Invalid Validation

I had a meeting over the weekend with a potential new member at the church I pastor, Killian Hill Baptist Church in Lilburn, GA. It wasn’t an ominous meeting. I had reason to hope that this family would lean in and become part of our church family. But I wasn’t sure, and I was nervous. Most pastors know the feeling.

I literally had to reason and pray myself through the feeling of dread: 

“Chris, if this family stays, it’s not because you’re awesome. And if they look elsewhere, it’s not because you’re awful. Don’t flatter yourself; you’re just a messenger. Whether a family joins or jettisons KHBC doesn’t determine your value. If your satisfaction and validation rests on the performance of the church you lead, you’re doomed to a life of frustration and insecurity. Worse, yielding to this kind of pressure will tempt you to adapt your ministry to popular opinions rather than the unchanging Word of God. And worst of all, this kind of anxiety probably reveals that success in ministry is an idol. Get over yourself. It’s not about you. Love people. Preach the Word. Exalt Christ. Then leave the results to Him. Dummy.”

I literally had to reason and pray myself through the feeling of dread

It was a good self-talk—perhaps the best sermon I preached this weekend. And it turns out that the family wants to stay. This time. I’m grateful. Still, it’s a bit embarrassing that such monologues are still necessary after 23 years of pastoral ministry. But there it is.

Pastors, we’re all prone to seeking invalid validation. I recommend that you read Kent and Barbara Hughes’ excellent book Liberating Ministry from the Success Syndrome. And even more urgently, I recommend that we all give more attention to verses like Galatians 1:10: “For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.”

It’s not about you. Love people. Preach the Word. Exalt Christ. Then leave the results to Him.

Hey, pastor-friend. You’re not crazy. We all struggle like this. It’s normal—even healthy—to want our churches to grow rather than shrink. But we must mind our motives. May the Lord help us to find our fulfillment in Him, not the fickle phantom of ministerial success.

Thank God for grace!