Are you overly concerned with the approval of men? Does your concern with the opinion of people override good decision-making?
Everyone regularly deals with the pressure of people’s expectations – real or perceived. And every leader faces more than his/her fair share of it. It’s especially difficult in pastoral roles.
Pastors and pastoral people are called to love people and nurture them. By nature we want to please them. But if you are not careful, your decision-making can become a very complicated rat’s nest of multiple opinions and expectations all vying for equal footing.
If your desire to be liked has an unhealthy influence on your decision-making, your leadership, ministry, or church could be in deep trouble. Jesus said, “I only do what I see my Father doing…” The apostle Paul said, “If I were still trying to please men I would not be a servant of Christ.” (Galatians 1:10b). Paul sometimes had to make decisions that he knew wouldn’t please some people. There’s always a price to be paid to lead. If you can’t pay the price, you’ll stop leading and instead be manipulated by your environment. Some people hated Paul, others actually hunted him like an animal. The consequences of our decisions are rarely so problematic! (Thank God!) But like Paul we need to come to terms with the priority of pleasing God first and foremost, even more than people.
It’s important to become deeply established in the great truths of the gospel if you are to win the battle against the “approval addiction”. The transformational truths of who you are “in Christ” and of God’s love and acceptance of you in Christ are so essential if you are to stand secure in the midst of the many winds of public opinion (and Christian opinion.)
Years ago I served under a very wise older pastor who shared the following precept with me. I thought it was powerful. I share it here from memory:
Thou art no better if thou art praised, nor the worse if thou art dispraised. For as thou art, thou art. And whatsoever may be said of thee, thou art no better than Almighty God, Who looketh upon the heart, will witness thee to be.” (Thomas a Kempis)
Are you an approval addict? Do you often find it hard to hear from God in the midst of all the competing voices? If so, I encourage you to intentionally do something about it.
- How frequently do you feel spiritually, mentally, or emotionally discouraged over the real or perceived opinions of others?
- How long has it been since you deeply felt the Father’s approval of you? Are you still trying to earn or win God’s approval? Does this square with the revelation of the Gospel?
- Take a few minutes and spontaneously write down ten things that you know to be true of you now that you are God’s child and have a new identity “in Christ”. (This is “setting your mind on the things above…”)
- How can you intentionally meditate on these kinds of truths during your normal work day? Write them on note cards and carry them with you to work? Spend your coffee break or lunch at the park in quiet meditation and prayer?