Imperfect Beginnings

For as long as I can remember, I have been a perfectionist. I hold myself to a high standard and often exhaust myself trying to reach that mark. While striving for excellence is a good thing, being a painstaking perfectionist has a major downside: it also makes me a procrastinator. I don’t like to start anything until I know I can complete it perfectly. This has led to countless untold stories, unfulfilled dreams, and unshared talents. It’s also led to an assortment of excuses for why these things go undone.

I can’t do this thing, I reason, because it won’t be just right. If my results aren’t up to my high standards, surely my efforts aren’t worthwhile. It’s smarter to wait until I can guarantee a better result. When I know I’ll write fluently, make music flawlessly, share Jesus articulately, and succeed completely, then I’ll begin.

The real reason behind these excuses, though, isn’t wise planning or careful preparation. It’s fear. I am afraid to step out and walk on the waters Jesus has called me to. I’m afraid that my efforts won’t matter; my words, my songs, my heart, won’t make a difference. This fear tries to convince me that it’s not time to step out yet; when the time is “right,” then I can move forward. Until then, I shouldn’t begin anything. I should simply wait… and then wait some more.

For the past year, though, the Lord has been showing me that there’s no such thing as a perfect beginning. We will never feel equipped, confident or qualified enough for the things He calls us to. And we’re not supposed to. Jesus doesn’t call us because we have it all together. He calls us so He can put things together through us, providing what we need and showing His grace and greatness through even our shortcomings. One of my favorite Scriptures is 2 Corinthians 12:9: “And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness. Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”

The very weaknesses I have allowed to hold me back are what invite the power of God to rest in my life! His grace, not my talent is what equips me to do His will. Jesus doesn’t view our small, unsteady starts as an inconvenience or disappointment; He welcomes and encourages them. He doesn’t merely work with and through our imperfect beginnings; He delights in them.

When I feel that my efforts are uncoordinated or unimportant, Jesus isn’t recording my shortcomings. He is celebrating that the work has started. “Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin” (Zechariah 4:10).

What has Jesus whispered in your heart that it’s time to begin? Don’t let fear hold you back – Jesus rejoices to see our imperfect, obedient beginnings. Autumn may seem like an odd time to think about “beginnings,” but I often find myself reflecting in the fall. It’s a time to look back on the year that has passed so far and to look ahead to what’s coming. And it’s a time to simply, imperfectly, begin.

Sarah Bio

What Ministry Is Not

I grew up in a pastor’s home. I lived with parents that eat, sleep, breath ministry and working for God’s kingdom. From scrubbing baseboards and painting the church, to studying, praying, and fasting for each sermon and lesson, to dealing with all kinds of people as counselors and psychiatrists, advising with Biblical and Godly wisdom. And you know what, my parents LOVE it. All of it. The good, the bad, the ugly. I was raised in an environment where the mentality was: it is a joy, an honor, and a privilege to serve God’s kingdom as ministers. Not one time did I hear my parents grumble or complain about the burdens of ministry. When my parents faced a challenging situation, they never vented or involved me and my sisters. There are things that happened to my parents that I didn’t find out about until I became an adult, because they wanted to protect us and never give us a hazy outlook on ministry. I am eternally grateful for that. I know of others that are pastor/minister’s kids who grew up to resent ministry. They knew about the drama and attacks upon their parents, their parents would be gone all day working at the church, and would pour so much of themselves into their ministry that there was hardly any time or energy for them.

The definition of ministry is literally: servanthood. But, unlike the maids and butlers of royalty- being a servant to God is so rewarding, a blessing, and a powerful experience. Being a servant to God feels like being royalty. Ministry is anything that somehow benefits the kingdom. Yes, some ministries put you on a stage for people to see. But, at the end of the day, God sees ministry as a thing of the heart. If you scrub that church toilet until your fingers bleed, God values that more than the guy who jumps behind a pulpit and didn’t prepare his message (real talk).

Ministry was made to be a practice taken on by a follower of Christ. First you follow, then you serve. When God went looking for disciples, He didn’t stop at asking them to follow. He told them he’d make them fishers of men and that they would have to take up their cross. Ministry is supposed to be something we do because we love God, we want to benefit His kingdom, and want to devote our time and energy as His devoted servants.

Ministry, as satisfying and honorable as it is, is not a relationship in itself. It is supposed to be a product of a relationship.

In church culture, we tend to glorify ministry. We tend to treat it as a status symbol or a fancy title. I remember being a teenage girl and that being the pick-up line guys would use to attract the women, “Yeah, I’m going to be a minister”. When in reality, that probably wasn’t the most pure-hearted statement.

But, for those that are genuinely in ministry (and not trying to pick-up a date), sometimes we feel a pressure to always produce. Like, give a progress update at the end of every day of things we’ve done, people who have been filled with the Holy Ghost, or how many followers we got on our ministry’s Instagram. Without meaning to, we can start behaving like ministry is a job and we are being rated on our performance. Subconsciously we will compare our ministry to others and our work to other churches. Sometimes we wake up stressed and go to bed stressed thinking about our ministerial responsibilities. And that, is simply exhausting and not the way God ever intended ministry to be.

Burn out is a real thing. I have seen it firsthand. Marriages fall apart, churches crumble, and minister’s spirituality suffer. All because a servant of the Lord gave and gave and stopped being refreshed from the fountain. People get spread so thin, trying to pour themselves into ministry with juggling work, school, family and friends, that they eventually breakdown.

It is okay to take a break or even to pull-out of ministries. Yes, you heard me right. I believe whole heartedly ministry is something EVERYONE should be involved in. It’s so rewarding and a blessing to the congregation. But, I have to remind myself that God rather have His relationship with you be priority, strong and thriving, than have you hanging on by a thread doing His work. Your walk with God is so much more important than what you do for Him. Although your local church and pastor appreciates your help (especially in a small church), make sure you are thinking of your spirituality and mental well-being first.

Are you getting burned out?

Do you feel like you have nothing else to give?

Do you find yourself more often stressed than uplifted when helping in the kingdom?

Does it feel like an obligation instead of a privilege?

These are hard questions each of us who are heavily involved in church need to ask ourselves.

Galatians 6:9 “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.”

Matthew 11:28-30 “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

What God truly desires from us is communion, intimacy, meditation on His word, and to be priority in your life. Yes, that even means priority over your ministry.

Don’t find your satisfaction in what you do for Christ or the roles He has given you in His kingdom. But, in Him alone. Be thankful for the honor and opportunity of leadership that has been bestowed upon you. But, never let that fog your vision of what is most important…your one true love.

charity