It is estimated that close to three-fourths of American adults will set a goal and try to accomplish it in 2021. That means millions of Americans will start the new year trying something new or seeking to improve some area in their life. I am one of those Americans, making resolutions to read a certain number of books, go to the gym a specific number of days, and write a particular amount of pages in the upcoming year. I am a goal-oriented person. I also believe setting goals can be a beneficial practice for those wanting to become better pastors.
There is an adage that goes like this, “If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time.” It’s impossible to remain faithful to the calling of a pastor when you aimlessly wander through ministry. No pastor prays more, cares for their members better, serves more faithfully, or consistently preaches better sermons by accident.
Faithfully fulfilling the calling entrusted to us by God takes intentionality on our part, along with the Spirit of God working in and through us. The new year provides us with the opportunity to reflect on the past year, meditate on what God has taught us, and plan for the upcoming year. Even if you have never been a big believer in New Year’s resolutions make it your goal in 2021 to focus on your weaknesses.
Addressing our Weakness
As pastors, we all know we have weaknesses, and yet, sometimes it seems like we ignore them and hope that one day they magically become strengths. Unfortunately, that strategy never works. For some of us, our preaching is not as solid as we would like it to be. For others, praying for our people would be an area that needs more attention. Maybe the struggles of 2020 revealed gaps in your ability to lead others that have always been there. How much time and energy have you recently expended evangelizing, mentoring, and discipling others? I don’t know you personally, but if you are anything like me, you have weaknesses in your life and ministry that need to be addressed.
Addressing weaknesses is always a difficult undertaking, but a necessary one. As a CrossFit coach, I liken it to fitness training in CrossFit. There are a considerable amount of movements utilized in CrossFit training–all of which can be grouped into one of three categories: weight training, cardio, or gymnastics. Most people are naturally good at and enjoy at least one category of movements.
I love working with barbells. Therefore, I naturally spend most of my time focusing on weightlifting techniques and increasing my strength. But if I am not careful, my cardio and gymnastics begin to suffer. I don’t naturally enjoy those movements, and they are more difficult for me. Therefore, I spend less time focused on them. That means I must intentionally make time to focus on my weaknesses if I want to be a great all-around athlete. Is it easy? No. But it is necessary.
Attacking our weaknesses in pastoral ministry is no different. There are certain aspects of pastoring we are gifted in and enjoy, and others that we struggle with and find less enjoyable. I might excel at and love spending quality time with my members and discipling others, but find writing and delivering engaging sermons extremely difficult. It is only natural for me to gravitate towards what I enjoy doing and feel more equipped to do well—namely, visiting and spending time with people. But if I recognize that the sermon process is a weakness of mine, I need to spend more time studying, reading, practicing, and learning from other pastors on how to proclaim the Word of God well.
Likewise, if visiting, discipling, leading, or evangelizing are my weaknesses, those aspects of pastoring need greater attention. The truth is, our weaknesses are not going to suddenly disappear; they will only grow to become more and more of a stumbling block in our ministries. To ignore our weaknesses in the pastorate is not only to do a disservice to our people but also to God, who has entrusted us with this precious responsibility.
4 Attitudes to Keep in Mind
In the new year, let me suggest four attitudes to keep in mind as you work on your weaknesses.
1. Be Patient. Turning our weaknesses into strengths will not happen overnight. To view the process as a sprint rather than a marathon only sets us up for frustration and a greater likelihood of eventually giving up. Instead, take it one day at a time, recognizing that what you are striving to accomplish is going to be hard and won’t be over quickly. At the same time, never forget that God will be working in you, and He doesn’t rush.
2. Be Realistic. Studies have shown that those who make unrealistic goals almost always fail. No pastor is perfect. All of us have multiple areas where we could use a little work. So, be realistic with what you are seeking to accomplish in the upcoming year. Turning five weaknesses into strengths is entirely unrealistic, but aiming for two probably isn’t. Don’t set yourself up for a year of misery with impossible expectations.
3. Be Relentless. Working on your weaknesses is never going to be easy. If it were, then your current weaknesses would probably be strengths. Refuse to give up when progress seems out of reach. Be vigilant when improvement is slow. Even if you feel like you are only crawling towards your goal, stay focused on becoming the best-equipped, most-faithful, and effective pastor you can be for the good of your people and the glory of God.
4. Be Gospel-Centered. Finally, and most importantly, attack your weaknesses in a gospel-centered way. As you work on your weaknesses, don’t forget to preach the gospel to yourself daily. Your standing before God is not determined by your performance as a pastor. God will not love you less if your preaching or member care does not improve next year because He loves you perfectly based on Jesus’s work on the cross, not your work in the pastorate. Therefore, attack your weaknesses next year, not to try and earn God’s love, but because you already have it.
. . . . . . . . . .