2020 has been one of the toughest years in our history. A worldwide pandemic, racial injustice, and a global economy teetering on disaster. Church leaders have faced enormous challenges that have left us exhausted. As leaders, we have felt like we’ve been walking through the fire. Here’s the thing: God often uses the fire of difficult circumstances, criticism, and challenges to shape us as leaders. 

Moses spent 40 years in the desert being refined (Exodus 2). Elijah spent time in Zarephath, which means “the place of refinement,” and in Beersheba, which means “the place of swearing” (I Kings 17, 19). Even Jesus Himself spent time in the wilderness where Satan hammered him with temptation, not because Jesus’s character needed to be shaped, but because we need a Savior who understands the pressures we face (Matthew 4:1-11).

It is through the refiner’s fire that we learn to open our hands and let go. What do we need to let go of as leaders? 

Let go of your need for approval. In leadership, criticism is going to come – at times from all different directions. People aren’t always going to understand the decisions made. Through this year, I’ve (Becky) learned to take those criticisms before the Lord and ask Him what He wants me to change. Sometimes He has pointed out something specific. At other times, He has whispered, “Let go and trust me with your reputation.” Honestly, it’s often easier to try to change something than to simply let it go. Jesus continues to invite us to join Him on the cross where His own reputation was nailed. He reminds us lovingly that the call to follow Him is a call to die – to our opinions, preferences, and rights to defend ourselves. Without death, there can be no resurrection. 

Let go of your need to be busy.  Busyness robs us of our attentiveness to Jesus. I am more convinced than ever, that Christian leaders need to be spending large amounts of time in solitude with Jesus. For some of you with children at home, that’s challenging. I understand. However, take some time to take a prayer walk, or get up a touch earlier to start your day by setting your focus on Christ. If you’re not deeply rooted in Him, the challenges ahead will overwhelm you. Take time through your day to pause and pray. As you focus on Christ, His agenda for your life and work will become clear. 

Let go of your definition of success. After 2020, we have the opportunity to re-write our definition of success. What does it look like for you as a Christian leader to re-frame success as, “one who is living in union with Christ”? I know that’s a stretch for some of us because we like the western standards of measuring our success by numbers. For many ministry leaders, success is measured by Sunday morning attendance and offerings, or by the number of books sold. If you measure your success that way, after 2020 you feel like a total failure. What if God has offered you a new opportunity to re-shape your thinking about success? Only as we are willing to let go of our old mindset to embrace something new can God transform our lives.

As we approach a new year in just a few weeks, why don’t you make it your goal to let go? Let go of the need for approval, let go of busyness, and prioritize time with Jesus. Finally, let go of the old definition of success. As you let go and embrace the life of Christ more fully, I believe you are going to find that He is more than enough!