Future pastor, local churches need unwavering leaders who fear the Lord. They don’t need you to meet their expectations, but they do need to see your hand tremble when you hold up your Bible. They need to know that you would rather have the whole room turn on you than utter one word that displeases the Spirit.
When I began pastoral ministry, I didn’t realize it would be my job to disappoint people. I had to tell a young man he wasn’t ready for ministry. I had to counsel a couple that they shouldn’t get married. I had to inform the church that Sunday’s text means exactly what they don’t want it to mean. Pastoral ministry is full of no-win decisions. Because of this, ministry is a miserable place for a pastor who needs everyone’s approval.
If we knew that before 2020, we know it even more now.
Fear of Man & Pastoral Ministry
This sinful desire for the approval of others is often called “the fear of man.” We were made to desire loving relationships, acceptance into a community, and the favor of those in authority over us. But the fear of man multiplies and warps these desires into an insatiable hunger for applause, honor, and status.
In pastoral leadership, this wrongly placed fear surfaces in many ways. It makes a pastor perform in the pulpit, but never quite preach from it. It makes him hide in his study with the light off, afraid the bully member might swing by. It fixates him on what would make his favorite professor proud, so much that he forgets to ask what his people need. It addicts him to fame or internet attention. It makes him easily manipulated by those who know how to hand out honor, shame, and pressure.
Every pastor struggles against this in different ways, but their hearts all say the same thing: “I need approval to be happy.” Young pastor, learn to overcome the fear of man now.
That’s easy to say. But how?