Three Fears of Leaders

For God to really use you in ministry, you have to be willing and able to get close to people and enjoy real relationships with them. But for most believers around the world, it’s pretty apparent that we’re dying of relational isolation.

Many of our relationship problems are not really relationship problems; they’re personal problems that spill over into relationships. Many of our relationship conflicts, including conflicts with people within the church, are really personal conflicts and internal battles. If you want to have great relationships and therefore be a better leader, you have to start with some changes in yourself first rather than expecting everyone around you to change and fix your internal issues for you.

The Bible says in Romans 12:9, “Love from the center of who you are. Don’t fake it” (MSG). Authenticity is when “what you see” is “what you get.” It’s when you don’t play a role, you don’t wear a mask. Most People are afraid to remove their masks. Here are three reasons why.

We Are Afraid of Being Exposed

The fear of exposure is the fear that people will find out that you’re not really who you say you are. It is the fear of exposure that keeps us from being authentic.

We don’t mind our strengths being exposed. We don’t mind our capabilities being exposed. We don’t mind all the good things about us being exposed. What we don’t want people to find out about us is our weaknesses. We don’t want our insecurities exposed. We don’t want our sense of inadequacy exposed (and all of us have that sense of inadequacy). It’s part of being a human and ministry leaders are not exempt. We don’t want people to know that we don’t have it all together.

The truth is nobody has it all together. So why do we pretend? Why do we fake it? Why do we wear masks? The Bible tells us in 1 Corinthians 2:11, “No one really knows what anyone else is thinking or what he is really like except that person himself.” The reason it’s easy to wear a mask is because nobody really knows what you’re like on the inside. In the entire universe there is only one person who fully understands you. And, by the way, it’s not you. It’s God. You don’t even understand yourself.

If you really want to build deep, meaningful, satisfactory, intimate relationships you’re going to have to let people see your weaknesses. There is no other way. We can impress the people we lead from a distance but we can only influence people up close. And when we get up close, people see our warts and they see our mistakes and we don’t like that.

So how do you overcome the fear of exposure? You decide to walk in the light. The Bible says in 1 John 1:7 “If we live in the light as God is in the light then we can share fellowship with each other.” Fellowship is soul-to-soul interaction, heart-to-heart. The key to genuine fellowship in a marriage, in a friendship or any other relationship, is to live in the light.

We Are Afraid of Being Rejected

We don’t want to let people see what we’re really like because we fear disapproval. We fear rejection. Proverbs 29:25 says this “The fear of human opinion disables.” You spend much of your life trying to earn the acceptance of other people. The way you dress, the way you talk, the kind of car you drive and the house you live in. The fear of human opinion disables. But trusting in God protects you from that.

Why do we fear the opinions of other people, often people we don’t even know? Because we all have a deep desire to be loved. In fact, you don’t just have the desire. You need to be loved. You were created by God to be loved by God and by other people It’s one of the basic needs of your life – to be loved. So we spend our entire lives making sure we’re not unloved. And we’ll do anything to make sure we’re not unloved. It drives us to great extremes many, many times.

The antidote to a fear of rejection is to trust in God’s love. Don’t build your self-worth on another person who loves you conditionally. The Bible says in Daniel 10:19, “Don’t be afraid for you are deeply loved by God. Be at peace, take heart and be strong.” And Psalm 56:11 says, “I trust in God so I will not be afraid. What can people do to me?

We Are Afraid of Being Hurt Again

The truth is you will be hurt in life many, many times. This is not heaven. This is earth where people get hurt. And you’re going to be hurt over and over and over. The important issue is what you do with that hurt. If you hold on to that hurt, it’s going to strangle the love out of your life. It’ll all go away. If you hold on to your hurt it will shrink your heart, harden it, and eventually turn it to stone. You’ve got to deal with the hurt so you can get on with your life.

There’s a sad process that goes like this:

  1. The more you have been hurt, the more you become afraid of being hurt again.
  2. The more you’re afraid of being hurt again the more defensive you become and protective.
  3. The more defensive and protective you become the more inauthentic a person you become.

We develop self-protective habits and build defensive walls around our hearts that nobody can get through. We actually push people away by all kinds of behaviors.

What happens to people who give in to the hurt and hold on to it? What happens to the people who don’t know how to let the hurt go? The Bible tells us in Ecclesiastes 5:17, “All they get are days full of sadness and sorrow and they end up sick, defeated and angry.”

The antidote to the fear of being hurt again is to let God give you a new heart. God is in the heart transplant business. Ezekiel 36:26 says, “I will give you a new heart. I will put a new spirit in you. I will remove your heart of stone.” Have you been on the defense because you have been hurt? Jesus Christ can give you a fresh start. He can move you from phony inauthenticity back into authentic relationships.

If you want to be a more effective leader and shepherd, it means being close to people. Being close to people means taking the risk of being exposed, rejected, and hurt. In the end, it’s a risk well worth taking. Jesus opened Himself up to people and He was rejected and crucified; but He also launched a world-changing movement and became the Way for people to know God and go to heaven.

If you want to lead, you’re going to get hurt, but you just might change the world in the process.

From: 3 Fears That Prevent Leaders from Being Authentic and Influencing People
By Rick Warren

[print_link] [email_link]

Why People Resist Change

Change is hard, people will fight to keep things the same, but why? Why is change so difficult? I was reading an article by Lynn Hardaway (with The Bridge Network of Churches) that brings a few key insights.

What can be done when your church’s core values have drifted away from what makes a church healthy? How can a pastor lead people back to Great Commission values? The first step is to understand why people in an established congregation resist change.

1. They do not feel a need to change.
Unless the church is in crisis, most members believe “all is well” and will not be responsive to the pastor’s pleas to adopt different values. An old adage from the farm says, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink; you can, however, mix a little salt with its oats!” Show them the benefits of change and the danger of refusing to change.

2. People prefer the status quo.
It is safe, comfortable and familiar; moving out of that safe zone to a new place risks giving up control and feeling vulnerable. You should lead them to stop looking at what “is” and to start looking at “what can be” and “what should be.”

3. They have vested interests.
Because some people have been resident members of the congregation for an extended period of time, they have accrued positions of power and influence. You and your ideas for change are new on the scene and, in many churches, you are merely the current pastor who will probably leave within a few years; why should they change their values for a temporary leader? This leads to the next reason people resist change:

4. They do not trust you, yet.
You will need some time and successes to build your credibility in their eyes before they will let you make organizational and behavioral changes. People want to know if you can be trusted, if you know where you are going, and if you are capable of leading them there.

5. Old values and traditions have become sacred to them.
Whether those traditions are grounded in the Scripture or not is irrelevant; they are closely tied to how your people understand and relate to God. We all know pastors who found themselves ostracized because they dared to challenge the “sacred cows” in a congregation. Preach the Word of God compassionately, carefully lead the people to understand the difference between biblical values and cultural forms of worship, and you may be able to lead them away from this unhealthy mindset.

6. People prefer the simple over the complex.
When you introduce healthy systems, such as assimilation and evangelism, it can create confusion and frustration in the minds of your members, and they will naturally resist what they do not understand. They do not have the time or expertise to grasp novel concepts, so you must go the extra mile in clarifying and simplifying the process for them.

7. All human beings are basically self-centered.
While Christian people aspire to selflessness, most of us will react to a new value or idea with the question, “How will this affect my life?” You must remind your people regularly that life is not about them; life is about God’s great passion to see lost people become fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ.

Once you understand these seven reasons people resist change, you can begin the process of moving them from unhealthy values to healthy values.

[print_link] [email_link]

Cultivating Courage

I believe that God is calling for people of faith to courageously stand up for Him and His mission without the fear that binds us and drags us down to a level of mediocrity. Life is meant to be lived with boldness, not like a beer commercials but His faithful walking with the confidence that God is real, He has revealed His truth and will to us, and has given us a mission to accomplish.

Quotes:

Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts. — Winston Churchill

Courage is contagious. When a brave man takes a stand, the spines of others are often stiffened. — Billy Graham

Decision is a risk rooted in the courage of being free. — Paul Tillich

Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point. — C. S. Lewis

Research has shown that one’s thought life influences every aspect of one’s being. Whether we are filled with confidence or fear depends on the kind of thoughts that habitually occupy our minds. — John Ortberg

Top 10 Steps to Cultivate Courage:

  1. Identify your calling.
  2. Identify your fears.
  3. Consider how your fears will thwart your calling.
  4. Consider the authority of Christ over your fears.
  5. Trust God’s ability rather than your limitations.
  6. Decide whether you want a life of compliance or rebellion.
  7. Always choose obedience in the face of fear.
  8. Join forces with other of similar calling.
  9. Remind yourself that God’s side wins.
  10. Embrace the adventure of a life of significance.

With Fear and Trembling

Paul leaves Athens and makes his way to Corinth, about 50 miles away (Acts 18:1). He describes his arrival in 1 Corinthians 2, without eloquence or superior wisdom (1 Corinthians 2:1), resolved to know nothing except Christ and Him crucified (1 Corinthians 2:2) and that he came to them in fear and trembling (1 Corinthians 2:3). Interestingly enough, Acts 18:9-10, reveal a vision given to Paul for him not to fear. While Paul had been in danger in many places, there is no biblical evidence that he ever before was warned in a vision not to be afraid.

It is likely that what happened in Athens affected him more than we expect:

  1. Few converts.
  2. Overwhelmed by pagan and polytheistic beliefs.
  3. They wanted to argue philosophy when Paul wanted to discuss the truth.
  4. These few converts failed to produce any fruit, no church was established.
  5. He spent his time in Athens alone.

While Timothy and Silas may have come as he asked, perhaps they were quickly sent elsewhere (1 Thessalonians 3:1-2). Perhaps Paul just moved on in frustration. It is likely that Paul was focusing on the negative and lost sight of the positive. Have you ever done that?

Have you ever noticed how solitude can affect your state of mind? Perspective changes, we see that everything is bad and cannot see the silver lining. Insecurity can lead to immobilization; sadness turns into depression; intimidation turns into terror.

First Corinthians 2:1 indicates that Paul left Athens feeling intimidated. The child prodigy and former Pharisee must have felt humiliated by their harsh words, calling him a babbler (Acts 17:18). He resolved to know nothing except Christ and Him crucified (1 Corinthians 2:2), not relying on his persuasive abilities or theological speeches.

God taught Paul a lesson that day, that without the Spirit, no one can accept or understand the things of God, because to him they are foolishness to him (1 Corinthians 1:23, 2:14). As we speak up for Christ, we cannot believe that we are foolish just because we were not persuasive enough. Paul was weak (1 Corinthians 2:3) which might be interpreted that he was so scared that he became ill. The man had lost his confidence. Perhaps he wondered if the fruit in other cities was the result of God blessing Silas or Barnabas rather than him.

The enemy would love to see God’s servants in self doubt, but Paul writes about a great demonstration of the Spirit’s power (1 Corinthians 2:4), which means proof. The abundant fruit produced through his preaching was proof of the Spirit’s power. God often proves Himself when we have the least to offer (1 Corinthians 1:26, 27).

Application: Perhaps God has opened a door for you and you lack confidence. Insecurity can hold people back from the ministry that God has planned for them. There are many wonderful promises in the Bible when we are weak: the Lord is our confidence (Proverbs 3:26), your strength will equal your days (Deuteronomy 33:25), My grace is sufficient for you, My power is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). Stand strong in the fact that God is the One at work in you, and the ministry He has for us will be accomplish through Him and not our own abilities, creativity, goals, action plans or strength. God has called us to be faithful and not necessarily successful, according to the world’s standards.

Run Away or Trust God?

Paul and Barnabas shared quite a lot together. Today I’ll write about two episodes on their journey with different outcomes.

When they arrived at Iconium, as usual, the two would first go to the local synagogue (Acts 14:1), where the norm is that the Jews would begin to poison the minds of the people to prevent the gospel message from entering the hearts of the people (Acts 14:2). But our missionaries were faithful and fearless, proclaiming the gospel boldly and even working miracles among the people (Acts 14:3). Then comes the real trouble.

In their boldness you would think they would make their stand and trust God to protect them, but they did the unexpected, they ran (Acts 14:5, 6). Could not God have done a miracle to protect His witnesses? They were already doing signs and wonders, what’s one more to keep the ministry going? They fled and preached elsewhere.

God made these two smart. They were not running out of fear but responding with wisdom (Proverbs 22:3). Even Jesus would elude people who meant Him harm (John 7:1), and slipped away when the crowd picked up stones to kill Him (John 8:59). No one would mistake what Jesus did for fear or cowardice. Jesus explains that His time had not yet come (John 7:30). There was a purpose for miracles back in the day:

  1. Miracles were more for authenticating the message of the gospel than for divine intervention.
  2. Miracles were often used when natural means were either not available or not conceivable.

When the disciples were hungry Jesus did not do a miracle but usually found something to eat. When they were thirsty they would go to a well and draw water. Today, whether God uses natural or supernatural means to deliver us from danger, both or divine provisions. If you have ever been attacked or injured and wonder why you were not delivered, there’s more to this story of Paul and Barnabas.

On to Lystra for the next episode. Sometimes we think that one good miracle would convince people of the truth and get right with God, but it can also have a negative effect (Acts 14:11). After one miracle the people declared Paul and Barnabas to be gods, which was not their desired outcome. Not only were these two men smart, they were also sincere. They immediately spoke up declaring themselves to be mere men (Acts 14:14, 15). They maintained their integrity and did not allow the crowd to elevate them. A big miracle about now might have been helpful, but the people decided to cast stones at them, leaving Paul for dead (Acts 14:19).

I can imagine that the face of Stephen came into Paul’s mind as he was being stoned to death (Acts 6:15). But Paul endured this hardship and so much more, crediting God for delivering him from them all (2 Timothy 3:10, 11). I would rather be delivered before the first stone rather than after the last one, but Paul describes both situations as God’s divine rescue.

Remember that God did not just want to get Paul out of difficulty or danger; He wanted Paul to draw closer to Himself. That is the point each time we are delivered from a difficult situation.

Application: How many times have you felt that God had abandoned you in your time of need or distress? Your prayers just hit the ceiling and God was so distant. Remember that He promises to walk with us through the valley of the shadow of death, not necessarily to deliver us from that danger (Psalm 23:4). Do you see the miraculous in everyday life? How lives and relationships can come back together? How believers can respond to evil with good? Do you see God’s direction and protection as you walk through this antagonistic world? God gives us His wisdom and His presence. Walking with God may not be easy, but it is definitely worth it.