Leading When We’re Afraid

One of my mentors, the late Dr. Charles Siburt used to ask churches he consulted with the question, “Why haven’t you?” This in response to the excuses we make for why we haven’t done this or that.

“We can make any change we need to and the church will be fine with it.”

“We could grow that way too, if we wanted to.”

“We can make a change on staff if we need to.”

Really? Then, why haven’t you?

I’ve asked that question in the same settings and found the answer to the question can be found, typically in one of two places: 1) it would be too much work, or 2) Fear. Fear is the answer about 3/4 of the time, and it’s so hard to admit–leadership will avoid confessing it until no other option remains. They might be afraid of the church, afraid offerings will drop, afraid people will leave. They are afraid of other churches, of what their family members will say, or afraid of a loss of power.

Yet, in confessing we are afraid of what will happen, there is freedom. Simply saying it often awakens the Spirit of courage in leadership, because to hear how we sound highlights the dissonance between how we feel and what we say we believe. It often awakens us to fear’s existence and sets the table for the Spirit of courage to begin to embolden us.

Courage is at the core of both walking with God faithfully and leading in ministry. Caution and discernment are good. Fear, other than fear of the Lord, will hold us back in life and ministry. I’ve never seen a Christian living abundantly and in fear. I’ve never seen a thriving church with fearful leaders. Fear needs to be confessed and courage must be prayed for in order for leaders to lead faithfully and effectively..

In Acts 4, the early church admits their fear, and asks God for boldness to speak the word though they’ve been threatened with violence or worse. Acts 4:31 says, “And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.”

Today, let’s ask God for courage. There is little that will make more of a difference in our leadership than that request.

What are you afraid of?

Dr. Tim Spivey is Lead Planter of New Vintage Church in San Diego, California. He is the author of numerous articles and one book, "Jesus: The Powerful Servant." A sought after speaker for events, Tim also serves as Adjunct Professor of Religion at Pepperdine University. Tim serves as a church consultant, and his writings are featured on ChurchLeaders.com, Church Executive magazine, Faith Village, Sermon Central, and Giving Rocket.

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