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!
9 thoughts on “Low Attendance & Insecurity”
Tyler. You are awesome. Dear God, help me to see the things in my life that are important and to ignore things that aren’t – like counting how many people there are in church on a given Sunday or how many “things” I want but don’t really need. Amen
Absolutely. Thanks for sharing & thank you for the kind words!
Tyler thanks for sharing your feelings. You are a GIFTED PASTOR! God called you to this and your gifts show when you preach. I want you to know I tell everyone that I know that you are GIFTED in your preaching and that they should come listen to you preach at church. So far I just hear maybe’s but that is better than no’s…..but I am trying…..God will bring the people in. Summers are known to be slower in attendance than winters…but God will bring the people in. You are doing what he wants you to do. Hang in there!!!! I don’t know a lot of people in town but I do encourage them to watch a church video and then come see our church in person. I know we have to get the word out and I’m trying. I am behind you 100%! Just hang in there! You are an awesome pastor! You stick to the word and that is what is so important….not man made rules like what I grew up with. Keep doing what you’re doing! You are GREAT at preaching I do believe it is your gift.
Absolutely – thank you so much for the encouraging words Diane!
I have told you this once before but let me state it again. “I could listen to you teach the Bible for hours” You are just that good at what you do and the good Lord knows that! As, well as myself and others. Now for my sin of not attending church regularly is, one sometimes I am stuck working weekends. When a lengthy time goes by and I don’t attend is because of my personal demons or drama i am currently dealing with. I already know what you’re thinking “Let go-let God”. When I do let go I return to church because I know that’s where I need to be. This doesn’t by any means have any reflection on you, your teaching or the Church as a whole. DO NOT think for one minute or doubt your gift of teaching God’s word. You are doing exactly what he wants you to. He needs you, I need you and the Church needs you! To sum it up I’m broken and need your guidance with Gods help to show me the way! You are awesome in every way. Don’t ever doubt that and sometimes its just nice to hear it once in awhile. So, here is my “God told me to tell you moments”. YOU are everything I need in a Pastor!! Love ya and most importantly God loves you! 😃
Hey Dawn! That is super encouraging! Thank you so much for sharing!!!!
“Preach the Gospel to your own soul.” I’ve heard that a lot lately. Timely advice,Tyler! Thank you! Thank you for being vulnerable, transparent, honest. That preaches!
Absolutely! Thank you for reading & for your kind words!
We felt the same way when people don’t show up for connection group. Just turning that over to the Lord and waiting to see where He leads.