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.