In my opinion, the notion of desiring a pastor or leader with a “high capacity” is one of the unfortunate trends I’ve observed within the local church and pastoral ministry. The “high capacity” description often refers to, or is interpreted to mean, a leader who could do more than the average person. A person with a unique ability, not only to excel in multiple areas of discipline, but also to work for longer durations at a pace that most cannot. I believe this mindset has contributed to burnout for many, and it has caused some to abandon their once passionate calling.
However, it’s important to recognize that running at such a high speed for extended periods is not sustainable, and quite frankly, it does not honor the Lord. Someone of that capacity may come to mind as you read this, and it may even be you.
I pursued this high capacity ideal because I thought it was what I needed to do to be valuable and worthwhile in the Kingdom and in ministry circles. I was striving for something I already had in Christ.
My Experience With This Myth
For a while, this desirable trait was the expectation for leaders within the ministry, and I believed in it too. I thought that my worth to any employer and what I needed to convey in interviews was that I had a capacity larger than anyone else they might hire. However, I became disillusioned, as did many others who held such expectations of leaders. I believed that if I were a great leader, I had no limitations.
This pursuit came at a personal cost for me. I was often very tired because I had my hands on so many tasks, and some things were done just adequately. scheduled too many unnecessary meetings and appointments, which drained me (at the time, I didn’t even know I was an introvert), leaving me exhausted with very little to give to my new wife. I would even become irritable and resentful of others who didn’t work at the same pace. This was not good for my soul at all.
To be transparent, I pursued this high capacity ideal because I thought it was what I needed to do to be valuable and worthwhile in the Kingdom and in ministry circles. I was striving for something I already had in Christ.
Limitations Does Not Mean Weakness
Fast forward to now, and I am convinced that great leadership means understanding your limitations rather than deceiving yourself into thinking you can do it all. Let me explain…
The great leaders of the Bible had a deep dependency on the LORD. Joseph, Moses, all the Prophets, David, Mary, Peter, Paul, and Timothy—everyone would agree that their legacies were marked by Spirit-filled reliance. Their greatness did not make them reliant on the LORD; it was their awareness of their limitations that led them to trust God, which in turn led God to do great things in and through them. In essence, it was their acknowledgment of their limitations that paved the way for their greatness.
The one truly great aspect of our lives and ministry is the triune God who is eager to step in, provide rest for our weary souls, compensate for our shortcomings with His mighty hand, and work ahead of us in areas beyond our control.
Limitations Leads to Reliance Upon God
An authentic self-awareness of your limitations forces you to rely on God to do the heavy lifting. You can now free yourself from some tasks, knowing you’ve done what you can with the things you can control. The rest becomes the responsibility of Providence.
This lesson has been reinforced even more as a church planter. There is so much to do and very little time to do it. Understanding my limitations helps me, first, to continue to be an engaged and enthusiastic pastor of my church in year five, six, and seven. And second, it places my church and family in a position to witness God doing amazing things.
If you and I are always operating at high capacity and constantly grinding out the “work of ministry,” we will never see God do the things that only He can do. The path to becoming a great leader is realizing that you’re not all that great. The one truly great aspect of our lives and ministry is the triune God who is eager to step in, provide rest for our weary souls, compensate for our shortcomings with His mighty hand, and work ahead of us in areas beyond our control.
What if you adopted a mindset and pace that considered your spiritual state ten years from now?
Don’t get me wrong; there are seasons when life is just go, go, go. However, if your ministry is always a sprint, I’m confident in saying that you’re probably doing it wrong.
What if you adopted a mindset and pace that considered your spiritual state ten years from now? If you wanted to be as invigorated as you are now, how would you plan and lead your life today to be in that position a decade from now?
And what if we redefined and redeemed the understanding of a high-capacity leader? What if, from now on, it meant that leaders had the capacity for availability, were accessible, and weren’t overwhelmed with the hustle of church work? What if it meant that a pastor’s capacity was filled more with prayer, fasting, and the disciplines of godly reliance? What if it meant that there was a higher probability that the leader would faithfully lead his family and congregation? What if it meant that the leader would finish well?
Friends, admitting and being aware of your limitations doesn’t make you a poor leader. It makes you a great one. As the Apostle Paul said it best, “For when I am weak, then I am strong.”