Church Growth, the Right Way
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Guest Post by Tim Abraham
Tim is a Church Strategy and Leadership Consultant for TMG, and Co-Founder of Beyond Leading. He’s served as a member of the executive leadership team for a large church in West Virginia, in addition to serving within high levels of state government.
Tim earned an MBA and multiple bachelor’s degrees from West Virginia University and he and his wife, Kelly, currently enjoy God’s beautiful creation residing in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. He is also the author of Spiritual Fear Factor.
How to Overcome Fear Through Fear Itself
In our world today we value fearlessness.
We idolize the ones who claim to have never been touched by this feeling of vulnerability. Christian leaders stand before challenges that will test us not only physically and mentally, but also emotionally and spiritually. Fear is one of the most misunderstood, misinterpreted, and misapplied concepts in the Christian faith. Unlike the many doctrinal disagreements that don’t ultimately impact our everyday lives and decisions, how we cope with fear can seep into our feelings and reactions to the world around us.
This is why a biblical understanding of how to overcome fear transforms our relationship with God, the world, and ourselves.
When we think of “fear,” our mind goes toward an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat to us.
* If you’re afraid of heights, you become gripped with fear because you intuitively sense all the negative possibilities associated with falling from high places.
* If you’re afraid of public speaking, you fear embarrassment and being rejected by the audience. While fear can instantaneously trigger fight or flight reactions in legitimately dangerous situations (think jumping out of the way of an oncoming car), it is often perceived fears that paralyze us.
Emotionally, fear is when we elevate the legitimate or perceived results of anything to a level that alters our thoughts or actions—and to a level above God.
10 Common Fears of Church Leaders
In a 2014 post, Thom Rainer identified ten of the most prominent fears of church leaders:
*Fear of critics.
*Fear of failure.
*Fear of power brokers.
*Fear of failing to please.
*Fear of change.
*Fear of nitpickers.
*Fear of finances.
*Fear of others seeing weaknesses.
*Fear of offending others.
*Fear of success.
These fears can be grouped into one of two categories: the fear of people or the fear of provision.
Christian leaders often allow the real or perceived response of their flock to hinder their leadership of this same flock toward the will God desires for them. Additionally, church leaders often question the internal provision of personal skills and abilities (like Moses) or the external provision of resources—financial or otherwise (like the disciples at the feeding of the 5,000)—to move forward.
How do Christian leaders overcome fear and embrace God’s vision for their lives?
Surprisingly, far from praises of affirmation regarding the absence of fear, King Solomon’s biblical admonition calls for us, as Christians, to embrace fear to overcome fear. What if leaders are not victorious in life by removing fear, but by showing its mark? What if Christians live in a world centered on the fear of man, but have the opportunity to transform it by exhibiting the fear of God?
Did you know that in the original languages of the biblical manuscripts, ten Hebrew words and phrases plus eleven Greek words and phrases are used to describe what is translated as “fear” in English? Additionally, depending on the Bible translation, the word “fear” is used between 350 and 550 times!
Here’s where it gets even trickier. The word translated “fear” in many versions of the Bible comes from a Hebrew word that has a range of meaning in the Scriptures. Sometimes it refers to the fear we feel in anticipation of some danger or pain, but it can also mean a feeling of awe or reverence. Also built into the definition in the original language are the ideas of wonder, amazement, mystery, astonishment, gratitude, admiration, and worship. This latter definition of fear unlocks the shackles holding Christian leaders back. Suddenly, the focus shifts from man to God. From the temporal to the eternal. From the weak to the strong. From the clay to the Potter.
In my new book, Spiritual Fear Factor, I detail how to overcome fear by fearing God in four simple steps:
1. Seeing who we are
We are sinners in utter dependence upon God.
2. Seeing who God is
The Lord is the perfect Giver of all good gifts.
3. Believing in what He has done, is doing, and will do
We trust in Jesus’ sacrificial death, burial, and resurrection to pay the penalty for our sins and simultaneously clothe ourselves in Jesus’ righteousness. We have believe in His ascension and that there is provision for us through the Holy Spirit.
4. Responding in obedience in to Him
We believe that what God has outlined for us is what’s best for us. In the words of the Psalmist, “The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places.” (Psalm 16:6)
As leaders, we must no longer wrongly elevate the fear of people or provision (i.e., the fear of man) above God. Instead, when we embrace a fear of God in order to overcome fear, we trust Him to lead, guide, and provide for what He’s called us to do. Christian leaders can model how to overcome fear by embracing Godly fear, and in so doing we will be leading others to follow King Solomon’s command recorded in Ecclesiastes 12:13: “That’s the whole story. Here now is my final conclusion: Fear God and obey his commands, for this is everyone’s duty.”
Want to know more about how to overcome fear?
This post only scratches the surface of this difficult topic. If you’re ready to face your fears and truly overcome fear, check out Tim Abraham’s book, Spiritual Fear Factor. He dives deep into the steps listed in the article above, and how a deep and full understanding of the fear of God can help you to overcome fear as a leader and as a follower of Jesus.