One of the activities I thoroughly enjoy doing with my daughter Ava is visiting local parks. Since Thursdays are my day off, we spent much of our morning at McHardy Park in Brandon, SD. McHardy Park is a beautiful area with a large grassy expanse. As I was sitting on a bench and watching Ava toss dirt onto her toy truck, she suddenly squealed in delight and took off running.
She was chasing a bird.
Ava was absolutely determined to catch and pet one of the birds in the park. I do not think she realized that her squealing wasn’t helping her cause; nevertheless, once one flew away she would set her sight on a different bird and charge with sheer determination.
As you can imagine, Ava wasn’t able to catch a bird. She eventually got frustrated and then commanded me to catch them for her… which also didn’t work.
This picture reminded me of the way many pastors & church leaders view “success” in ministry (myself included). We set benchmarks for ourselves and become convinced that if we reach a certain number in attendance, giving, discipleship, or leadership development then we will be satisfied. We follow Ava’s lead and charge with sheer determination, only to have both our goals and frustrations increase.
We need to receive afresh the words of the Apostle Paul – especially since he wrote these from prison:
I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I find myself. 12 I know both how to make do with little, and I know how to make do with a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content—whether well fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need. 13 I am able to do all things through him who strengthens me.
The key to contentment is being satisfied with all that Christ is for us. We proclaim from our pulpits that Christ is sufficient but our strategic meetings and longings for “success” directly contradict our confession.
If you reach all the goals you have set for yourself – will you be content because of Christ? If the attendance and giving in your church decrease significantly – will you despair or rejoice because Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever?
I foolishly chase the metrics of success – believing that contentment will come when I am seen as a “successful” pastor. I am taking all of next week off as a “stay-cation” – seeking to be more fully present to my family & God. My primary goal for next week is to taste and see once again how good, glorious, beautiful, and soul-satisfying God is. The key to longevity in ministry is understanding that God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.
Friends, get off of the performance treadmill. Plead with the Holy Spirit to enable you to treasure Christ above all things. Together let’s seek to rediscover the key to contentment – knowing and being known by Christ Jesus.