Imagine what would happen if customers could vote about who got to work at places like Best Buy and McDonalds. Or make it more personal. What if your friends, family, and neighbors could vote you in our out as, say, a parent? A husband? A wife? If they could vote on how well you do and whether or not you get to keep doing it? Well, I work in just such an enterprise. It’s called the church.

Evaluation is an indispensable part of growth. “How am I doing? What’s working? What’s not? How can I do better?” Those are the questions that haunt a leader, or should haunt a leader, every single day of their lives. And hopefully feedback is regularly coming our way through conversations about our ministry. But it’s also important to schedule regular, I say yearly, evaluations for pastoral staff.

This weekend is the deadline for the pastoral evaluations at DCC. This year we opted to use Survey Monkey, which makes administration and evaluation so much simpler than before. Simpler, but no less heavy on my soul as a pastor. In the ideal evaluation, there are no surprises. Feedback should be transparent and regular enough that the issues raised in a survey have already been on the table in some way, shape, or form. Ideally.

I believe all this, but today, my heart is anxious. Not because of what I already know: There are a couple of responses and ratings I’m expecting in areas that I already know need improvement. I’m nervous, I think, about the surprises—and the possible implications of the results. Not my position. Not at all. But the direction, the affirmation, the sense of support I feel. It’s like part of me is still five years old, craving affirmation, fearing rebuke. What if the church wants something I can’t deliver? What if they stomp on my heart? What if there’s more criticism than praise among the ranks?

Think of the word: e-valuate. To assign value. But my value, or even the value of my ministry, is not tied to people’s opinion of it.

Deep breath.

I’m reminded of Jesus words, “How can you believe if you accept praise from one another, yet make no effort to obtain the praise that comes from the only God?” (John 5:44). In short, what God thinks is what matters most. But how Jesus phrases the words here go even deeper: I think he’s saying that a people-pleasing motive makes the people you’re trying to please a god in your life. An idol. There can be only one, Jesus says. Him.

I welcome iron sharpening me. It’s how I grow. But it’s never pleasant at the time, even though it will eventually reap the harvest of righteousness and peace (Hebrews 12:11). The peace I’m lacking in this moment. So bring on what I need!

Jesus, prune me — root out this insecurity, fill me with your strength, with the courage that can face the fire of cleansing as an act of worship.