My New Year’s resolution is to quit. Quitting is usually seen as failure, as giving up. This is ironic because the Christian life is all about quitting. It is about giving up on yourself before you can even start. I had to give up to become a ministry leader. I never wanted this role. I was wounded by pastors in the past and never wanted to do anything close to leading a ministry. Growing up, I only went to church when there wasn’t a good football game on television or I wasn’t playing soccer. I never really wanted to “go to church” let alone “be the Church.”
Then Jesus stepped in. Jesus saved me in my mid-20’s and immediately called me to tell others about him and to start living life as part of his church. Surprisingly, I loved both. I had to give up (quit) my way of life to live out his ways and t It ended up being amazing. I was on fire for the Lord. My faith was increasing daily. Everything I gave up only made me feel like I had more. I confessed stuff I had hidden for years, and I quit trying to make up for my hidden junk with charity.
I finally decided to receive his forgiveness and healing. I realized that Jesus knew all my failures, sin, insecurities, and doubts yet he still loved me. I felt like I could fly and I couldn’t help tell everyone about it. This made me quit even more. At the time, I had a job that stole a lot of time from my wife and church family - it was weekends and nights, demanding and sporadic. I quit. And God immediately provided a better job, with better hours, with better pay. My faith soared.
My journey into church planting wasn’t me “not giving up,” it was me giving up on my career dreams, my addictions, and my view of the church and church leadership. I had to be a quitter to get into ministry.
I have now been an elder of a church plant for four years and somewhere along the way I stopped “quitting” and started trying too hard. I don’t even know when this started happening, but I know it did. .
Maybe it was one of the many leadership assessments, where instead of me feeling thankful for outside support and perspective, I started believing the lie and feeling the pressure to prove myself. Sure I may be young and inexperienced but I will show you that I earned this.
Maybe it was the several times I have had close friends leave the church for one reason or another, or maybe because some of them beat me up a bit on the way out. I will show them for leaving. I will try harder, I won’t give up, they are wrong about me. I will succeed and show them how great I am.
Maybe it happens every year when I get my network’s survey asking how many baptisms our church had. Instead of rejoicing in all the people God is saving across the country (the reason for the survey in the first place), I start wondering if I did good enough. We had 8 baptisms. Is that good enough? Two of them went back on drugs and left and another two got divorced and left and another moved in with their boyfriend and said they will never talk to me again. Do those still count?
Or maybe it is the constant question, “How many people are in your church? How many on Sundays?” Do I give them last month’s numbers that were the highest ever? Or this month’s numbers that were the lowest of the year? And why were this month’s so low? What could I do to change that? Maybe if I study more, nail down the perfect church structure, go to the right conferences this year, speak at a conference, podcast more, podcast less, get our Twitter account more followers, pray harder, get more people praying harder, preach on this, teach on that, then I will be a success!
Maybe it was when I started having kids and getting less sleep and trying to pretend that I got this whole parent thing down. These kids won’t listen. They won’t sleep. They won’t stop making messes. They won’t stop filling diapers. I just want them to go to bed on time so I can watch “one,” just “one” episode of The Office on Netflix, then I will be happy. Truly happy.
Maybe it was when I adopted a beautiful baby girl and found out that adoption is hard and it revealed the evil in my heart.. I found out that on my own I didn’t love her the same as my biological son; I wanted to treat her like a step-daughter instead of as my daughter. I understand the gospel. I understand adoption. Why is this so hard? Maybe I don’t understand at all. Maybe I still believe I am a step-son of God and trying to prove myself to him. I am adopted. I am loved. I get to adopt and I get to love my daughter as my own just as the Father loves me as his own.
Maybe it is trying to hide the amount that I still lust, still want control, still feel more comfortable when there is more money in my savings account, still over-eat, still hold grudges, still have pride, still am selfish, and still want my own kingdom. What is wrong with me? Shouldn’t I be better than this by now? Maybe I am hopeless case. Maybe I have reached my righteousness ceiling. Maybe God gave me as much freedom from sin as he can and now the rest is up to me. I can’t be a pastor. I got to hide this mess so I can pretend that I can help people with their mess. I guess I will just minimize all of this and try harder on my own.
Maybe it was when I learned how to “dress my sin up” with more acceptable language. “I am struggling a bit with this, I am growing in that, I gave in to a little temptation, the Lord is calling me to live more comfortably.” I checked out my friends wife, I ignored my kid to check a sports score on the phone, I am bitter against at least ten l people who I am supposed to love as brothers and sisters, I’d rather watch my football team lose than share the gospel with an unbelieving friend. I am selfish and still often believe that being selfish is the best way to live.
I quit. I’m not getting anywhere on my own. .Paul grew more and more aware of his sinfulness as he matured and led, and I am growing more and more aware of my achievements and how to minimize my sin.
Truth is that I am still a mess, but he still knows all of my mess and still chooses to love, bless, protect, and care for me. He still gives me a purpose and a life worth living. Truth is that my sin does not define me; his love defines me. I am a beloved son of God the Father. I am a saint. I am a living stone amongst living stones that make up the dwelling place of God. I am alive in Christ. I am holy. And I don’t have to try and prove any of this. I get to just trust that this is who I am. I am not my sin or my failures. I am his righteousness and his victory! And when I trust who I am in Christ, I begin to live like I am who he says I am. This is how I discovered the power over life-long sin, addictions, and pain that lead me into a life of ministry in the first place. But I often forget this and once again start trying too hard.
I quit. The problem isn’t with church surveys, with kids, with people leaving, with temptation - the problem is with my heart. A heart that trusts who God is and what he has done is going to be secure in Christ. A heart that is trying to prove itself will try harder to gain God or people’s acceptance. I want to quit trying and start trusting who God has made me to be! I want to live freely in his grace!
I quit. I want Jesus to lead his church, lead my family and lead me! I want my ministry to be his ministry, to be about his reputation, and about God the Father’s approval that Jesus earned for his followers. I want this to be the light burden and easy yoke that Jesus promised.
The truth is that it is only grace that I am in ministry. It is only grace that anyone would marry me, that God would give me three kids, that I could have the privilege of adopting, that anyone would dare follow me as I follow Christ, that anyone would listen to me as I to teach about Jesus. It is all a gift that I don’t deserve. It is all grace! Forgetting this and trying to prove that I earned it, only leads to a cycle of trying to prove something that can never be proven. It is impossible, exhausting, and foolish to try and prove that I deserve what I don’t deserve.
So, this is my letter of resignation. I want to be the biggest quitter alive. I surrender. I can’t do any of this and I want the world to know it. I need Jesus. I need his forgiveness. I need him to send the Spirit. I need him to save my friends, family and neighbors. I need him to reveal himself to San Diego. I need him more now than ever. And he is here. He is with me. He forgives me. He blesses me. He is filled with joy when he thinks about me.
He loves me. And he loves you, too.
Jake Chambers (@JakeJayChambers) is the husband to his beautiful bride Lindsey, and a daddy to Ezra, Roseanna, and Jaya. Jake is passionate about seeing the gospel both transform lives and create communities that love Jesus, the city, and the lost. He currently serves Red Door Church in San Diego through leading, preaching, equipping, and pastoring.