Let me start by acknowledging the fact the TV preacher you saw that one time came across really cocky, and seemed to only care about getting your money.
I’ll even concede the fact you’ve seen a few Facebook videos of preachers who gel their hair and wear sequenced shirts, looking more like Rick Flair than Jesus.
When I had the idea to write this article, I hesitated at first because I know the public perception of pastors is flashy, charismatic leadership. But I decided that’s why I needed to write it all the more. Here’s why. I know a few pastors like the guy you saw on TV, but I don’t know many. Most pastors I know are trying to decide if they want to stay with ministry as their profession or if they should go get a “real” job and make more money for their family. Not because they don’t feel called, or because it’s too hard, but mostly because they think someone else would do a better job than them— they believe you would be better off without them. I know it sounds crazy, but it’s true.
When your pastor feels like a failure, he imagines the prototypical pastor who could accomplish the things he hasn’t been able to during his tenure. They would have his best qualities but also be strong where he is weak. They would be a great preacher AND have superior relational skills. They would be a big picture visionary leader AND enjoy the details and maintenance of hospital visits and counseling sessions. They would be fully invested at the office and at home for their family. That’s what makes it so laughable when a well-meaning person approaches them after one of the few seasons of church growth or feelings of success and says something along the lines of, “Don’t let this go to your head,” or “I’m praying the Lord keeps you humble.”
I’ll be the first to admit there were times I needed prayers to stay humble, mainly during bible college, but I don’t need prayers for humility much anymore, I need someone praying for my confidence. When I was getting started in ministry, I thought God would’ve been crazy to not choose me, but now I think he was crazy for choosing me.
People want a confident leader. I know some say that’s not true, they would prefer an honest, vulnerable leader, but I don’t buy it. You may not want a fake leader, but you don’t want a failing leader either. There’s a reason preachers stand on stages; you want someone you can look up to.
I gambled in college along with a bunch of my friends, and I learned something quickly about gamblers; when they tell you how much money they lost they’re rounding down, and when they tell you how much they won they’re rounding up. It’s pretty much the same with the stories your pastor tells during his sermons. The one he told about the fight with his wife that sounded a little funny and cute; it was worse than that, he just didn’t think you could handle the truth. That time he confessed a few sins he struggles with, those are the ones he knew he could share without you losing respect for him. Most of his confessions are far enough in the past to be covered by the pastoral statute of limitations. You don’t mind your pastor struggling with porn last decade, but not last week. You want your pastor to have the kind of marriage you can aspire to. You want to believe he reads his bible more than you, that he doesn’t doubt or feel depressed.
The good news is they are most of those things you want. I’ve probably met close to 10,000 pastors in my lifetime, and the overwhelming majority are top notch people, leaders, and Christians, which is why what I’m about to tell you is so perplexing.
Pastors constantly doubt themselves.
It’s not a new thing. It’ been around sense the beginning. Adam hid. Moses swore he couldn’t confront Pharaoh. Gideon needed 2 confirmations, and a practice run to lead the army. Elijah vacationed in caves on depression benders; even Jesus asked, “Who do people say that I am?”
I guess it shouldn’t come as a shock that when Moses died, and God was ready for Joshua to be in charge, he led off his comments with, “Be strong and courageous.” He even repeated it 3 times. That’s usually what a leader needs to hear, over and over again. It was important the people believed in Joshua as their new leader, but it was more important for Joshua to believe in Joshua. It’s harder than it sounds.
So what can you do to help your pastor be more confident? Great question. Let me give you 4 suggestions:
1. Pray for their confidence
You cannot pray for your pastor enough. Their mind is constantly flooded with thoughts, ideas, second guessing, and vision. They need supernatural guidance to navigate the emotional land mines in their heart. Specifically pray, “God give my pastor confidence. Help them not second guess the vision and direction you’ve put in their heart.”
2. Say “thank you”
It may sound silly to say things like, “I’m so grateful you’re my pastor.” But it means the world. Trust me. Thank them for their sermons, visits, and texts. Thank them for not quitting during bad seasons. Give them gifts. It doesn’t have to be big gifts, buy them a $25 gift card to a restaurant, or a Starbucks gift card. Anything that conveys a message of gratitude.
3. Bring them good news
You probably don’t realize that how often you think positive things but only speak negative things. It’s natural for all of us. Most of your pastor’s time is filled with complaints and concerns from well-meaning people. Make it a point to share good news, or solve a problem instead of bringing it to them. If your pastor has been in ministry long enough they get gun shy whenever someone wants to set up a meeting, so surprise them sometime and say, “Hey let’s grab lunch, I just want to talk about a bunch of good things I see in the church.”
4. Vocally support them in front of others
A leader is most vulnerable after they share their heart. After they share ministry vision or make an announcement the loudest voices are the ones who are unhappy or disagree. Nothing makes your pastor feel more supported than hearing about someone defending them or speaking in favor of something in the middle of vocal descent. Even if you are unsure of a new initiative, trust they are doing their best to hear from God, and lead the church. Know they are a little unsure too. Vocally support the idea, brag on it, tell them how excited you are.
Being a pastor is hard, so is what you do, but one day you won’t stand before God on behalf of your church, your pastor will. You need them to believe in themselves so you and your church can be all that God has called you to be. They are better when you support them, so encourage them, whether they act like they need it or not.
I wrote a book specifically to encourage frustrated and discouraged pastors. If you think your pastor could use the encouragement consider buying a copy of “Toxic Soul: A Pastor’s Guide To Leading Without Losing Heart.”