Insecurity–The Church Killer

challenged church, the_t_nvJesus said, “…everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more” (Luke 12.48b). Those who find themselves in a position of leadership have been given a great responsibility. We are to lead those entrusted to us toward attaining “the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ” (Eph 4.13).

Our calling requires us to keep our heart and mind focused on Christ’s leadership. Being a leader is never easy; however, when we are rightly focused the burden of leadership seems light. Dealing with those who are argumentative, stubborn, or people who just don’t like us can be difficult. Yet, they are not the greatest hinderance to leadership success. When we allow our insecurities to start controlling us we put ourselves and the church we lead in dire circumstances.

In Ronnie Floyd’s post “Pastors and Church Leaders: Will Your Insecurity Problem Hurt Your Church” we are given a few signs of insecurity, the solution for each, as well as the ultimate reason for not being insecure.

Floyd writes:

One of the major challenges that prevent many churches from being focused on their mission can be summarized in one word: insecurity. It eliminates opportunities for evangelism, planting churches, ministry expansion, and making disciples because it creates conflict in the church. I have even seen insecurity ruin ministries.

A Testimony: I will never forget talking with a leader who served with his Pastor for decades in one of the strongest ministries in America. I asked him about the challenges of adjusting from leading church staff leaders from people in the world. He remarked, “I have found that ministers are the most insecure people I have ever met in my life.”

Since insecurity can hurt ministers, churches, and ministries, we need to consider ways to overcome this problem. Here are some helpful tips for identifying the signs of and solutions to insecurity.

Signs of Insecurity

  • Competitiveness – One of the biggest problems insecurity carries with it is overt competition. Churches try to “out-do” one another. Pastors find themselves competing with other pastors. This competitiveness results occurs because of insecurity and further results in jealousy and a critical spirit.
    • Solution: Remember that as a Christ-follower your only competition is the world, the flesh, and the devil; not other pastors or churches. Remember who you are in Christ and abide in this spiritual reality.
  • Combativeness – I have seen many pastors or other church leaders ruin their ministry by the incessant need to have their way all the time. God has not called ministers to always “be right”, but to “be godly.” In my book, “Ten Things Every Minister Needs to Know” I talk about this issue in detail. I am convinced we can do the right thing in the wrong way. We need to operate with the Spirit of Christ at all times.
    • Solution: Recognize that not every hill is worth dying on. Sometimes the best, most Christ-like way is to humble yourself and see that the best idea is not always your own. Listen to others. Learn from others. Learn from your own mistakes. Do not let a word, a sentence, or a spirit take away from your main message. Your goal is always be like Christ, not to always be right in the eyes of others or even in your own eyes. 
  • Complaining – Some of the whiniest people I know are ministers. It also happens that pastors are some of the most insecure people I know. The two often go together. Complaining is a serious obstacle for many ministers of the Gospel. How can we expect others to be attracted to our message and our leadership if we are complainers? This does not magnetize people to the message but it distracts them from the message.
    • Solution: Return to the reason you are in ministry. Church leadership roles are often very hard. When all the bad stuff starts coming your way instead of complaining about it keep your heart in the Word of God and keep your eyes on Jesus and the lost-ness of the world. Most of all, return to your call from God to go into the ministry . . . this is why you are doing what you are doing.

What We Do Not Have Time For

We don’t have time to play games and be insecure. We are not competing against the pastor across town. We are not competing against a church across America. While every church is called to make disciples of all the nations, we have to carry out this commission in the different contexts God has called us to serve. We are not entitled to getting everything our way because we’re in a church leadership role.

Insecure Pastors and Churches

Insecure pastors create insecure churches. Insecure churches are ineffective churches. Competitiveness, combativeness, and complaining do not have a place in the church of Jesus Christ, especially in the life of a minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. So let’s set aside the competitiveness, combativeness, and complaining and focus on taking the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the world and making disciples of all nations.

Why There Is No Need To Be Insecure

Our Lord’s command to go and make disciples is prefaced by the statement, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” and is followed by “I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Mt 28:18, 20). Because we live in and with the authority of the Great Commission there is no need for insecurity. This is why there is no need to be insecure . . . The Lord is with you always!

Daily, I pray for the authority of the Great Commission to operate within and through my life as a leader. Knowing that the One who has all authority is with us, we can face anything in life and ministry.

If you suffer from various forms of insecurity, I would encourage you to pick up Timothy Keller’s book “The Freedom of Self Forgetfulness: The Path to True Christian Joy.”

More Like Falling in Love

My BelovedYesterday my wife and I celebrated nineteen years of marriage. The memories of our meeting for the first time are still so clear in my mind. I was turning in my resume’ at the Office of Institutional Advancement so that my name could be added to the supply preaching list. There sitting at the desk was this incredibly beautiful twenty-year-old girl (I had used the word “woman” and my wife said she was a sweet young twenty-year-old) . As I talked to her boss I wanted to introduce myself to her, but I was at school to get a Theology Degree so I could be a better pastor. I just didn’t have time for dating. A few days later I showed up for my first New Testament class and guess who was sitting beside me? Yep, Shirley! I was determined to just focus on school, so I didn’t pay her much attention. After class she walked up to me and introduced herself. Needless to say I was surprised.

I wasn’t surprised because she approached me; even though that had never happened to me before. I was surprised because I had been praying for my wife since I was sixteen. My prayers had developed over the years, and because I was scared that I would not be smart enough to recognize God’s gift to me, I developed a very specific prayer. I prayed that when the right girl came along I would know it because she would ask if she could water my camels. This specific prayer came from the Old Testament when Abraham wanted a wife for his son Isaac, so he sends his servant to find her. In Genesis 24.12-14 we see the prayer of this faithful servant:

Lord, God of my master Abraham, make me successful today, and show kindness to my master Abraham. 13 See, I am standing beside this spring, and the daughters of the townspeople are coming out to draw water. 14 May it be that when I say to a young woman, ‘Please let down your jar that I may have a drink,’ and she says, ‘Drink, and I’ll water your camels too’—let her be the one you have chosen for your servant Isaac. By this I will know that you have shown kindness to my master.”

I may not be the sharpest knife in the drawer, but even I can’t miss a sign from God when some girl asks to water my camels!

Over the next few months our relationship and love for each other grew deeper and deeper. The more I learned about her the more I wanted to know. I eventually realized that I could go on living my life alone and be happy; however, I also figured out just how much better life would be if she was by my side as my wife. Just six months after we met we were married. The joy of falling in love was awesome, but it didn’t compare to indescribable joy of being loved unconditionally. The way she has sacrificed, served, and supported me over the years has been a constant reassurance that we are one, and that nothing will ever separate us in this life.

On my way to work this morning I was thinking about the last nineteen years, when a song by Jason Gray came on the radio, “More Like Falling in Love.” The song is about falling in love with Jesus. Throughout the Bible God compares His great love for us to that of a marriage. In fact, throughout the New Testament those who are followers of Jesus are called the “Bride of Christ.” The song continually repeats the theme that following Jesus is more like falling in love rather than just believing, keeping some rules, or declaring your allegiance to Him. Religion is what I try to do to make myself acceptable to Jesus; whereas, being in love with Jesus means everything I do is an overflow of my love because I am already accepted by Him.

When we don’t know Jesus we can’t understand why anyone would give up so many things this world has to offer. It seems like you cut your weekend short by one day, you cut your income by at least ten percent, and you cut out all the things in life that are really fun. But just like my growing relationship with Shirley, the more we know about Jesus, the more we want to know. The more we experience His love the more we want to experience. Falling in love with Jesus brings growing joy and love into your life each and every day. Understanding all that He sacrificed, the ways He serves us, as well as His constant support even when we’re too weak to carry on reassures us that we are His beloved. He will never leave or forsake us. Even when we fail to live up to His commandments He still sees us as His holy bride dressed in the radiant white rob of righteousness.

When Christianity is more like falling in love there are no rules to keep, stories to believe, or even sacrifices to make. All of these and many more become the overflow of a love relationship that will last throughout all eternity. That love affair will one day carry us to heaven where we will see Him and be like Him.

Won’t you fall in love with Jesus today?

 Here is the song by Jason Gray “More Like Falling in Love.”

Come Drink the Water of Life

water of lifeI love to hear others talk about how they came to know Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior. Their stories always cause me to reflect on that day thirty-nine years ago when I became a child of God. They also remind me that we are never so far gone that God’s grace cannot reach us, we have never committed so great a sin that His mercy cannot forgive us, nor have we ever fallen so far from our walk with Him that His love will not restore us.

Regardless of what you have done, the new life in Christ is within your reach. Call out to Him and He will offer you life-giving water. This water brings an abundant life of joy and peace; even in the midst of a terrible tempest you will be able to rest knowing that Jesus is always with you.

This morning Ray Comfort shared part of his testimony on his Facebook page. I think he painted a beautiful picture of how Christ Jesus brought him to life.  I hope this blesses your heart as it did mine.

Comfort writes:

I love the scene in the movie “Ben Hur” where a Roman soldier is marching condemned galley-slaves through the desert. They stop in Nazareth for a break, but as the thirsty slaves are being given water, the head honcho says that Judah Ben Hur wasn’t to have a drop.  Judah collapses on the ground and gasps “God help me…”  Suddenly, a shadow comes over him and a hand gently lifts his weary head from …the dirt, and pours water into his parched lips.  I have watched that scene numerous times and have never failed to sob like a child, because what I see is so similar to what happened to me in my conversion experience. At the age of 20, I began to think deeply about life. I was very successful, financially secure, extremely happy, healthy,  I was my own boss, had a loving and beautiful wife…and I was suddenly very aware that, despite all my happiness, I was waiting around to die.  It seemed that the whole of humanity was in a long line, moving closer and closer to a 1000 foot cliff, and was, one-by-one, jumping off to their death. It was as though everyone accepted the inevitability of it, and so no one was trying to get out of line. So I, ever so reluctantly, stood in line and waited for my turn. At the age of 22 I heard the gospel for the first time. I am not exaggerating to say that I was like Ben Hur laying hopelessly in the dirt, and Jesus turned my head and poured the waters of life into my parched lips. I cannot express the relief and joy I found when I received the gift of everlasting life. To try and explain it to a non-Christian is like trying to explain light to a man who has been born blind.  To use another somewhat lacking analogy, it’s like looking at a crying newly delivered baby. You know what he is crying for, so you put him on the mother’s breast, and he immediately stops crying. He is suddenly gratified. He was born with an instinct to suckle, but he had no idea what he was looking for because he had never experienced it before. I had no idea that in my darkness I was searching for light, until I found it in Jesus Christ (see John 8:31-32).  He is the one who said “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” And Jesus is the only one who can say, “… whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:13).
To learn more about receiving Christ’s life-giving water,visit www.NeedGod.com or read God’s Purpose for You.

Improving Your Leadership

heart of a servant leaderAny leader who really cares about accomplishing great things will examine their methods to make sure they are still effective. There are particular behaviors which should be found in every leader. These behaviors help insure that a leader will continue progressing from good to great. As we discipline ourselves in the practice of self-examination we will be setting an example for those we lead. Eventually they will follow our example and begin progressing from good to great. However, leaders who do not apply or practice these behavior will set themselves on a downward spiral until they become nothing but a bad leader.

This morning I read “From Bad to Good” by Sam Rainer. Sam lists a few of the behaviors that help leaders keep moving forward and prevent their leadership skills from deteriorating.

Rainer writes:

Leadership literature is chock-full of ways in which an average leader can become great. We all believe we’re good. Greatness is just a book, a conference, or a degree away. Indeed, I believe run-of-the-mill leaders can become better with training. A desire to learn, self-awareness, and a solid work ethic go a long way.

Some leaders, however, are just bad. They don’t lead well. Poor decisions are normative.

I believe most pastors want to lead their congregations in a way honoring to God. I believe most pastors care about their flocks. And God uses different types of leaders in different contexts. A rural setting, for example, requires a different type of leader than an urban setting. One is not superior over the other simply because of contextual expertise. But not all leaders—or shepherds for that matter—are great. And some pastors are poor examples of leadership, even if they really do care.

Years of practice entrench bad habits.

At some point, enough imbedded weaknesses transform an otherwise mediocre leader into a bad leader. Sometimes bad leadership is caused by context or position. The church leader is a poor match for the church, ministry focus, or setting. What makes a good senior pastor does not make a good middle school pastor. What makes a good worship pastor does not make a good children’s pastor. While environment and position influence bad leadership, not every case of poor leadership can be blamed on a mismatch. Some leaders are just outliers on the wrong side of the bell curve.

There are two types of bad leaders: the inept and the unethical.

Prominent malicious leaders tend to make the news. Unfortunately, scandals and scoundrels abound. But another category of bad leaders involves those who do not intentionally lead people astray. They are not malicious, just incapable. I’ve written previously on what makes a pastor a bad boss. These leaders desire to make ethical decisions, but they are oblivious as to how their decisions affect others. They shoot from the hip and trigger collateral damage.

The focus of this post is improving the ineffective rather than redeeming the unethical. What are some ways in which bad leaders can become better? A recent study sheds light on behaviors helping a leader transition from bad to good.

  • They shared their knowledge. One of the main drivers of poor leadership is poor interpersonal skills. Many people get promoted because of their expertise in a specific area, but leadership is more than technical knowledge. Bad leaders are stingy with knowledge. Bad pastors can guard theological and methodological black boxes. Good leaders use their knowledge to develop others.
  • They raised the bar of expectations. Expecting little of your church or staff is usually a reflection of low personal expectations. Raise the bar of personal expectations and improvements are bound to occur in the people around you.
  • They shifted from a discouraging posture to an encouraging posture. Bad church leaders become better when they stop focusing on why something can’t be done and rather focus on how something can be done.
  • They worked at becoming proactive change agents instead of reactive change agents. If all you do is put out fires, then you’re not seeing the forest for the trees. Little flare-ups always exist. Bad leaders reactively move from one to the next. Good leaders proactively discern the dangerous fires with the potential to affect everyone.
  • They began to encourage cooperation rather than competition. Bad leaders divide people, creating opposing camps. Bad pastors use theological nuances as a wedge. Bad church leaders pit style preferences of one group against another. Good church leaders are bridge builders, demonstrating how different people can cooperate rather than compete.

Bad church leaders fail in many areas, but average leaders have weaknesses in specific areas.

Good, bad, or ugly—we can all improve our leadership. And the best pastors recognize continual improvement is the only option for leadership. While only a work of God can redeem unethical pastors, I believe every incompetent pastor can become a good leader. Bad leaders are not locked into poor decisions. Greatness is a noble goal, but good is an achievable step.

Sam S. Rainer is the senior pastor of Stevens Street Baptist Church in Cookeville, TN, and president of Rainer Research. He blogs regularly at SamRainer.wordpress.com.

Kingdom Character

Kingdom CharacterI have always enjoyed studying the life of Joseph, the son of Jacob. He is one of the heroes of faith that we would all do well to emulate. This past Sunday we looked at some of the lessons we could learn from a man who was faithful to demonstrate Kingdom Character.

The kingdom of God is filled with people who seek to live out their lives in the power of the Holy Spirit. Their Kingdom Character is a direct result of continual fellowship with Almighty God.

Click on the following link to listen to or download the message, “Kingdom Character.”

Is Your Church Happy?

i love my churchThis morning Thom Rainer posted “Nine Characteristics of Happy Churches.” It is a wonderful blessing to pastor a loving and happy church. When we gather together as a body of believers we should have fun. Worshipping, serving, singing, teaching, listening, caring, sharing, or any other “ing” you can come up with should be a joyous occasion.

The nine characteristics Thom Rainer listed below can be found in any church where all the people work together as one body.

  • The pastor was a strong leader, but not an autocratic leader. He was able to maintain that healthy balance of providing clarity of vision without imposing his will on every decision.
  • The pastor regularly demonstrated and affirmed love for the congregation. In both his actions and his words, the pastor communicated clearly that he loved the members of the church. And he loved them regardless of their apparent feelings toward him, though most of the members genuinely loved the pastor as well.
  • The pastor regularly demonstrated and affirmed love for the community where the church was located. Though he could not be omnipresent, the pastor made it a point to be involved in many of the affairs of the community. He genuinely loved people in the community and viewed the entire area as his mission field.
  • The ministry staff liked each other, and they worked well together. If there are tensions among the staff, they cannot be hidden from the congregation. But if the staff is unified and banter in fun with one another, the members feed off that joy and unity.
  • A high proportion of the membership was actively involved in ministry. When church members are doing the work of ministry, they have a sense of fulfillment and joy. When they aren’t, they often have extra time on their hands to be divisive.
  • Business meetings were brief and friendly. These meetings were rarely a time of infighting and complaining. To the contrary, most of the members were too busy doing ministry to be negative (see #5).
  • A high proportion of the members were in a small group or Sunday school class. Community grew in these small groups. People who are true members of a community tend to be happier people.
  • The pastor’s time in the Word was protected. It is easy for a pastor to yield his time in the Word for the tyranny of the urgent. Thus he becomes frustrated, as he has to rush to complete a sermon, or as he does not have sufficient time to do the sermon well. The members likewise become frustrated because they don’t feel like the pastor is feeding them. A happy church makes certain that the pastor has adequate time every week to be in the Word.
  • The pastor had a small informal or formal group to whom he was accountable. This group includes those members who clearly love the pastor. They offer both encouragement and accountability for him. The interchange between this group and the pastor is frank, transparent and, overall, healthy. And all communications take place on an unmistakable foundation of love.

How do these nine characteristics compare to your church? What would you add? Which of the nine “jumped out” at you the most?

Please leave a reply, I would love to hear your thoughts.