Just when I was beginning to believe that I actually “had nothing to gain, nothing to lose and nothing to prove”, everything changed. When I say “everything”, you know exactly what I mean if you’ve been in pastoral ministry or church leadership. What we do, how we do it, who we’re reaching, the way we measure effectiveness - all of it changed overnight.

I have discovered one thing hasn’t changed though, at least not as much as I’d hoped it had…

My deep longing to be viewed as successful, in control, and better than the other guy is still very much alive and well and quite possibly more obvious (at least to me) than ever before!

Welcome to the new culture of comparison. A world of virtual views and online ambiance, where everything you do, say, and produce is on display side by side with the Steven Furticks and Craig Groeschels of your communities, cities, and states.

It sucks doesn’t it?

In fact, I find myself saying it almost every week lately…

“Our worship sucks.”

“Our production sucks.”

"Our metrics suck.”

“My preaching sucked.”

“Our video transitions sucked.”

“Shoot, even my haircut sucks online!”

Then, in the middle of it all, I so clearly heard the Holy Spirit whisper this question into my heart: “Compared to what, Jonathan?”

It was as if He’d been waiting patiently for my storm of insecurity, self-scrutiny, competitiveness and comparison to reach its gale-force strength, so that He could stand up in my boat and say, “Peace, be still.”

Years ago, a good friend of mine asked me a question that I am finding more relevant now than I have at any other time in my life. I was a brand new youth pastor at a real old church in the heart of the "Bible Belt”. He was an experienced youth pastor at a “mega-church” with unlimited resources, but, I will never forget his question…

“Jonathan, do you know what the measure of success is?”

“Ummm, well, I…I’m not sure that I…”

“The measure of success is this; Did I do what the Master said to do? If success depends on how others perceived me, how others received me, whether others were changed because of me, then the prophets of the Old Testament were some of the most miserable failures of all time.”

In light of the recent things I’ve discovered still lurking in the recesses of my heart, this verse came to mind again, "But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding.” 2 Corinthians 10:12b

In recent years I’ve become much more secure and confident in Christ’s unrelenting love for me. With this in mind, I’ve come to the conclusion that this season we currently find ourselves in, by no choosing of our own, is in fact an extraordinary opportunity. An opportunity to uproot some deep seated lies we all tend to believe about what success should look like, who the winners and losers are, and how we are created to live, lead, and look like.

About the author

Jonathan Walker is the Lead Pastor of Church on the Rock, a multi-site church in the Mat-Su Valley, Alaska. Jonathan first moved to Alaska over twenty-five years ago; he's taught at Alaska Bible Institute, hosted conferences for parents and teens throughout the state, served as a youth pastor, and most recently planted and pastored Church on the Rock in Homer, AK. Jonathan and his wife Kitri have four amazing children and love being able to call the Mat-Su Valley their home.

Updated: May 5, 2020

It's been said that this COVID-19 season offers us as leaders, unparalleled opportunity to find a better balance in life and ministry. But as I've been working with senior pastors all across the country, most would say the ministry changes that have been necessary as a result of statewide social distancing and stay at home mandates, have made their lives much more difficult. Leaders who struggled with disruptive emotions, anxiousness, worry, fear, prior to the pandemic, have found themselves deeply struggling as they try to lead their churches/organizations through these unprecedented times. This post is not focused on how to get more done, but on how to begin to deal with the disruptive emotions that often negatively impact our ability to lead.

Don't try to fix it by just working harder…

For many of us, working harder is the only solution we have to deal with the tension, anxiety, fear, and frustrations that we feel in life. We often perceive these emotions as a liability, a sign of failure, or a warning of impending doom. Could it be that these disruptive emotions are, in part, God allowed awareness… revealing the areas of our lives that most need His healing and restoration. Like a flashing red light on the dashboard of our cars, disruptive emotions should compel us to pull over and ask for help. Often underneath these emotions are real experiences that have negatively shaped our perspective of life. God wants us to process through these events so that they can actually begin to empower, rather than imprison us. Instead of ignoring, stuffing, or trying to perform our way out of these emotions, we need to listen to what they're revealing about us, and genuinely, wholeheartedly turn to God and ask for help.

Don't try to carry things you're not designed to lift…

Years ago, I blew my back out, helping a friend move. I was carrying crates of books that I should have known were packed too heavy for one person to lift. Could it be that many of us blow ourselves up, by carrying emotional weight and responsibility that God never designed us to lift? What's on your shoulders? Is it that you’re carrying an un-healthy need to perform in order to meet people’s expectations or gain their approval? Could it be that you’re carrying a distorted need for perfection in yourself, your family, or your staff?  Or perhaps you’re carrying an unrealistic expectation that you have to be the expert in your organization, and therefore never ask for help or let other people shine. All of these things are back-breaking! We shouldn't be surprised that we struggle as we do! We can do nothing on our own (John 15:5). If you feel burdened and weighed down… respond to Christ’s invitation in Matt. 11 and simply come to Him. There’s real peace to be found if we're willing to relinquish our lives and ministries to Him, this isn't a call to inactivity, but an invitation to true God-filled effectiveness.

Approach a throne of grace...

Hebrews 4:16 invites us to "approach God's throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Very simply, grace is God doing something for us that we can not do for ourselves; think about that! God's throne of "I will do it for you" is a real place. Approach it through prayer and with great expectation. He's for you and not against you. The disruptive emotions we feel can teach us a lot about the brokenness that God wants to heal. Will you turn your heart to Him now? Or will you continue to try to make life work on your own?

For more information, reach out to ChristLife Ministries at 616-808-7773 or at

About the author

Greg is the director of ChristLife ministries. He's married, has two boys, and has served in full-time pastoral ministry for the past 23 years. He's been a senior leader, elder, worship pastor, ministry director, and has played an instrumental role in developing the ChristLife experience and vision.