When I first got started in ministry many years ago, I worked with a few people who were perfectionists. I thought I was supposed to be that way too. I wanted everything in the church to be 100% flawless, the music, the video, the sermons, the coffee! I wanted the church to be as good as, if not better than, the “outside” world. But this is a trap and it caused me an incredible amount of disappointment in ministry.
Top ministry leaders talk about how God deserves our best. They say that anything less than pure excellence is less than pleasing to God. But come on, give me a break. No one can hit a home run every time, right?
Too much of that talk causes the local church to grow dissatisfied, feeling like nothing will ever be good enough. Small churches are especially vulnerable because they don't have the budget or talent to support the production levels of larger churches.
It's time to stop the madness. Here are four solid reasons why perfectionism sucks.
Perfection Is Unachievable
By definition, it is not possible to be perfect. Because to be perfect, you have to be perfect all the time–see the problem? There's no way to be flawless in your life, your spirituality, your teaching, your leading, your parenting, and so on. It's like when my dog chases his tail. He doesn't realize that he's never going to catch it. At first, he's entertained by the chase, but after a while, he gets tired and gives up.
This is my story, and to be honest, I still struggle with it. On Sunday I want things to be good–no, I want them to be great. My motives are pure enough; I'm hoping that people will see that we are a quality bunch of people who love Jesus and care enough to do things well. However, sometimes my desire for high-quality is at the expense of our volunteers. They are only capable of doing their best based on available time, God-given talent, or persona aptitude. I'm realizing now that it is less about the result and more about the process.
Perfection Ignores The Journey
You've heard the phrase, “it's about the journey, not the destination.” In the church family, that's true. As a matter of fact, the church is the journey. That's because our destination lies beyond the boundaries of this life, where perfection is provided by God himself.
Inside the church, it's about spiritual growth and that's a messy business. Any time a group of people get together, try to agree on common goals, and then attempt to live by those goals, there will be some chaos. Especially because different people within the body of Christ are at different phases of their spiritual growth. Remember, the Apostle Paul's wrote all but one of his letters to correct problems within the early church. The believers were in process then, and they continue to be today.Inside the church, it's about spiritual growth and that's a messy business.Click To Tweet
And besides, the point of a church isn't “the show” on Sunday morning. The point is how we interact all week long. Are we encouraging each other? (Heb 10:25) Are we holding each other accountable? (Gal 6:1) Are we loving each other? (John 13:35) And, are we sharing the gospel? That's the main business of the church.
Imperfection Is A Mark of Authenticity
Before I proposed to my wife, I remember visiting a jewelry store to look at diamonds. I was surprised to learn that the mark of authenticity within a diamond are the flaws – tiny streaks or flecks visible only with a microscope. Only fake gems are completely pure.
A church full of people is like a church full of diamonds. If we pretend that everything is perfect then we fall short of being credible. John said, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” (1 Jn 1:8)
This is especially important when it comes to reaching people outside of the church. No one wants to be labeled as a hypocrite and people are generally considered to be hypocritical when they say one thing and then do another. Maybe we don't say we are perfect with words, but we might hope to portray that image through our worship styles, clothing, and speech, lighting, etc. In a sense, perfectionism alienates people from the church, and ultimately from Christ.
Living With Purpose
It's time to redefine perfection here on earth. Since no one can achieve it anyway, let's do away with the word in our churches. Instead, you might like the word PURPOSE. Let's do things with purpose. Let's worship with purpose, speak with purpose, let's make sure that we do our best – not because we are hoping to attain some level of perfection, but because we have a purpose to show the congregation and our community the beauty of God's grace. The purpose is to grow as disciples. This happens best because we understand what we are trying to achieve as believers and why.
Our purpose can certainly have a sense of quality too. If we are doing things on purpose then everyone involved should give as much of their time and talent as possible. Because our purpose is more important than perfection.