Fear can be a powerful motivator. Not only do we more easily recognize fear in others we underestimate fears influence on our own lives. Positive responses to fear can protect you from dangerous and life-threatening situations. Negative reactions to fear will keep you from doing anything at all. Fear—when left unexamined—can easily take root and derail your life and ministry. Fear must be pressed back against.
How can fear derail your ministry?
Fear can derail your ministry by causing you to be reactive and defensive. For example, when sweet sister Betty-Lou says something to you that triggers the emotion of fear you may feel attacked—legitimate or not—and react to her in a bitter or angry manner. Responding in a defensive and hostile way in the church hallway with sweet sister Betty-Lou could be the relationship implosion that concludes your ministry with that congregation no matter who was in the right.
Fear can trigger a “black dog days.” One fear that many pastors wrestle with is inadequacy. A fear of inadequacy may cause a pastor to question their abilities to effectively minister. The sermon falls short of your own expectations causing you to feel inadequate and wonder “will I ever preach a good sermon?” Having the same conversation over and over again on a matter of leadership and program direction may trigger a question of one’s own leadership abilities.
Pastors may feel inadequate in their ability to give all that their family needs and all that the church needs. The feeling of inadequacy should breed a sense of dependency on the gospel (that is another article for another day). Often a feeling of inadequacy triggers a “black dog day.”
Winston Churchill is mostly known for his providential role in World War II. He is also known for bouts of depression that he labeled his “black dog days.” Charles Spurgeon is known not only for being the Prince of Preachers but also having dark moments of depression. There are times when fear and other emotions can lead to a depressive state. Depression and “black dog days” are not to be taken lightly. Neither should Pastors feel worse because they have “black dog days.” You are not alone. If left unchecked, fear will create more issues than are even identified here and become a primary factor in pressing you out of ministry.
How do you combat the emotion of fear?
Recognize and redirect your fear. After being forced to leave the Admiralty in World War I, Winston Churchill experienced the darkest of his “black dog days.” He not only recognized his emotional state but also began to redirect his attention and his emotions through painting, a pastime he enjoyed throughout his life.
Recognizing fear is a key to pressing back negative fear. Positive fear keeps us alive. Fear of falling off a cliff when hiking in the mountains redirects your steps further from the edge. The fear of having an automobile crash ensures you to put your seatbelt on. These are positive reactions to legitimate fears because fear was identified and responded to. The same steps need to be applied to other times of fear. When fear raises its ugly head recognize it and respond in an appropriate manner for your good and God’s glory.
Confront fear with scripture. Paralyzing fear is not of God (2 Timothy 1:7). Joshua was commanded not to be afraid (Josh. 1:9) Jesus asked the apostles why they were afraid (Mark 4:40). We need to remind ourselves that negative fear can keep us from obeying the Lord and causes us to question His providence is not of Him. We must do battle with the fear within with the sword of the His word.
Ask is there any legitimacy to your fear. Sometimes there are legitimate reasons to your fear. Fear that the sermon is falling flat may reflect a lack of preparation or a need to intentionally seek training in sermon preparation and delivery. Fear that leadership is inadequate may prompt an opportunity to grow as a leader. Asking if there is any legitimacy to this feeling of fear and then embracing what is legitimate and discarding what illegitimate is a healthy response to fear.
Finally, seek a dear friend who will be counsel and partner with you in prayer. Often by articulating the cause of your fear with another you will see the cause and healthy response. When you have a comrade to link arms with in prayer fear is much easier to press back.
Pastors and church leaders, you are too valuable to your families, God’s kingdom and the Church to live in fear.