Pastoral insecurity is at epidemic proportions.
If you are a pastor, staff member or church leader this is not news to you.
Pastors are constantly under scrutiny, comparison and pressure to perform. Burnout is high and job changes are frequent. “Constructive criticism” is readily available and willingly shared. Feelings of failure – not measuring up to some standard of ministry “success” is common. Social media, blogs (not this one…), conferences and cool Christian celebrities can add to the feeling that we have little to contribute – compared to them…
In 2010 the New York Times reported, “Members of the clergy now suffer from obesity, hypertension and depression at rates higher than most Americans. In the last decade, their use of antidepressants has risen, while their life expectancy has fallen. Many would change jobs if they could.”
It is any wonder that while seminaries are growing – the number of students training for pastoral ministry is shrinking? “I want to serve the Lord – but please not in local church ministry!”
Pastoral insecurity tends to manifest itself in two very different ways – either through second-guessing and doubt – or in an overly confident, bullying manner. Probably you have seen both these people in ministry. Both struggle with insecurity.
Timothy tended toward the former – and needed to be encouraged to teach God’s word boldly, to have confidence in his gifting and to not allow people to “look down” on him. (1 Tim 4:11-12, 14). On the other side of the coin, examples abound of controlling clergy – such as those who intentionally provoked Paul while he was in prison (Phil 1:17) or those Peter identified as “lording it over” their flocks (1 Peter 5:3).
As usual, sin hangs out in extremes.
We know the answer. It starts by finding our security in Christ. From there we serve, preach, lead and love with perfect peace and contentment. It is all about knowing who we are, in Christ. Paul said in Gal 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who love me and gave Himself up for me.
Great theology. Can we put it into practice? In ministry?