Are most pastors insecure? What it means to be a secure leader

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Are most pastors insecure? What it means to be a secure leader

February 9, 2023 -

Close-up of a golfer wearing a golf glove placing a golf ball on a tee, with an iron in the background. © By sculpies/

Close-up of a golfer wearing a golf glove placing a golf ball on a tee, with an iron in the background. © By sculpies/

Close-up of a golfer wearing a golf glove placing a golf ball on a tee, with an iron in the background. © By sculpies/

After retiring a few months ago, I decided to play more golf, something I have enjoyed for a long time. Much to my surprise, the more I’ve played, the worse I’ve become!

The bigger surprise is how this has affected my thought life around the course. “My playing partners must think I’m terrible,” I would think. “I actually think they are feeling sorry for me.”

I finally realized that this attitude is a symptom of insecurity, an obsession with what I perceive others are thinking about me. The truth is, my playing partners aren’t thinking about my game. My friends don’t really care about my golf game. They are thinking about their own games!

The damage of an insecure leader

We all struggle with insecurity on some level. Even the most confident person you know is probably covering for insecurity in some part of their life.

Though not a psychologist, I do know that insecurity is not a good trait. It causes all kinds of relational issues.

Insecurity is potentially the most destructive in the life of a leader, especially a spiritual leader.

Insecure leaders can do a lot of damage.

What does an insecure leader look like?

May I be painfully honest?

The vast majority of pastors I have encountered are insecure. Some of them are doing significant damage to their staff and the churches they lead as a result.

Most pastors I know, including me, followed God’s call into this amazing work with a deep desire to help people find and thrive in their relationships with God. But soon, we found ourselves leading a real church with real people and the insecurities began to rise to the surface. Leading a church is challenging!

The work of a pastor is taxing, especially on the ego. In my thirty-plus years as a senior pastor, I began to realize that my insecurities came primarily from my perception of how others saw me and, honestly, how I saw myself.

Way too seldom did I consider how God saw me. I wanted to look good! I wanted to be perceived as in control and having it all together. I wanted to be loved and admired.

What does insecurity look like? Here are a few examples:

  • jealousy of others who are gifted and loved
  • a critical spirit
  • a defensive spirit
  • a controlling spirit
  • paranoia
  • affirmation-seeking
  • micro-managing

Do you see yourself?

Insecure leaders can do a lot of damage to the organizations they lead and to those who participate in the organizations.

Pastors, what can we do with our insecurities?

How about this for starters: We can confess our insecurities as sin to God and begin to trust him, and him alone, with our reputations.

We can ask forgiveness of those we’ve hurt in our pursuit of “looking good.”

And then, there are a few habits we can begin to practice:

  • Begin each day with an intentionally thankful heart. A thankful heart “rests” in God.
  • Be intentional and sincere in giving encouragement and compliments to your staff and members. Release them to do their work and praise them, privately and publicly, when they do it well.
  • Therapy, if necessary. (We all need some help at times.)

Relentlessly pursue faithfulness

The word of God also gives some substantial help: “So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time he will lift you up in honor” (1 Peter 5:6 NLT).

Humble leaders are infused with a power that is not their own. Be faithful and trust God to honor you at the right time. He can honor you far better than you can honor yourself.

Trust Jesus.

You don’t have to be jealous or critical or boastful or defensive. Relax, you have little to prove.

Just be relentlessly faithful and leave your reputation to Jesus and you will be honored, not just now but for eternity.

You can be secure!

Don’t waste your life and ministry living it for you. Live it for Jesus and for those he came to redeem and restore.

The world is desperate and ready for secure leaders.

I challenge you to be one of them.

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