The Beauty of Imperfect Ministry
By Angie Logan
From the time I was a little girl, my dad taught me to work hard and to give my best in everything I do. It may have been an extension of Colossians 3:23 – Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord… – and it was a principle that he taught me to live by. My grades in high school and undergrad weren’t perfect by any means, but they did reflect my desire to do everything with excellence. Academic achievements were something I was proud of and worked hard for. When I started working toward my MDiv at ACU, I carried my dad’s principle with me and determined to give it everything I could, even as a 40-year-old mom of four who was well out of practice in terms of study and academics. When I started earning high scores for my classwork, I was thrilled, and my desire to give my best quickly turned into a desire to achieve perfection.
And then, in year three of my program, I enrolled in Elementary Hebrew with Dr. Paavo Tucker. I quickly fell in love with the language and found that I have quite a knack for language studies. In my second semester with Dr. Tucker, I struggled through one of the tests – an experience I was not accustomed to and did not appreciate – and I lamented my difficulty to Dr. Tucker through an email. He responded by assuring me that my grade was just fine, but then he said something to me that struck deep and has stayed with me since that day. He wrote this: “It is OK to not make 100% on everything; so please don’t be too hard on yourself if you don’t attain a perfect score…It is a very hard way to go through life, and especially be involved in Christian ministry, with such expectations on yourself.” He even “blessed” me to “miss a few jots or tittles every now and then.”
In mid-February of 2020, I transitioned into full-time worship ministry at Crossroads Christian Church of Hutchinson, KS. My family and I had been members of that church for nearly ten years, and I had been serving as a volunteer worship leader there for several of those years. I was thrilled to be given the opportunity to serve in that church full-time. And then, three weeks into my new ministry, the Hutchinson community began to shut down due to COVID-19 and my eldership decided that the best move for our congregation was to go fully remote for our worship times. Experiential worship and theology are both well within my skillset and passion; live stream technology was very much outside my area of expertise.
To say the first several weeks were rough is an understatement; perfection was nowhere on the horizon of possibilities. In addition to wading my way through the technical challenges of putting out a smooth live stream, I also wrestled with the imperfection of the music that my team was producing and that was now captured for all-time in digital form. As a musician, I was taught to find flaws and fix them; as a minister working with volunteers, I knew my most important job was not to make flawless music, but to love these people and walk alongside them in faith. Those two expectations were in great conflict with one another.
That is, until I began to pay careful attention to the toll that isolation was having on my people and the way that the worship team was becoming a life-giving community for several of them. As I focused more and more on ministering to my volunteers and creating a safe space for them to feel all the things they were feeling as COVID-19 made its appearance in our community, the less I worried about how professional of a sound or video we were producing. The more I prayed for them to find God’s peace through the community of this little team, the less I focused on making “perfect” music (as if that’s even a thing…).(I should also add that I have a fantastic team of extremely talented volunteer musicians and technicians, and in no way mean to devalue their skill! I’m so very grateful for each one of them!)
The nature of my role as a worship minister – especially in a live-stream-only setting – can make it easy to forget that even worship ministry is not about putting out a quality product, but about living the love of Jesus to the people around me and about walking with people in God’s presence. Dr. Tucker’s words often play through my mind, especially when I make publicly visible mistakes, and remind me that true ministry makes space for imperfection. In fact, I have found that my best moments in ministry thus far have been when I am fully surrounded by the humanity of my team, my elders, my coworkers, my congregation, and their imperfections meet mine, and we love like Jesus loved regardless of those flaws.
So, Dr. Tucker was absolutely right (or should I say, “perfectly correct?”) when he encouraged me to give myself space to be imperfect. His words of wisdom have helped me to live into my role as a minister with all my imperfections, and to love the people around me with all their imperfections. My first year in full-time ministry has been chock-full of challenges, but I wouldn’t trade even one moment of its fabulous imperfection.