By Nathan Clinkscales
Dear pastor, you’re not as strong as you think you are. And for that matter, you’re not as strong as your people think you are.
You’re far weaker. You don’t really have it all together. The truth is, it’s only by grace you do what you do. If it were up to you or me, the church would’ve fallen apart long ago.
While such an introduction may crush or ruin your ego, it may also be the most life-giving thing you’ll read today.
I wish someone would’ve looked me in the eye the day First Baptist Church Trenton affirmed God’s call on my life to be the next pastor in their 140-year history. I wish they had told me back then I didn’t have it all together.
If that had actually happened, I would’ve been greatly offended and probably would’ve shunned that person. What arrogance I had just three years ago—back when I thought I had everything I needed to be a great success in ministry.
I Had It All Together
Back then, I knew Jesus had saved me and called me. I knew He had gifted me. But I also ignorantly believed I had it all together.
I began my pastoral role at the church longing to genuinely lead God’s people by His Spirit. And so, I dove into the Word. But in time, God would be gracious to break me, to lead me to be humble, and to cause me to become vulnerable with His people.
This was the most liberating thing I’d experienced since Jesus washed me as white as snow at conversion.
At the time, I prided myself on being so vulnerable…well, to an extent. I had no problem confessing I was prideful and sinful. What I did have a problem with was people knowing, not simply that I was weak, but what my weaknesses actually are.
I Longed For Approval
I feared people knowing I longed for their approval, that I craved it, and that I struggled with depression to the point there were days I didn’t want to live.
Let’s make a long story really short. From 2016 to early 2019, many things happened at our church. We worshipped, grew, shrank, grew again, fought some, loved more, and glorified Christ.
I suspect you can relate. In early 2019, the dark clouds set in, the night wouldn’t give way to dawn, and my body felt like it was shutting down. Not only did I want to quit ministry, I also wanted to quit life.
I Longed to Be Comforted
Yet, God, in His goodness, disciplined me, loved me, sustained me, and grew me. Glory be to His name!
Many nights I cried out to God. Many days I longed to be comforted by the Spirit. I continually wanted to know the power of Jesus, not just through suffering, but through resurrection.
That day finally came, not just when I was counseled, diagnosed with depression, and medicated, but when I stood before God’s people and told them. I told them the truth.
I Found God’s Faithfulness
On August 25 of this year, I closed my time preaching by testifying to our congregation that I was depressed and weak, yet had found God’s faithfulness in it all.
Why do I share this with you? Because Jesus liberated me from that dark secret that sought to ruin so much. He liberated me from the lies of Satan and brought me into the light.
Through that testimony, God has brought many others to light, to the reality that none of us have it together and are all messed up. That we can stand with Paul and hear the same words he heard from Christ, “My grace is sufficient in your weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:19).
The Story of His Grace
In those words from God to Paul, we have all we need. In those words, we have life and hope. Jesus has used the story of His grace in the dark nights of the soul to build His bride and glorify His name.
Pastor, I encourage you to not just be vulnerable with God or a few trusted friends. But, within parameters of wisdom, be vulnerable with God’s people.
You’ll find out you don’t have it all together. You’re not all you’re cracked up to be, and that’s a good thing! Jesus is more than we think He is and greater than the false image we portray of self.
NATHAN CLINKSCALES (@nathanclink) is the husband of Jordan, father of Trace, Lillian, Titus, Judah, and pastor of First Baptist Church of Trenton, Texas.