Pastors, Seek Divine Presence Over Performance

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How the work of ministry relies on our participation in Christ.

As we pass the anniversary of COVID-19 lockdowns and more churches begin to physically regather, it has been sobering to reflect on this past year of ministry. In August of 2020, I hit a wall. I was physically exhausted, emotionally drained, and not coping well. My wife and I had just planted Bright City Church in September of 2018, so naturally the lockdowns induced fears of whether our congregation would survive the pandemic.

I had dealt with some anxiety and depression in the past, and it was beginning to resurface. I realized that a major source of my anxiety and emotional exhaustion at that time was the pressure I felt to “perform” as a pastor. From how I preached to how impactful our services were to how I led my team, ran meetings, and counseled our people, I constantly assessed my value on the basis of my performance. I had adopted an unsustainable—albeit pervasive—model of ministry.

As I wrestled with this exhaustion, these precious words of Jesus filled my soul: “Remain in me.” Though deceptively simple, they allude to one of the most profound theological realities in all of the New Testament: our participation in Christ.

“Participation in Christ” means we experience Christ’s own relationship to the Father by the power of the Holy Spirit. It could also be said that Christ’s own life is repeated in us. Christ’s relationship to the Father was marked by at least three things—intimacy with the Father (John 1:18), peace in his Father’s presence (John 14), and satisfaction from the Father that brought contentment within himself (John 5:19). As I endured this difficult season of ministry, I began to wonder, “surely this experience of Christ’s …

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