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