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Notes from the Journey with the Disciples – 193

December 30, 2014 Leave a comment
  1. At first his disciples didn’t understand all this (John 12:16).

Such words could easily be written in every generation of every collection of Christ followers. There’s much we don’t understand. A life of faith doesn’t demand understanding, we don’t typically grasp the greater picture of what God is doing in our lives. But often such clarification does come in time. When we look back over the journey we’ve traversed with God, we begin to see the wisdom of His plan for us. We also see the beauty of His grace that covers us and adds beauty where our impatience and struggle for control steered us off course. But in the moment, we can see so little. That makes faith all the more important. We just hold His hand and keep walking.

A Pastor’s Battle with Insecurity – Part 5

December 29, 2014 Leave a comment

When considering what insecurity looks like in the life of a pastor, we’ve already discussed Comparison, Compensation, and Competition. These attitudes or expressions demonstrate that our pastors are people too. But there’s more to this discussion than simply admitting that. We have to find ways to prevent these feelings from affecting our behavior because when you act out of insecurity, you can find yourself harming your own ministry efforts.

Now, these previous three are certainly big issues and likely strike a chord with many, but our next such expression of insecurity may be the most common of all. Many pastors reveal their feelings of inadequacy, low self-worth, or their struggle for acceptance through Compulsion.

  1. COMPULSION You are driven to perform compulsively to gain others’ approval; you are a people-pleaser.

Compulsion is at the core of what we commonly call “workaholism.” Those who demonstrate insecurity in this way simply can’t do enough to ever feel like they are safe in their work. Surely there is one more thing to do, visit to make, or sacrifice that can prove my dedication. Many, many insecure pastors find themselves logging 60-80 hours a week, not because they truly need to do so, but because they are trying to prove themselves worthy of their role or the trust they need to establish. These pastors will respond to virtually any request, no matter how unreasonable, and rationalize their family sacrifice as necessary for the ministry.

Now, let me say that these pastors are really good guys, but they are caught in a trap that can be impossible to escape. There will never be enough hours in a day to complete every possible task that the congregation might think they require. But these pastors simply can’t say “no” to any addition to the to-do list so they wear themselves out and often burn themselves out, grasping for the approval they need to beat back those insecure feelings.

Yes, pastoral ministry requires many sacrifices. Caring for sheep can be a 24/7 kind of job. That’s why insecure pastors are especially vulnerable to Compulsion. They can justify their inhuman schedule as “a part of the job.” But such Compulsion fails to demonstrate trust in God. These pastors struggle to take a day off or ever put their family ahead of the church’s needs. They often live as though everything depends on their efforts or feel that if they don’t take every action, the stability they’ve built will crumble around them.

And a compulsive pastor proves unhealthy for the church too. The next leader will find that their predecessor allowed “the sheep” to become lazy and unable to do ministry themselves. Pastors who do it all end up with sheep that do very little—and the next pastor will unknowingly walk into a set of unrealistic expectations.

Danger: Your flesh takes control and you risk burnout due to impure motives and unrealistic expectations.

Example: Luke 10 (Martha)

  1. You become distracted from “big picture” priorities, being consumed by your own performance.
  2. You project your self worth to others and over-estimate your importance.
  3. You experience “self pity” and seek recognition for your hard work.
  4. You grow weary because you attempt to do too much – for the wrong reasons.
  5. You tend to be a perfectionist.

What does the scripture say about this issue?

“Come to Me all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and you shall find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and my burden is light.”                                                                                                 (Matthew 11: 28-30)

Pastor, for the good of your family and the congregation you never want to let down, this behavior has to stop. The work of ministry is all about growing people to do the work of ministry. Doing everything for them may make your people dependent on you, but it will never teach them to depend on Jesus. And never forget that you’re not Jesus…

If you see these tendencies in your life, begin immediately to address them. Work out a healthy schedule with your spouse and your leadership team. Put your children’s activities on your calendar first and don’t let them be forced out unless a true emergency requires your presence. Aim for a balanced life so your ministry can produce others who live in balance.

How? Stay tuned because we’re getting closer to identifying the steps for conquering the insecurity that may be ruling your life.

Notes from the Journey with the Disciples – 192

December 24, 2014 Leave a comment
  1. “…shouting ‘Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord’” (John 12:13).

Jesus is coming! That cry must have shaken more than one village into a new level of hope. When Jesus came through town, things dramatically changed. Not only were sicknesses healed, but God became personal. Ideas of their ancient God became as modern as a flesh and blood face and a hand to shake. Little wonder that cries of “Save Us!” (Hosanna) pierced this particular morning. Passover is near and the people long for a Savior they have been promised. Can the One who opens blind eyes and raises the dead do something even greater? Can He save His people from their oppressors? Rather than waving a palm branch, perhaps we should consider what our hope and expectations of Him really are.

Categories: Leadership Journeys

A Pastor’s Battle with Insecurity – Part 4

December 21, 2014 2 comments

Thus far, we have considered two of the ways that insecurity is revealed in the life of a pastor. Frankly, the evidence of insecurity in a pastor’s life isn’t easy for a congregation to process. We need our pastor to somehow have eclipsed the struggles we deal with. After all, how can he lead us to overcome our issues, if he has issues too?

If you understand the feelings of those last two statements, you’re ready to grasp some of why the life of a pastor can be so unrealistic. Your pastor is likely a fantastic, caring, human being, but if you’re expecting him to be unaffected by his own humanness, you’re perpetuating a fantasy that he and no one else can live up to. If you’re a pastor and you’re unable to acknowledge your own areas of weakness, you’re headed down a road that can someday destroy you.

Pastors are people too. As such, we carry our own feelings of inadequacy, fear, and needs for encouragement too. It’s how we deal with those feelings that will say much about our health and longevity in ministry. If you are willing to acknowledge and find healthy approaches to these emotional challenges, a strong future can be ahead.

Let’s consider another way that insecurities can show up in our lives.

  1. COMPETITION You drift into self-centered patterns, consumed by outdoing others in receiving attention and reward.

Many pastors express insecurity with inappropriate feelings of competition. You see, there’s really not a lot of healthy uses of competition in a pastor’s life. He’s not supposed to be trying to “beat” the church down the street or compete with the successes of other ministries. Like a baseball player who hurts the team to pad his own statistics, pastors who try to “win” in ministry life by outdoing their fellow pastors are demonstrating selfish behavior and hurting the overall team effort.

If you’ve ever sat in a minister’s meeting and heard another pastor’s celebration of a great Sunday, you’ve confronted a moment where insecurity can show up through competition. Did you politely applaud but secretly wonder why you don’t have Sundays like that? Did you find yourself internally explaining the difference between your ministries or nearly verbalize what you think that guy compromised to get his result? Did you make a mental list of the advantages he has that most of the rest of you don’t, or did you wonder why no one asked to hear your great story? Or have you ever felt anything other than sadness when you hear of another pastor’s failure?

If any of those responses feel familiar, competition is likely rearing its ugly head. Truth is, another church’s great success has absolutely nothing to do with your efforts, does it? That other congregation’s win is really a win for the entire team, isn’t it? And as such, we ought to be happy too, right? If these truths are more often your second thoughts rather than your first responses, you may be letting your insecurities drive your attitude and damage your spirit.

Competition doesn’t just affect our thoughts; it can change our behaviors too. When we try to win, we can take shortcuts, change the rules we play by, or be that compromiser ourselves. Here’s the thing: When our self-worth is attached to results, we can end up doing almost anything to get those results. Or we can fail to achieve what that self-worth needs and resort to criticizing those who seem to achieve what eludes us.

Danger: You become obsessed with building your own kingdom, and eventually that “end will justify the means.” You’ll do anything to win.

Example: Luke 15 (The “older” Prodigal Son)

a. You tend to keep score on life.

b. You tend to be ungrateful.

c. You tend to be unteachable.

d. You tend to get jealous for recognition.

e. You tend to be prideful.

f. You tend to be critical and judgmental.

g. You tend to be loveless and generally unhappy.

h. You tend to live a self-centered life.

What does the scripture say about this issue?

“But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have reason for boasting in regard to himself alone, and not in regard to another. For each one will bear his own load.”                        (Galatians 6:4-5)

Pastor, if you see evidence of unhealthy competition sneaking into your thoughts and behaviors, you’re looking for self-worth in all the wrong places. Spend some time revisiting the basis of God’s love for you. Remember that your performance has never been the foundation of that love, and it isn’t why He loves you now. Remember that your calling is really His calling and He will empower you by His Spirit to do the work He has called you to do. Remember that His plan for your life is a unique demonstration of His unlimited creativity. You’re not made to do everything that someone else will do.

So someone else’s success (or failure) really doesn’t have anything to say about you, Pastor. So clap heartily with the rejoicing of others. Your day to invite that guy to your celebration may be just ahead.

Notes from the Journey with the Disciples – 191

December 18, 2014 Leave a comment
  1. “You will always have the poor among you” (John 12:8).

There will be many days to help the poor. Surely, Judas’ criticism isn’t without some merit. Helping the poor is a significant part of the kingdom mission. But he doesn’t understand the moment they are witnessing. Judas, and the others, do not realize the path that is about to unfold before them. Jesus will die, and Mary’s act of worship connects with that reality. Jesus says that she purchased the perfume for His burial. Instead, she pours it on Him while He is alive. And that fragrance will likely still be with Him as He hangs on the cross. Yes, there will be many days to care for the poor, but this is the day of worship and we should engage it fully.

A Pastor’s Battle with Insecurity – Part 3

December 15, 2014 Leave a comment

Last time, we began a look at the seven indicators that a pastor is feeling insecure. As we have said, pastors face the same internal challenges and have the same need for acceptance and significance as everyone else. So, when they are wrestling with such issues, one or more of these indicators will likely be occurring inside. The first, that we discussed last week, is Comparison. Today, let’s consider Compensation.

  1. COMPENSATION You feel like a victim and must now compensate for your losses or inferiority.

When we feel insecure, we can find ourselves trying a bit too hard to overcome those feelings. The need to prove ourselves or take tighter control of our situation can drive us to some unhealthy overreactions.

Imagine Pastor Bob is in a difficult meeting with his leaders. Pastor Bob, who went through some similar moments at his last church, thinks his team is losing confidence in him. His team is concerned that their pastor is carrying too much responsibility and looks weary. But Pastor Bob thinks they’re trying to seize some of his authority. So, rather than work with his team to find a healthy balance, Pastor Bob reacts in anger and threatens staff changes. He asserts his authority by canceling planned meetings and making decisions arbitrarily, with no input from his team.

Pastor Bob is compensating for his own fears and diminished sense of worth. He is unable to accept the well-meaning help from the team that loves him. Instead, his insecurities push them away, damaging trust and forcing his leaders to consider whether more drastic steps need to be taken.

When insecurities take hold of your heart, you can easily misinterpret the words and intentions of others. Insecure people seldom hear what people really say and feel. Instead, they tend to hear what they’re afraid people are saying and feeling, thus affirming their fears. And once this begins to happen, subsequent decisions and actions aren’t usually good ones.

Danger: You fail to trust God’s control by taking matters into our own hands, and by forcing issues. You over-compensate for where you feel you’re weak.

Example: Genesis 27, 32 (Jacob)

  1. You scheme how to get ahead and how to gain recognition.
  2. You begin to depend on personal politics to advance yourself.
  3. You fail to recognize God’s blessing on you, in your pursuit for more.
  4. You fight irrational battles to get what you think you deserve.
  5. You may stoop to dishonesty and deception to get results.

What does the scripture say about this issue?

“Do not fret…do not be envious…trust in the Lord and do good. Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness. Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him and He will do it. Rest in the Lord…do not fret…cease from anger…”               (Psalm 37:1-8)

If you see such compensation in your own behavior, Pastor, take a step back. Remember that those you lead love you. If you feel threatened, get some perspective from someone you trust. Ask them to help you understand your own world more clearly.

Remember that insecurities are often attached to past experiences. So if today’s situation stirs those unresolved feelings, we will tend to see the past in our present, when the two circumstances aren’t related at all.

Notes from the Journey with the Disciples – 190

December 11, 2014 Leave a comment
  1. “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor?” (John 12:5).

John subsequently reveals Judas’ questionable motives in asking this of Jesus, but the question isn’t unfamiliar to those who want to follow Christ. What do we do with what we have? Jesus asked the rich, young ruler to sell everything (much as Judas’ question suggests). Here, Mary spends it extravagantly in worship. Perhaps the issue centers on our efforts to please God with what we do. We can’t. If we sell our perfumes and give the proceeds to the poor or cash in everything we’ve built to benefit others, are we doing so to try and please God? Or are we worshipping Him? There’s a big difference. The former tries to prove ourselves worthy of His attention and love while the latter knows we cannot. Instead we can only pour everything we have at His feet.