A fear is beginning to surface with greater frequency among ministry leaders in the West. I see it as I travel. Some are confused by that fear. Some have not yet been acquainted with it. Some dwell so near the precipice of hope lost that acknowledging this fear might very well be the last cruel wind needed to send them over the edge.
We fear insignificance.
Why do we fear it? Because we want our ministries, the work of our lives, to endure. No one wants their greatest days to be behind them. No one wants to feel like their stuck in first gear, like they can’t get anywhere worth getting to. We want to advance, to see progress, to find momentum and build on it. But when we can’t find it, when we feel stuck and when we begin to lose hope for the future, fear sets in.
I’ve seen that fear cause men and women to lead in three different, unhealthy ways.
- They rage against it. With their sights set on their goals, they move forward, striving to maintain relevance and significance for the duration of their ministry. Significance is measurable for these folks and they measure it often. The idea that they would ever bury the ministry they now lead is one they refuse to accept. They will move forward, often at the expense of others, because they refuse to lose the battle they are fighting, even though that battle is in their own hearts.
- They seek validation in those whom they lead. For this group, significance isn’t measured, it’s affirmed. In other words, fear doesn’t move them to look to the numbers to determine significance, it causes them to lean into the relationships within the community they lead, buffering the fear through those relationships. They will not lead boldly in any direction because doing so might cost them people.
- They become paralyzed by doubt and discouragement. The fear of insignificance is paralyzing for this group of ministry leaders. They don’t know what else to do so they just keep doing what they have always done or they just quit altogether.
3 ways to kick that fear in the pants
Look at the ministry of Jesus. He neither raged against his own fear, sought validation in his relationships, nor was he paralyzed by doubt and discouragement.
Here are three things that I see in the life of Jesus that help me put fear in its place.
- Pray hard. Is it any wonder that the writers of the New Testament drew attention to the hours that Jesus spent in prayer? His love for the Father, nurtured and sustained through prayer, produced a sustaining passion for His glory unlike any other.
- Look for the ministry moments. Jesus’ ministry was marked by a keen ability to seize ministry moments whenever and wherever they occurred. I believe Jesus made travel plans and I believe those plans were based on a certain strategy he had for proclaiming the kingdom throughout Israel. But he possessed such great clarity around his mission that it enabled him to seize opportunities for ministry as they presented themselves, regardless of his apparent plans.
- Find everyday ways to worship. Jesus was not driven by fear, but by a deep devotion to the glory of the Father and the expansion of the Father’s Kingdom; not fear, but a loving, all-consuming devotion. If our ministry is truly to be a continuation of his, it must be marked by that same, intentional devotion.
Freedom from fear has never been more required of us. Let devotion to the Father Himself drive us. Let us mark our days by faithfulness to His mission for our lives. Let us minister in total freedom.
And let God be glorified in our generation and in those to come until the day He returns to take us home.