Navigating the Pressure of Church Leadership

Posted by Aaron Buer on September 29, 2022

As a leader, what has you anxious right now? Staff morale? Church attendance? Volunteer shortages? Giving? A sermon that is just not coming together?  

In my experience, it doesn’t matter how long you’ve been in leadership, there’s this constant battle with fear and anxiety. It’s just part of the pressure of leadership.

However, there’s a big difference between experiencing fear and anxiety and allowing these challenging emotions to dominate our lives and leadership. When we allow fear and anxiety to run rampant, that is when we become unhealthy and ineffective leaders.  

So, how do we navigate fear and anxiety in leadership?  

I’ve been studying Joshua 1 and thinking about how much pressure Joshua must have been feeling as he stepped into leadership of God’s people, at a critical moment, as they prepared to take possession of the Land of Promise. Let me paint the picture.  


High Expectations

Moses is gone. Just understand, Moses was a legend. The 10 plagues. The parting of the Red Sea. The 10 Commandments. Moses was the best leader Israel would ever have!  

“Since then, no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses…for no one has ever shown the mighty power or performed the awesome deeds that Moses did in the sigh of Israel.”

Deuteronomy 34:10-12

Hey Joshua, before we get started…you’ll never be Moses. No pressure bro.  

And about this Land of Promise, 40 years before, Israel had spied out the land. The official report from 10 out of 12 spies was not encouraging.    

“We can’t attack these people; they are stronger than we are.”

Numbers 13:31

Bottom line: Don’t try to conquer these people. It will be a disaster. They are bigger, stronger, more advanced and there are a lot more of them. No pressure Joshua.  

Oh, and about the people Joshua is trying to lead. They don’t exactly have a great track record of faithfulness and bravery. Again, 40 years before, when they were supposed to take possession of the land, they listened to the spy report and concluded, 

“We should choose a leader and go back to Egypt.” 

Numbers 14:4

Forget Moses. Let go back to slavery. No pressure Joshua. What could go wrong…besides everything?  

How in the world is Joshua supposed to handle all this pressure? And, how are we supposed to handle all the pressure on us? It’s not an easy season to lead a church!  


A Name Change 

There’s something that happens before Joshua is officially named as the successor to Moses that I think is incredibly important. It’s back during that scene when the spies return and give their report. There’s this little detail that I think is a game changer.  

Moses gave Hoshea son of Nun the name Joshua.

Numbers 13:16

Moses changed his name. This is significant because names communicate meaning in the Bible, especially the Old Testament. His name was Hoshea, which means “salvation” or “deliverance. Moses changed it to Joshua, which means “Yahweh saves.”  

It’s like Moses was saying, “Joshua, before you step into leadership of these people, understand, you aren’t the savior. You aren’t the deliverer. You aren’t the hero. God is.  

Who exactly is the pressure on in this situation? Not Joshua. The pressure is on God. God is the main character in the story here. It’s his land. His people. His promise.  

Also, names communicate identity in the Scriptures. Moses is teaching Joshua about his identity. Root your identity in God and you’ll be just fine. Attempt to make yourself the hero in the story and you will struggle.


A Weight to Carry 

I like to imagine the leadership responsibility that Joshua felt as an actual heavy weight he was carrying around. I imagine God taking that weight off Joshua’s shoulders and saying, “That’s not your weight to carry.”  

And that’s really the thing about leadership anxiety. It’s all about not carrying weight that’s not yours to carry. The question is this:  

Are you carrying weight that’s not yours to carry?  

The decision of a congregant to leave your church.

The choices of a staff member on social media.

The words of a board member.

The attendance in your youth ministry.  

Are you carrying weight that’s not yours to carry? You aren’t the savior. You aren’t the deliverer. You aren’t the hero in the story of your church. That job belongs to Jesus. Let him carry that weight.  

Wrap Up

My hope for you is that you would experience a lightness this week—a freedom, a lowering of your anxiety as you remember what is your weight to carry and what is His. 

Topics: Advice

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