Evidently fear has been on the packing list of every person called to serve the Lord. From the earliest Old Testament times through the Revelation God has counseled his people to "Fear not". It may be the most often repeated promise in Scripture, the reason behind such instruction: "For I am with you". His promised presence was the guarantee against the most fear- some obstacles and pressures of life. So, it's not just another result of our wide-open, take-no-prisoners world, the fear we all sense in the under-currents of church life these days. Since Adam heard the sound of God walking in the Garden, through John's trembling before the Lord Jesus Christ, fear has messed with the minds of spiritual leaders. Fear not, indeed!
On April 5, 2014, Thom Rainer, President of LifeWay Resources titled his blog Ten Fears of Church Leaders. You can examine them at http://thomrainer.com/2014/04/05/nine-fears-church-leaders/. It's a great list and I agree with his conclusions, as usual. The complexities of the last year, however, have expanded the list beyond the usual suspects related to local church matters. Sure, we all fear critics, failure, power issues, pleasing everyone, change, finances, caring for our families, offending people and a whole dictionary of phobias unique to congregational dynamics. In the past year, though, the landscape has changed greatly. Suddenly, with a SCOTUS opinion about same-sex marriage due any day now, and with the political winds stirring in anticipation of the coming election season, the fear list has shifted from the boundaries of church property to the market square, the table of public discourse, the courtroom. or the lead story on the 6:00 O'clock news.
When I'm huddled with pastors all of these fears are close to the surface. Yet, several have moved up the fear grid over the last few months and become bothersome for spiritual leaders. One reason is that media has sensationalized so many of the religious freedom issues and the Christian response to those areas that have traditionally been confessional to the church. As a result, decisions made by pastors and other church leaders are often fodder for the evening news. Of course, the media is typically anti-Christian so their presentation of any data relating to the church will be skewed left, and the spiritual leaders therefore criticized for their stances. The new phobias resemble the Rainer list in some respects but are particularly refined in the blood, sweat, and tears of the individuals who struggle with them daily---
Fear 1: Failure to care for his family.
Most pastors feel the heat of 1 Timothy 5:8 in their daily ministry and especially in all of the issues
related to church leadership. As a result, many pastors are reluctant to preach the full message of
the gospel, recommend change in the administration of the church, or speak about controversial
issues affecting the lives of congregants or church mission.
Fear 2: Being terminated from his calling and source of income.
This is an extension of Fear 1 but moves at a deeper level of his personal being. To be terminated
from a pastoral leadership position often results in a career change because of financial expediency.
Most called individuals cannot envision a career apart from church ministry.
Fear 3: Fear of government intervention in the life and ministry of the church.
Recent media coverage of the Houston Mayor's suit against local pastors, local
businesses being fined for refusal to conduct same-sex-marriages, and several very visible court
cases involving military chaplains have sent shock waves through the ranks of ordained individuals,
especially those serving in church positions. For years pastors and ordained spiritual leaders have
been threatened about political comments, endorsing candidates, or taking partisan stances on
public issues. But, the new environment has ramped up the dangers and created a new anxiety for
many spiritual leaders.
Fear 4: Fear of public disgrace.
One very outspoken pastor told me recently his greatest fear was finding news trucks at his house
one evening. He is not fearful in the least about his biblical stances on key moral questions or about
his speaking truth into a culture like this one. He is concerned, however, about the media twist of
biblical values and the embarrassment and ridicule that may accompany any publicity that he may
bring to the church, his family, or the kingdom.
Fear 5: Fear of marriage and family problems.
The pressure of spiritual leadership is never confined to the pastor's study. In fact, the pastor's
bedroom made be the most hazardous place in minisitry, and not because of sexual dysfunction.
The unique demands of pastoral ministry, and church staff service as well, often moves the servants
personal life to a more public venue. As a result, intimacy and privacy can be lacking. Of the 1,700
pastors who leave the ministry every month, many of them do so alone.
Jesus spoke to his disciples about fear on many occasions. With Roman soldiers in the neighborhood, religious zealots ruling their worship and even legal system, and the uncertainties of everyday life in first century Israel they needed the assurance and encouragement of his words. When they were anxious about having the necessities of life, he told not to be afraid. When the winds and waves threatened their boat, he admonished them not to fear. Over and over he gave them, regardless of the threat, the comfort of living beyond fear.
Of The Jesus Factor regarding fear my personal favorite verse is Matthew 10:29-31. He was sending them out on mission and gave them verse after verse of strong instruction about how they should face the unpredictable responses of those he was sending them to serve. He talked to them about persecution, sheep and wolves, being handed over the opponents, being delivered to death, brother going against brother, and many other drastic scenarios awaiting them. At the conclusion he said, "Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are numbered. Fear not, therefore, you are more value than many sparrows". With all the dangers of their service, he reminded them they were valued more than sparrows, and should therefore have no fear.
The Fear Factor can mess with your mind and ministry only when we forget how important we are to him. Now, there's a WOW factor for you....