It is hard to be a Christian at Christmas – especially for pastors and leaders.
Why? We can blame the culture, the powers and principalities that want to cut us off from Jesus, or the unrealistic expectations people place on us. While these are indeed factors, the primary responsibility rests with how we understand our role as leaders.
These are 5 common mistakes we make:
1. We skimp on our time with Jesus in our work for Jesus. As a result, we preach revelations about the eternal Word of God assuming human flesh without the time to swim and worship in the wonder of it all. The pressure of too much to do, in too little time, causes us to push a button into an “autopilot” spirituality. We speak of profound spiritual realities, but our hearts slowly shrink. What can we do? Follow Jesus by going off “to a solitary place and pray” (Mark 1:35).
2. We become perfectionistic. We want our programs to be flawless, our sermons to flow masterfully, and our volunteers to be full of good cheer. They won’t. They never do. We forget that to be human is to make mistakes. Only God does not make mistakes. Peterson says it well: “Perfectionism is a perversion of the Christian way. To impose it on either oneself or another…is decidedly not the way of Jesus” (The Jesus Way, 99). What can we do? Practice letting go – all day every day, especially this week.
3. We do more than God asks. When we do more than God asks, we open the door for all kinds of disorder and chaos. Remember the Garden (Gen. 3). The consequences of their rebellion remain with us today. Reread Jesus’ temptations in the desert (Matt. 4:1-11). Imagine if he had done more than the Father wanted? People would have been helped in the short run, but the long-term implications would have been disastrous. What can we do? Listen to the Father, and ask him for wisdom and discernment around what is really important this week.
4. We engage in faulty thinking. For years I believed wrongly that this was THE time to grow our church. “Lots of visitors would be coming!” Mark Twain once said, “It isn’t what you don’t know that hurts you; it is what you know that isn’t so.” What can we do? Talk with pastors who have been doing this for decades. It is not true that our ministries grow more at this time of the year more than any other. It is not true that “everything rises and falls on “Super Bowl” Christmas Eve services.
5. We forget our greatest gift is who we are – not what we do. Our number one work is to remain deeply connected with the Father, with ourselves, and with those closest to us amidst the pressure swirling around us. What can we do? Prayerfully sit down with your calendar. Ask God: What can I delegate? What can wait till the next week? 2017? What is most important, Lord this week?
Let me invite you now to sit comfortably in a chair, opening your palms upwards towards heaven in a posture of openness. Close your eyes and take a slow, deep breath. Set your phone to five minutes. And hear his words wash over you: “Be still…and know… that I… am… God” Ps. 46:10.