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I’ve served in full-time ministry for over 35 years in churches in many places in the U.S.: the south, the southwest, the far west and the mid-west. I now serve as lead church in Ontario, Canada. I’ve noticed that a church’s expectations of a pastor varies depending on the region. And when that church, culture, or pastor gets caught up in a ‘measure up’ mentality, it can be deadly. Consider these thoughts on the ‘measure up mentality’ in ministry.

The Measure Up Mentality:

When I served a large church in the central valley in California several years ago it seemed that I could easily meet the church’s expectations. Yet in another large church in another part of the U.S. I found that meeting others’ expectations was extremely challenging, especially among church members successful in business. I attribute that to both the business environment there that required you to perform at a high level and to the fact that that church was located near four well-known mega-churches with world class leaders and preachers. Comparison came with the territory.

However, here in Canada, I don’t seem to face that same mentality as I did in that region of the U.S.

Every ministry leader deals with this ‘measure up mentality’ to some extent. Although we can’t avoid it, we can choose how we respond to it.

Some unwise choices include…

  • thinking we can please everybody
  • morphing into someone we are not to get everybody’s approval
  • using “I can’t please everyone” as an excuse to be lazy, not work hard, or avoid difficult problems or people
  • obsessing over those you can’t please

I admit that at times the ‘measure up mentality’ has sucked my joy out of ministry. But I’ve applied some simple ideas below that have helped me keep my joy even when I felt I didn’t measure up in the eyes of others. Perhaps they will encourage you as well.

  • God made me who I am. I may not be a world-class leader, a ‘blow you a way’ preacher, or as creative as some, but I must appreciate, embrace, and faithfully use the gifts and competencies He has given me.
  • He has placed me where He wants me to be. I must accept that and do my best with the opportunity He’s provided.
  • I must not dismiss or cutoff those with whom I don’t measure up.
  • It’s ok to take care of my valid needs. I can’t change what other people think about me, make them like me, or force them to approve of me, but I can take care of the body, soul, and spirit God has entrusted to me. In doing so, I then become the best pastor and leader He has created me to be.

This old King James Version verse has encouraged me as I’ve faced the ‘measure up mentality.’

Psa. 62.5 My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from him. 

In my third book, People Pleasing Pastors: Avoiding the Pitfalls of Approval Motivated Leadership, I deal extensively with how to manage this ‘measure up mentality’ as it relates to the temptation to people please.

How have you handled the ‘measure up mentality?’

Dr. Charles Stone is Lead Pastor at West Park Church in London, Ontario, Canada, and the founder of StoneWell Ministries, a pastor coaching and church consulting ministry. He is the author of four books including, "People Pleasing Pastors: Avoiding the Pitfalls of Approval Motivated Leadership" (IVP 2014), and his most recent book, “Brain-Savvy Leaders: The Science of Significant Ministry” (Abingdon, May 2015).

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