One of the more difficult things that I am learning to understand in ministry is that of perception. In my brash and crass early 20’s I was dismissive of even considering the perception of others as valid in ministry. Little verses like Galatians 1:10 (Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.) became a sort of defense position when it came to listening to any negative criticism. I still believe that there are particular times when this is especially applicable but it’s not the full picture of what we are to be as Pastors. There exists a tension between “not seeking approval” and being “all things to all people.” 1 Corinthians 9:19 “Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible.”
It is an understatement to admit that I am human and it must also go without saying that everyone else is human as well. This being known it is important to know that a persons perception of me could be just as flawed as my perception of their perception of me. This means that there can be a lot of mis-understandings within the body of Christ. I have seen many pastors build a dam that allowed no water of input to flow their way and I have seen pastors loose the flood gates of opinion and watched them drown in a river of indecisiveness. I suppose I have always erred (when I have erred) on the side of the man who built the dam but I am not realizing that it is important to allow the fresh water and that means knowing where your water is coming from.
There are springs of fresh water in my life, most certainly. There are people who are constant sources of affirming criticism whom I am most grateful for. There are people in my life who are not seeking their agenda for me, but God’s agenda for me. This is a good thing and something that I am still growing in.
Managing a perception is hard, the Bible calls us to be “above reproach.” Seeking to be above correction is a difficult bar to set for yourself but not setting it is allowing pride to dictate where the bar goes.