As a minister I often adjure my congregation to be open and honest with each other, even in areas they struggle. After all, how can we help one another if we don’t know what battles we are fighting. I realize that some ‘openness’ needs to be confined to a small group or even to a single accountability partner, but in an effort to ‘practice what I preach’ I thought I might throw out a few of my own confessions. This is not about getting sympathy or pity, and it’s not a false humility that says ‘look at what an awful wretch I am!’ Rather, this is an effort to (1) lead by example, and (2) show that we ministers are just as flawed as our flock sometimes.
Confession #1: I Struggle with Pride… Every Day
Pride is that little voice inside of me that wants to take credit for everything: The church is growing; ministries are fruitful; I get invited to speak at a youth rally or camp setting; I am asked to write an article for a blog or magazine. It must be me right? Wrong. I struggle with keeping things in perspective. Every day there is a battle and a conscious, deliberate effort to give God the credit for all the blessings He showers on me. I have to crucify my desire to be noticed, to be acknowledged and to be complimented. Not because any of those things are bad, but because I know I am weak and can let those things go to my head.
Confession #2: I Also Struggle with Feelings of Mediocrity
You may think it is impossible to struggle with both pride and mediocrity, but I assure you, it is not. In fact the two are related. Just as pride can take too much credit when things go right, pride can also take too much of the blame when things go wrong. There are times I feel average, or even below average. Church attendance is down one week and I wonder if it is something I said. Somebody drops out of my Sunday School class and I question my effectiveness as a communicator. There are weeks, or even months, between baptisms and it must be something I’m doing wrong, right? Wrong again. Life happens to all of us. Often times there are many factors at play, most of which I never see or know about, so how can I take the blame for things outside of my control? This is a fact I must remind myself of often.
Confession 3: I’m a Perfectionist… in some things
I am my own worst critic. Especially in two areas: my preaching and my artwork. We don’t have time to delve down the rabbit hole that would reveal the fine line between insanity and artistry and the vicious cycle that is create – critique – re-create. But I am a perfectionist when it comes to my preaching as well. I strive to do my best in each sermon, and I have yet to deliver a perfect sermon, and to be honest, this drives me and compels me to work harder and strive to improve. While that is a good thing, the bad things is I don’t use that same standard in other areas of my ministry. People-skills? Not a perfectionist. Visitation Schedule? Not a perfectionist. Organization? Definitely not a perfectionist! Slowly I am learning to apply the same exacting standard to all areas of my ministry so that I may be a more well-rounded minister of the Gospel.
Confession #4: I am Guilty of the Sin of Comparison
I try not to compare, I really do. But when I see a friend post a status of how they had a third consecutive week of multiple baptisms my first instinct is not to rejoice, but to wonder what they are doing right and what am I doing wrong (again, this ties into that whole pride issue). Or, if I hear of a church that’s struggling, my first reaction isn’t always compassion, but one of, ‘Thank goodness we are growing and healthy!’ It’s so easy to get caught up in the comparison game, especially in ministry. We compare attendance numbers, baptism numbers and offerings. I think we do it because these are tangible numbers that are easily measured. But I also think we do it because it is easier to measure those things than it it is to take the spiritual pulse of a congregation. It is possible to have a healthy congregation that is not ‘exploding’ with growth. And some churches need a minister to lead them through their last dying breaths. I strive to be mindful of this whenever I am tempted to compare.
Confession #5: I am an Introvert
No, really, I am! Even though I am totally comfortable in front of a large crowd, in a group of a dozen or less I begin to crawl into my shell. I am much more comfortable sending a text than I am talking on the phone. I would rather e-mail you than call you, and if I could do a hospital visitation via a chat-room I would. I have a coping mechanism for my introversion: humor. But not everyone is funny and not everyone responds positively to a well placed jibe. This leaves me with having to force myself to be social in situations where I would rather be alone in the corner of the room. The result: I go home exhausted from social events. They wear me out. I also stress about meeting new people. I sometimes come across as awkward and I have been accused more than once of being ‘stand-offish’ or a ‘snob.’ Small-talk is not my strength, which can make visitations absolutely dreadful. These are the demons I must conquer every day to do my job effectively, and to be honest, sometimes I succeed and sometimes I fail. But I strive to improve each and every day.
So, what about you? What do you struggle with and where are your weaknesses? None of us is strong in every area. That is why we need each other. That is why we need the Church.