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Imperfect Perfection

“It doesn’t seem like you need any help.” I sat back in my chair. The weight of her words pierced through me, caught me off guard. I was sitting in my friend’s sunroom, sipping coffee, as I had done so many times. However, this time, the Holy Spirit used her words to burn His message upon my heart.

“It doesn’t seem like you need any help.”

We had just come out of a strategic planning meeting. God gave me the vision. Like a good leader, I cast the vision, complete with all the details. Once I thoroughly laid it all out for the team, I asked for input, feedback, & volunteers to lead in different areas. As I looked around the room, no one moved. Seriously? Crickets…you could hear crickets!

“Come on! We’re a team. I’ve laid this out so beautifully for you,” I screamed in my mind. Little did I realize, that was the problem. Now, recovering from the meeting, my friend’s words echoed in my brain.

I learned the value of “we” early on in leadership. Teams, groups, committees – whatever you call them, they’re biblical. Paul reminds us in Ephesians 4:11-12, “And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastor and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; … ”

Team is God’s idea.

Delegating and empowering are essential components of team leadership development. Here’s the problem – I wasn’t involving the “team”…until I had it all figured out. I was giving them an overwhelmingly detailed set of blueprints, and then trying to convince them that they were part of a collaborative effort, and I wanted their input. Now that’s hilarious! In actuality, I was trying to ensure that my…I mean, the Lord’s vision was executed exactly as I…I mean, He instructed. Oh, please!

Perfectionism comes in many forms. Merriam-Webster defines 'perfect' as “being entirely without fault of defect: flawless.” Perfectionism is “a disposition to regard anything short of perfection as unacceptable.” Therefore, a perfectionist is someone who refuses to accept any standard short of perfection. I was a perfectionist disguised as a collaborator, which is a fancy way of saying that I was a control freak. I could not have been further from Ephesians 4.

Here’s the scary part. I suddenly wondered, “If I’m “helping” those that I shepherd this way, how am I “helping” my children, my husband, the rest of the world?” Whoa!

Look, I’m a leader. It’s intrinsic to who I am. As such, I have ideas, opinions, preferences…lots of them. But, what about everyone else’s ideas? What about their opinions and preferences? What if it’s not as much about achieving the grand master plan, as it is about achieving together? Let’s be real – that’s messy.

Jesus was a leader. He was the best leader to ever walk the planet – He was perfect. He knew the great big blueprint of life plans because He wrote them. Yet, He believed it was best to take a huge risk, and place His mission into the hands of imperfect people. He surrounded Himself with an inexperienced leadership team, marked by misunderstanding and misstep. He finished His work perfectly, delegating and empowering the very same leadership team that rarely seemed to get it right…and His mission keeps going.

Jesus wasn’t only a leader. He was a son, a brother, a friend, a teacher, a mentor, a laborer, a citizen. He lived life with real people, relationships, circumstances, and responsibilities. He knew the beginning from the end, and although He chose to lay aside the perfection of heaven while He was on earth, I can’t help but wonder if He ever felt tempted to “help” people out, that way I want to “help” people out.

If Jesus could work with imperfect people without expecting perfection or grabbing for control, and still accomplish everything He intended, then certainly I was not in a position to do otherwise. After all, “Many plans are in a man’s heart, But the counsel of the Lord will stand.” (Proverbs 19:21)

That evening in my friend’s sunroom, as the shock of her statement lessened, I began sipping my coffee once again, but I did so transformed. No, I didn’t throw out planning and vision. Those are biblical concepts. I did, however, change the presentation. Rather than laying out the airtight plan and asking for comments, I started by presenting a small concept and then waited for the Holy Spirit to speak to and through His numerous vessels.

Merriam Webster has an alternative definition of perfect, “faithfully reproducing the original.” With Jesus as the original, I wholeheartedly approve of this type of perfectionism.


Imperfect Perfection is ENTRY FIVE in our blog series, Beneath the Surface. Did this message speak to your heart? It would thrill us if you'd share it with the women under your influence and other ministry wives.


Rachael Butler and her husband Craig have been married and in the ministry for 21 years and are currently on staff as Discipleship Pastors at Victory Church (Lakeland, FL). Both of their daughters, Cali (age 19) and Cami (age 18), are students at Southeastern University (Lakeland, FL). Rachael's ministry philosophy has been shaped by her personal commitment to stretching and growing through continued education--both formal and informal--and by daily practical experiences. In her free time Rachael enjoys relaxing at the beach, travel, and coffee with her girls. "My personal passions include study, teaching, and preaching, but my greatest ministry passion is to create awareness and foster pathways and platforms for women who are called to lead in ministry contexts."

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