, and if we’re being honest, that true self always needs some work.
From my own experience in ministry, I’ve found that there are three typical responses to seeing the truth of my weaknesses. We either deny, react, or correct.
There’s no easy way to swallow the glaring reality that we have weaknesses and sometimes those weaknesses are incredibly costly. I believe the most natural reaction to this is to deny what we see. The most likely pattern when seeing our true selves on display is to deny reality, keep our direction, and remain the same.
However, this comes only from a place of pride. When we refuse to admit the reality that we are flawed and need some course correction, we not only lie to ourselves, but we sacrifice those we lead. We must avoid the temptation to deny reality when the pressure rises and reveals our weaknesses.
Now, for some, the temptation in these moments of identifying our ministry leadership shortfalls is to make a reactionary shift immediately. Now, I can be the impulsive type at times, so I totally understand this temptation. And if I’m being honest, my reactionary intuition has occasionally been right, however, it often costs me in the long run. This is very appealing for some when faced with their true realities of ministry leadership. The temptation here is to make rash decisions that course-correct away from the revealed flaws, without any calculation or consideration given to the new direction or approach.
The primary motivation for this type of response is often tied to a fear of being found out. There is great insecurity that surfaces in moments like these and for some, the greatest motivation is to ensure that those things are never seen. We must avoid this temptation to cover our tracks by simply redirecting a ministry at the first sight of our own weaknesses. Be honest, people know you are human. And if you are trying to hide that, people know.
When we as ministry leaders are faced with the brutal reality that we are flawed and how those flaws have influenced our decisions and direction, it is right for us wisely navigate what to do next. This may take time and may cost us comfort and approval among those we lead in the immediate future, but I believe will have long-term dividends.
I believe the best process forward in these moments is to assess these newly identified weaknesses and ask questions. “Where did this come from?” “How can I correct this?” “In what areas of my leadership and relationship with the Lord and others do I need to grow?” And “How specifically will I grow?”
My encouragement to you, as a ministry leader, is to not be afraid of these questions. Answer them honestly, and move forward accordingly. This makes these moments of weakness-revealing pressure worth their weight in gold. Because not only do we grow, but those that you walk closely with and that you are leading will see someone they can trust to walk through hard things and grow from their mistakes.
Ministry will always provide moments of pressure. And moments of pressure will always reveal some of the realities of who we are, where we are wrong, and how we need to grow. Do not waste these moments. For from them are produced the greatest of leaders and the most effective of ministers.
Steven Ackley, his wife Emily, and their four kids live in Murfreesboro, TN, where Steven serves as the NextGen and College Pastor at LifePoint Church. Steven holds a D.Min. and an MDiv from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. You can connect with him on Twitter.