3 Harsh (But Loving) Truths for Pastors in Our Fragile Age

leadership preaching Nov 15, 2023

What doesn’t kill you makes you…

My guess is that you would finish that sentence with, makes you stronger. 

But are you living as if that’s true? 

Many people, pastors even, in today’s society are not.

Instead, they look at challenge as harmful. Comfort as king. Excuses, a collection.

But I believe that you and I are an anti-fragile bunch. That when we are confronted with a challenge, when we deal with difficulty, and we look this messy world in the eye and move forward anyway, we grow stronger.

In what follows, I hope to confront you with a few “harsh” truths that really aren’t that harsh (even though you make take them that way). But I see these as loving truths that will empower you to live and lead and minister in the way Paul exhorted Timothy when he told him, “6 Therefore, I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is in you through the laying on of my hands. 7 For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but one of power, love, and sound judgment” (1 Timothy 1:6-7, CSB).

If you’ve been feeling stuck in life or in ministry, take these truths to heart. They’ll set you free from the rut you’ve been stumbling in.

3 Harsh (But Loving) Truths for Pastors in Our Fragile Age

1. You are responsible for your own well-being.

No one else is.

The stressors you deal with, it’s on you to lean on the Lord and regulate your emotions.

Your physical health… it’s on you. Not eating healthy? That’s your choice. Not exercising? You decided. Maybe you were dealt an unfortunate diagnosis. It’s still up to you to do what you can do.

The destructive thoughts you habitually think… it’s time to get aggressive with them and fight back with God’s truth. 

The way you treat others… that’s on you regardless of how they treat you. 

  • Have you been neglecting relationships in your life? You need community.
  • Feeling spiritually dry? Lean into the Lord through spiritual disciplines even when you don’t want to.
  • Feeling overwhelmed and burned out? It’s time to tell someone and admit you need help.

You are responsible for your own well-being.

And that’s good news because you can decide to make a change (or a few). After all, the Holy Spirit indwells you, friend. And He’s not done with you.

2. You are responsible for how you lead.

No one else is.

The easy route is paved with excuses, good intentions and little action, and a steady supply of blaming others.

Your situation might not be ideal (no situation is, by the way). You might not have a lot of help. You might be feeling like you’re handcuffed by a church culture that has been negatively cultivated for decades.

Fair enough. But that doesn’t change the fact that you’re still responsible for how you lead.

You’re responsible for being assertive with your leadership team. 

You’re responsible for inviting others to be a part of the journey.

You’re responsible for equipping the people who are willing to be equipped.

You get to decide if you will be courageous today. No one else gets to decide that for you.

Is there a difficult conversation you need to have? Lean in with grace and truth.

Is there a challenge your church is facing? Labor in prayer and then labor in action.

You are responsible for what you do. And you are responsible for what you allow. That’s leadership in a nutshell.

3. You are responsible for your preaching development.

There’s a lie out there. That talent (or let’s use a more biblical word for it: giftedness) is what matters most when it comes to the quality of someone’s preaching.

But here’s what I know: preaching talent is overrated.

If you want to develop your preaching and improve, you must work on it. 

The Holy Spirit is present and working in the process. But you still must develop your gift. 

The most skillful preachers treat communication as a craft to be developed. They realize that they are responsible for their preaching development.

They know that they can identify an area they want to improve and then begin working on it.

They know:

  • It takes work to find ways to prepare better.
  • It takes intentionality to improve your sermon delivery.
  • It’s uncomfortable to stretch yourself by learning something new and implementing it.

But they also know that putting in the work, honing their craft, and bathing it all in prayer is worth it.

You’re Responsible But You’re Not Alone

Here’s a bonus truth: you’re responsible for all these things but you don’t have to go at it alone.

You are responsible for your own well-being but you can still call a friend, a mentor, a counselor, etc.

You are responsible for how you lead but you can still get a coach.

You are responsible for your preaching development but you can still get a coach.

And not only can you, but maybe you should.

So take a step and move forward. It’s worth it. And God’s with you.

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