The Purpose of Fear in Authentic Leadership

Leadership in ministry is not for the faint-hearted. We only need to look around us to witness the ravages of an unrelenting war on character, on relationships, on hearts and minds. Volumes have been written on building strong churches, growing high-capacity volunteer groups, and designing creative ministries that appeal to every age. Leadership books are quick to list tips for being more effective, more charismatic, more relevant, and more dynamic. But there is little offered to help those of us who lead others face fears with authenticity and grace. More often than not, fear is equated with weakness. And weakness is not the most popular topic over a cup of coffee or behind a pulpit.

We wonder if we would be considered weak if we confessed that we’re afraid of being inadequate or ineffective. We wonder if our own credibility would be dashed if we admitted that we battle comparison and jealousy. We wonder if we might disqualify ourselves from leadership if we came clean about the struggles that still get the best of us or the answers that still elude us.

And so we tuck away the fears, speaking about them as past-tense problems to our congregations and ministry teams. And while it may make for a compelling and motivating battleground message, we often end up distancing ourselves from those we are called to serve. We treat fear as if it’s an enemy, when in fact, the enemy uses fear to isolate us from those who need us the most.

Reggie Joiner reminds parents: “Kids don’t want a lecture on what you know. They want to experience Who you know.” Those words ring true for leaders too. And fear itself may be just what we need to be authentic, grace-filled leaders who demonstrate with our lives Who it is we know. Rather than fight it or deny it, perhaps it’s time to let fear reveal to us the areas in our lives that are still being refined and restored by a loving Father who finds His delight in us.

When we confess that we are still on the battlefield, those we serve get to see us fighting the good fight of a faith that keeps persisting in the midst of trial. We strip the enemy of power when we demonstrate that fears confessed and yielded are fears that God uses to reveal His purpose and power in us. When we confess and yield, we have the opportunity to no longer lead from a distance, but shoulder-to-shoulder. Together, we gain strength.

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