Why Many Church Leaders Struggle With Their Faith

 In Leaders

There’’s a secret many leaders won’’t readily tell you. One of the most difficult aspects of Christian leadership is keeping your relationship with God fresh and alive. It’’s amazing to me that a frequent casualty of Christian leadership is a leader’s personal walk with God.

I have had to regularly engage this battle for two decades now. So have so many leaders I’’ve talked to. I realize if I don’’t engage the battle, I’’ll lose it. How does it happen?

The Struggle Starts Innocently Enough

Drifting away from the God who loves you happens innocently enough:

  • You start out in ministry with enthusiasm and passion.
  • You get ‘burned’ a few times by people and the challenges of leadership. Your heart grows a little hard.
  • You confuse what you do (your work) with who you are (a follower of Jesus). The line between what is personal and what is vocational become blurry.
  • You end up cheating your personal devotions by reading the passage you’’re working on for Sunday. Or not reading much scripture at all.
  • You end up so focused on strategy and execution that the mystery and supernatural aspect of Christian leadership gets lost.
  • The services you lead become technical and clinical rather than life-giving and awe-inspiring because you’’re focused on executing them well.
  • You find yourself singing words that used to mean something and preaching words that once sounded more personal and alive than they currently do.
  • You still believe in your head, but you’’ve lost your heart.

I have drifted into or close to that territory in seasons, and as soon as I do I realize it’s a terrible and unsustainable place to be in, let alone stay in.

A Searing Question

I have tried to keep this issue front and center in my life because I don’t want to be ‘that guy’ who gains the world (or even a small slice of it) and loses his soul. A few years ago I landed on a question that forces me to be 100% honest about where I am with God.

The question: If I wasn’’t in ministry tomorrow, what would be left of my faith?

In other words, if ministry came to a dead halt:

  • Would I still passionately love God?
  • Would I have lots left to pray about?
  • Would I want to lead people to Jesus?
  • Would I wake up grateful?
  • Would I still confess my sin?
  • Would I live out of an overflow of my relationship with God?

If the answer to these questions is “I’’m not sure” or “no,” I have a problem.

And so, I try to foster a personal relationship with God that runs independently of anything I do in Christian leadership. I try to remember that God loves me, not what I produce. That in the end who I am matters so much more than what I do.

So What Helps?

There are several components to staying healthy spiritually over the long term. You need a close circle of friends for support and accountability.

  • You need to pray.
  • But here’s what I find. It’s so simple you might dismiss it, but I can’t. It’s just always true:
  • The more I engage the Scriptures, the more I engage God.
  • When I read the Bible personally, I grow closer to God. When I skip or skim, I don’t.
  • And this is also the area in which I find many leaders and so many Christians struggle.

Whatever you do, keeping your relationship with your Saviour fresh and alive is critical. After all, if your relationship with God dies, you lose your authority to lead, not to mention your passion and joy.

What has helped you? What would you add?

Reposted with permission. This article originally appeared here.

Showing 2 comments
  • Debra
    Reply

    This is the most profound lesson I have read in many years, and one that certainly applies to my life. I had the good fortune when I became a follower of Jesus Christ to have a Pastor who taught that abiding (John 15) is more important than anything I do. This may be because he was both a Pastor, and a Pastor’s son. This was critical since I was a ‘doer on steroids’, being in medical school at the time. I have seen over the years that even great Bible studies that everyone else is doing, if they take more time than I have AFTER personal devotions, are not for me. Personal devotions… not for others… not to teach… not to minister… need to be personal. Because if I do not have a growing relationship with my Lord, I have nothing of value to give out. Like a car, I need ‘fuel in’ to fulfill the great commission and pray, give, go. Thank you so much for verbalizing this. I wish you had a lesson to help loved ones who have drifted or are drifting to get back in the game.

    • Robert Carnes
      Reply

      Thanks so much for sharing your insights, Debra. We’re so glad you were able to get something out of this post. Feel free to share with others you think might benefit from it!

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