Church leaders are called to be and do many noble things. Some of us will have more of this than that, and no one is perfect or has the maximum allowable amount of any virtue. However, there is one recognizable spiritual trait I’ve observed in all pastors that honor God with competent ministry over many years: perseverance.
I’ll define perseverance this way: the consistency and pain tolerance to make godly decisions and take godly actions at cost to oneself without quitting or sinning in response to the resulting adversity. There are reasons to change course or stop doing something. But we can tell the difference between doing so and quitting for the wrong reasons. Perseverance isn’t stubbornness, either. It is resilience rooted in courage and clarity of vision.
All ministry that is relevant and going somewhere meets resistance. There are few exceptions. Thus, overcoming resistance is essential for progress in ministry. The ability to devote oneself to solving a complex problem or building something from scratch; the patience required to train a volunteer or build a team properly; the patience to pastor people through a time of change or personal crisis—all these take perseverance. Nearly everything a pastor does requires perseverance to be faithful to the task. I might go as far to say, without perseverance, one cannot effectively pastor.
There are many way to identify perseverance. Some can be observed externally. For instance, when we hire at New Vintage Church, we look for perseverance in people. We look, for instance, for education in their background—not only because it can demonstrate knowledge or competency in a field of ministry. It shows that person can FINISH something that took a lot of effort for a long time.
There are other ways to demonstrate this character trait, of course, but education is a good one. Marriage is another. The way one handles parenthood can be another. When hiring, look for the ability to persevere over time (not short-term), and cultivate it as a virtue on your staff. If it is cultivated there … it will take hold in the church over time. If it takes hold in the church, Satan is in deep trouble.
Perseverance is Spirit-supplied. It isn’t something we can purchase or teach in seminary. It’s something God does in us through practice. How can we cultivate it? Similarly to how we cultivate other character traits requiring a reshaping of our will.
Pray for it continually.
Practice it frequently.
Then, do those two over and over again.
There is no way to snap our fingers and have perseverance. It takes time and the formation of character. Emerson wrote, “The great majority of men are bundles of beginnings.” May we more than a bundle of beginnings. Let’s finish what we start and start things readily, confident that God will give us what we need to finish them.
Galatians 6:9: Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.