Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every hindrance and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith. For the joy that lay before him, he endured the cross, despising the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-2 CSB)
This exhortation from the author of Hebrews to “run with endurance the race that lies before us” resonates deeply in the soul of all ministry leaders in this season of ministry for sure.
Endurance is defined by Merriam-Webster as “the ability to withstand hardship or adversity.” The charge from Hebrews is more than sheer endurance, but to keep running in the right direction. Ministry leadership in this season requires what I call, “pastoral grit.”
Pastoral grit is the ability to persevere through the inevitable difficulties of ministry leadership and remain steadfast as God uses the leader to shepherd the church forward.
In her book, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, New York Times best-selling author Angela Duckworth defines grit as “having a goal you care about so much that it organizes and gives meaning to almost everything you do. And grit is holding steadfast to that goal no matter what happens.”
Pastoral grit demonstrates a commitment to and a love for the local church, with all its scars, wounds, and dysfunction. The gritty pastor is someone who willingly faces not only self-inflicted pains from his own messes in ministry but also inherited pains left by others.
There are at least four essential elements needed to have pastoral grit.
Effective ministry leaders are passionate about seeing God glorified in their churches and communities. They are clear about their calling. In the darkest hours of ministry, knowing God called you to this work will be the light that keeps you going. Passion requires setting aside hindrances and distractions that so easily ensnare us. In this way, passion gives us a kind of laser vision.
Are you trying to please God or please man? This is a question you likely have never wrestled with theologically. However, when leading a church or ministry of any kind, you will ultimately wrestle with the practical implications of this question. Pastoral grit requires the leader to live more by theological conviction than circumstantial convenience. The effective ministry leader follows the instructions of Hebrews to keep running with their eyes on Jesus. They understand that the church is Christ’s bride and Christ is the head of the church.
Ministry leadership requires what one author calls “long obedience in the same direction.” The author of Hebrews calls this “running with endurance.” Leading well in any ministry area for a long time is not an easy task. Gritty leaders willingly face trials in their own shortcomings of leadership, but they also will enter the messiness of others around them as well. Let’s face it, effective ministry is messy. Gritty leaders are willing to keep running, even when it means suffering. Hebrews says Jesus endured his suffering for the joy set before him. Let us lead as we run toward joy as well.
The prior three elements build a gritty perspective for leaders. The passion and clarity of the leader’s calling to serve the Lord and His Bride keeps them on task. Running with their eyes on Jesus, the leader knows they serve a higher purpose. Leading the church forward in the midst of suffering requires the right perspective. That perspective can be hard to find in the fog of war. This is why mentors, coaches, and good friends are so valuable. We were never called to lead alone. We need someone who has been there before and can help keep our eyes on Jesus. Do not lead alone. Who serves these roles in your life?
Pain is inevitable in ministry. We are called to more than just endurance; we are called to keep running and leading the church to Jesus. This requires pastoral grit.
Keep running your race!