You know them. I know them. I have been like them. Maybe you have been like them. Insecure leaders. Insecurity inhibits decision-making, leadership, moving forward, serving well, or turns leaders into panderers and people pleasers. Too often we lead our ministries out of the well-spring of fear and insecurity. Solomon wisely observed, “The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe” (Proverbs 29:25).
Fear, insecurity, or the constant need to please people inhibits our ability to lead well. Jesus exemplified the very opposite. There is no better example of Jesus’ internal security than when he washed his disciples’ feet. John says, “Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God,” then rose from supper and proceeded to wash his disciples’ feet (John 13:3).
Jesus was internally secure. He knew who he was and where he had come from. Jesus served, not out of a need to please, or a desire to be seen, but rather out of love flowing from his identity. For the pastor, insecurity can cause significant ministry dilemmas. The disciples illustrate these examples during the foot washing event.
- Insecurity causes paralysis. None of the disciples moved to wash feet. They were paralyzed by their insecurity. Insecurity can lead to ministry paralysis where the pastor fails to act, to serve, to lead, or engage. While acting without caution is unwise, so is failing to act at all. We cannot become paralyzed with indecision because we are insecure.
- Insecurity can lead to selfishness and corruption. It might be reading into the text a bit to blame Judas’ betrayal on insecurity, but I think it fits. It appears that Judas wanted wealth, power, and influence. So, he stole from the moneybag that supplied the needs of Jesus and the disciples. Insecurity is a foundational sin that never remains alone. Insecurity drives us away from a singular dependence on Jesus and paves the way for selfishness and corruption to enter our lives.
- Insecurity buoys the ego. Not many days earlier, James and John had asked for places of honor in Jesus’ kingdom. This request bothered the rest of the disciples. Their insecurities caused them to care more about those they were ahead of than those they served. Insecure people sometimes carry themselves with a false humility. Sometimes they hide their insecurities behind a bravado that betrays their inner arrogance. In either case insecurity buoys the ego and leads to pride rather than humility.
- Insecurity breeds interpersonal division. Jesus openly talked about his betrayer at the Passover meal. Thus, the question became, “Who is Jesus talking about?” Insecure people care deeply what others think of them, who’s against them, and who’s for them. They speculate about the conversations others have. They wonder who’s talking about them behind their backs. They whisper in the shadows because they are insecure. Insecurity is relationally divisive.
- Insecurity blinds our ability to discern. In the foot washing experience, Peter first said, “No!” when Jesus came to wash his feet. Then, after Jesus declared that he must wash Peter’s feet or Peter would have no part with Jesus, Peter asked for a bath. Peter didn’t get it. He didn’t realize what Jesus was up to. Jesus modeled true service, genuine love, and intentional forgiveness. Peter was caught up in the method of service and missed the message. Insecurity keeps us so focused on ourselves that we are unable to see what is really going on—what God is really up to.
These dilemmas cloud our ability to serve faithfully. Insecurity places the focus on us—where it does not belong. Internally secure pastors recognize their identity in Christ and serve from the overflow of that identity. Pastoring, leading and serving out of our Christ identity allow us to rightfully put others first. This will also help us recognize that our identity is not found in our service, leadership, preaching, ministry or success. Finding our identity in these areas is circular and leads almost always back to insecurity—because what we have to offer or gain will never truly be enough. Jesus alone is enough and who we are in him is our security.