When I first started in ministry, I was terribly insecure. God still used me, all wasn’t lost, but I was a mess. Truth be told, I still am. But the words of John Newton ring true over this area of my life. “I am not what I ought to be, I am not what I want to be, I am not what I hope to be in another world; but still, I am not what I once used to be, and by the grace of God I am what I am.”
What’s funny, though, is that if you asked me if I was insecure a few years ago, I would have laughed in your face. I was confident in God’s sovereignty. I knew that I didn’t have all the answers—or so I said—but I knew the One who did (still secretly me). I’d say that, early on, I had way more confidence but much more insecurity. And that isn’t surprising because the more we trust in the sand of our own efforts, the less secure we’ll actually be.
I still battle insecurity, but thankfully now I'm aware of it, though probably not as much as I need to be. I’m able to see the harmful impact my insecurity has upon the ministry God has entrusted me with. Or, to put it another way, I’ve come to see how my insecurities keep me from seeing people as I ought to see them, and how I’m hindered in my ability to love people the way the Lord calls me to love them.
I suppose I should also qualify this and say that I’ve intentionally chosen the word 'minister' in the title instead of 'pastor.' I did that because my target audience isn’t just the local church pastor. I’m also writing to the lady who teaches Sunday school, the guy who rocks out on the guitar, the faithful team who puts together meals for the church. You know, everyday ministry that every believer is (or at least should) be involved in. I want to warn you of the dangers of insecurity—maybe even open your eyes to it for the first time—and point us all to the only remedy.
There are many dangers that come from being an insecure minister, but there is one in particular I'd like to focus on today: obsession with ourselves. Insecurity breeds self-obsession which causes us to make terrible ministerial decisions. I’m thinking in particular of the way we live out the “one another's” in the Bible. You cannot effectively counsel another with the Word if you are incredibly insecure.
Imagine with me a person who is looking for validation – a person who wants to be seen as significant. He’s deeply insecure. He isn’t sure if he quite matches up to the other believers in his church, but he really wants to be used by God. Part of this desire is good and holy. The other part is simply because he wants to matter.
Now, what happens when a person in the church confides in this brother? No matter what the problem is, he is going to likely feel two things. First, he absolutely must fix this. He’s not mature enough to know that sometimes things aren’t going to be totally fixed this side of a redeemed Eden. But he’s insecure, so he’ll feel like he has to fix this problem to prove that he is significant. But all that’s going to do is provide shallow solutions to deep problems. Anything you can fix isn’t going to be the heart of the matter, because you cannot change hearts. Insecure people cannot leave people in the hands of the Lord.
Secondly, when you confide in this brother, you can almost guarantee that what really has his heart racing has little to do with you. It’s the fact that somebody is coming to him. And when that happens, he isn’t going to be nearly as helpful. Building rapport will become an end instead of a means. He won’t speak the truth that he often needs to speak, because he won’t want to risk losing his idol of helpfulness.
This is why I say your ability to really counsel fellow believers with the Word is hindered by your inability to move beyond yourself. And it can be a really sick cycle. When you “fail” according to your standards, where will you run for help? You’ll likely run to Jesus for forgiveness, but “help” books for solutions. If you blew it on leadership, you’ll go to John Maxwell so that you can strengthen your abilities. But the fundamental problem isn’t your lack of ability; the problem is that your confidence and your significance are coming from the wrong place.
The answer to this insecurity isn’t to grow in your skill set but to grow in finding your security and identity in Christ. Only in Him will insecure ministers find the competence and confidence they need.
Editor's Note: This post originally appeared at Mike's blog, Borrowed Light.