Pushing back against perfectionism

One simple lesson the Lord has been teaching me over the past 18 months of my budding pastorate is this: “Trust Me.”

I’m a bit of a perfectionist. It has come in handy from time to time—better grades in school, general cleanliness (which helped in the marriage department), and a broad sense of being someone who can be trusted. But like most things, it has a dark side.

It began showing up in my quiet time. Like most of you, I’d wake in the early morning, grab coffee and the Scriptures. But rather than delighting in the Lord, I found myself preparing sermons. It then spilled into my Mondays. Mondays are for staff meetings in my world. Those mornings started getting crowded with anxious planning to create “productive” and “streamlined” meetings.

I didn’t realize my pursuit of perfection had gone from a good thing to a “god” thing until one Sunday afternoon. I was in my office three hours before a members meeting, and I was literally rehearsing every word I would say. I had a 2,700-word document with questions I anticipated the members would ask, discussion points, things to pray over, and new members to welcome.

My pursuit of perfection was also affecting my health. I couldn’t say no to night snacking. It was affecting my sleep. I became a light sleeper, and I would wake remembering something insignificant I didn’t accomplish. Going back to sleep was impossible. It was spilling into all my relationships. When God’s providence shuffled my schedule, I was not happy, and others could tell. To put it simply: idols make bad gods.

In my office that Sunday afternoon, God revealed my sin. I started pulling weeds of perfectionist tendencies in my life (repentance) and planting seeds of trust in God (faith). I stopped dressing my works up like they were faith. My sanctification is slow. I’m still in process. Maybe you’re like me. Hopefully you’re better. Regardless, here are two ways I am planting seeds of trust in God:

People over performance

I want to be better at my craft. All good preachers do. But I don’t want to be lopsided. I serve a small church in a small town. When I go to the local grocery store, I run into Deacon Dillard or Sunday School Teacher Sam. I’m called to love my sheep. So, I answer my phone. I give people my full attention. I listen. I host. I laugh. I allow God to override my schedule for love.

Outline over manuscript

Whether I’m preaching or leading a meeting, it is outline-only these days. It’s my way of trusting God. I see it as an opportunity to give Him space to speak through me. And yes, I do believe the Holy Spirit works in our preparation, and yes, I do believe the Lord speaks through guys who manuscript. This isn’t an excuse for pastoral laziness. Just my on-ground expression of trust in God.

Perfectionism is a bad god. Simply trust God to be God.

Lead Pastor
Josh Fields
First Baptist Church of Iowa Park
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