Lots of pastors are burden by perfectionism, but perfection isn’t required for spiritual leadership. In fact, the Apostle James described perfection as an impossibility in this world (James 3:2), and Paul notes that it will only be attained in the next world (1 Corinthians 13:10). Instead, maturity is the expectation for spiritual leaders (Ephesians 4:13).
In the New Testament book of Hebrews, we learn that we are to leave immaturity behind and press on toward maturity (Hebrews 6:1), and Paul encouraged the Corinthians to be mature in their thinking (1 Corinthians 14:20).
How do we become mature?
Maturity comes only through training, or “constant practice,” as we work to be able to distinguish good from evil (Hebrews 5:14, ESV), which is the hallmark of maturity. We are spiritually mature only as we are able to consistently distinguish right from wrong in given situations, and enabled by the grace of God to choose what is right.
If you are questioning whether the work to become mature is worth it. There are some real blessings to maturity, as well as some real burdens to immaturity. The mature enjoy deeper connections in their relationships (Ephesians 4:13), while the immature experience more friction and disunity in their relationships. The mature live lives of greater peacefulness, feeling less turmoil (Ephesians 4:14), while the immature live spiritually seasick, tossed around by every notion that comes their way and every scheme presented to them.
The distinction between maturity and perfection is also important because those laboring under the illusion of perfection are inevitably tempted with arrogance. As pastors, we know we are not perfect, but if perfection is the expectation then we are forced to either outright lie, or at the very least pretend.
In short, beware of a leader who doesn’t see, or admit, a need for growth in their life. Those laboring toward maturity will feel free to admit their desire for, even need for, growth in particular areas. Those laboring toward maturity understand that imperfection is our reality, and will necessarily seek out the wisdom and support of others in order to grow (Hebrews 10:24).
Here are some very basic questions aimed at helping us focus on the goal of maturity, rather than carry the burden of perfection.
- What are you learning about God?
- What are you learning about yourself?
- How are you growing in obedience?