My understanding of leadership is that a leader is a person who is bold, courageous, and confident. Leaders aren’t perfect but they are pretty close. Leaders refuse to dwell on weakness and insecurity – instead, they exploit their strengths in order to make a bigger impact.
Well, I’m going to break all the rules of leadership with this blog post. I have been going back-and-forth with myself on how honest & transparent I want to be through a public medium such as a blog. I’ve been told that pastors should only share their insecurities with other pastors so they don’t cause the people who follow them to doubt their leadership.
But this is what I know: Every Sunday I remind the people of Renovation Church that we serve a crucified Savior. The message of the cross is a stumbling block for it displays Jesus at His absolute weakest point. He is abandoned by his disciples, rejected by the crowds, beaten by the Roman Guards, and crucified completely naked – this is true humiliation. Yet it was precisely at His weakest point that He conquered death, sin, and the grave. It is in our weakness that Christ’s power is perfected within us (2 Cor. 12:9).
So here’s my confession to you: I am deeply insecure about who I am as a pastor. Two weeks ago I had the honor of performing child dedications and we had around 70 people in attendance (which is a good Sunday for us).
Yesterday, we had 33 people in attendance. This is the lowest our attendance has been in years. I have nothing to blame it on – it was a beautiful day and there were no major events happening in the community that I am aware of. In my own sinful pride (self-pity is another form of pride) I became extremely discouraged when I got home after the service (just ask my wife!). Rather than praising God for the fact that He brought 33 souls – people loved by Him – under my care on Sunday, I complained and felt like a failure for all the people that WEREN’T there.
That’s a problem.
It’s a problem that I find my identity in attendance numbers & budget numbers.
It’s a problem that I am too afraid of people doubting me that I refuse to be transparent about how insecure I am when people skip church.
It’s a problem if I cover up the pain of people leaving the church through spiritual jargon rather than dealing with my real emotions.
It’s a problem because it’s in direct contradiction to the crucified Savior whom I worship. The One who emphasizes weakness & transparency as true strength.
Since yesterday afternoon I have been continually preaching the Gospel to my own heart. Here are the truths I am reminding myself continually in an effort to fight for joy. I pray this reflection encourages you as you begin a new week. To be honest, I’m writing this primarily for myself so that the next time I am discouraged I can read this post and remind myself of these marvelous truths:
1. My identity is the result of who Jesus is and what Jesus has done.
As I shared above, self-pity comes from the same root as arrogance – pride. It is an obsession with “self” and a demand that we get what we deserve. The truth is, if any of us got what we “deserved” we would be in Hell right now – separated from God as a result of our sin. The beauty of the Gospel is that my identity isn’t the result of who I am or what I have done but because of who Jesus is and what He has done through his birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension. My identity needs to be rooted in the Gospel – not some cheap form of “success” in the church world.
2. It is not my job to build the church – Jesus promises to do that.
Renovation Church does not belong to me – it belongs to Christ. He is the One called to grow the church – I am simply called to be faithful. I need to remember that “growth” doesn’t always look like increased attendance and giving. Sometimes growth can look like subtraction (i.e. Jesus once “grew” his movement from 15,000 people to 12 after a controversial message – see John 6)
3. Weakness is not a liability.
One of the sports I love to participate in is boxing. When you are in a boxing ring you do not want to show any weakness or openings. As soon as you show an opening you are usually rebuked by a swift punch to the face! The “foolishness” of the cross is that the way we display Christ as our treasure is to BOAST in our weaknesses (1 Cor. 11:30). We openly talk about our insecurity, our weakness, and our doubts. That is what makes Christian leadership distinctively Christian. We do not hide from our brokenness & sickness because we trust the One who came not for the healthy but for the sick (Mark 2:17).
These are three truths I am reminding myself of this week. I pray our attendance increases this coming Sunday – but what if it doesn’t? What we if go from 33 people to 20 people? I will fight for joy. I will celebrate the people who are there rather than despair about those who aren’t. I will remember that it’s seriously amazing that even one person entrusts himself/herself to my spiritual leadership. I will be honest about my own brokenness with the goal of pointing people to Christ – not Tyler Ramsbey.
P.S. – I’m not writing this to get your pity. Many of you have FAR more difficult things you are wrestling with than insecurity & low attendance at church. Instead, my hope is that this will encourage you to preach the Gospel to your own soul. Have a great week!