I realize that church leaders must be real with their feelings because if the "human factor" did not come through our personalities, we would all seem very robotic. But at the same time, many feel pressure to be excited and happy all the time because they want to keep everyone pumped up and fear if they do not demonstrate a positive image they will appear weak and discouraging. Learning how to be "real" is like walking an emotional tightwire, and as fellow Christians, we need to remember that we all live in human housing. The role of a spiritual leader is not easy and deserves more prayer and less criticism. I recall when I was younger, I was invited to attend a meeting of pastors that were discussing the trials and challenges of ministry, and instead of being compassionate, I was disappointed because they were not wearing their superhero capes. I listened as these warriors shared their burdens and worries and questions about church growth and how to get people to catch their vision. As they talked about problems with everything from excessive debt to people being unfaithful, I sensed a heaviness of negativity and defeat. When it was over, I left with a feeling of hopelessness for the local church. I was not encouraged, inspired or built up in any way, yet here I was surrounded by those who fight on the front line and are filled with God's power and faith. I felt there had been a mistake because I thought I was going to a celebration of spiritual victory with the generals but instead was sitting in on a religious pity party. I was thinking to myself, everyone knows there are problems in the churches, but pastors are supposed to have the answers. What I failed to realize was that Elijahs also need places to vent their frustrations and weaknesses and a safe environment with those who understand what they are going through.
Local assemblies have teachers, counselors, associate pastors, administrators, singers, musicians, superintendents, elders and deacons, and these helpers are support staff. Of course, Christ is the head of the church, but He appoints the head pastor to relay His messages and to have a burden for all the sheep. May we remember that the head pastor also wears the brightest bullseye. It's true; the office of a head pastor is to know God's direction for the assembly and lead the warriors into the battle, but what I personally failed to realize in that meeting was that God's messengers give their lives to help others. These individuals were letting down their guard in front of me. They felt secure with each other and used this time as a place of refreshing and refuge away from the war zone to share their wounds, experiences and open their hearts. I was not discerning what was happening and was secretly judging too harshly. These are the laborers who get up in the middle of the night and kneel on cold hospital floors praying for the sick. They hold the hands of people who are passing on to the next life. They counsel and try to help when people make a huge mess of their lives and they feel compelled to go inside the prisons to preach the kingdom message. They carry the concerns that only God knows because many people have shared their deepest secrets with them and trust them to keep it confidential.
While none of us, including pastors, are to dwell in a world of disappointments and worries, let us also remember that it's OK to be honest with the ones we trust and who care for our souls. It's alright for overcomers to be concerned, but we must also learn to leave our anxieties and fears at the cross, as they are very heavy and can hinder our joy and peace. As servants of the Most High, spiritual leaders feel the same pain and heartache that everyone does, and there is no condemnation for being transparent. For all of God's children, it's critical that we learn how to encourage ourselves and to know that God is the source of our strength. Overcomers learn that qualities like fortitude, perseverance and patience are formed in times of great difficulty. "We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed." II Corinthians 4:8-9
Dr. William Holland is a Christian author, freelance writer, outreach minister and community chaplain. To learn more and to see his new video message, visit billyhollandministries.com.
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