Turnaround pastors are confident in their identity in Christ

Turnaround pastors give unique answers to two important questions, answers very different than those given by their ministry colleagues.

  1. What is true about me because I’m made in God’s image?
  2. What is true of me because I am in Christ?

Although I don’t have definitive proof – yet – I suspect that turnaround pastors are uniquely self-aware[1] , which motivates them to seek affirmation, love and security in Christ. A previous article suggested steps to identify the tendency to seek satisfaction in all the wrong places.

If your pastoral leadership doesn’t produce hope and new life in the churches you serve, you’re not a turnaround pastor. You don’t exhibit the behaviors that bring fresh hope and new growth to the churches you serve. It’s likely that you engage in behaviors that covertly, perhaps unwittingly attempt to satisfy the needs for love, affirmation and security by your own efforts.

Once you’ve gone through the exercises I suggested in the previous article, it’s time to create the mindset that seeks affirmation, love and security from God himself rather than from your church.

Here’s what worked for me

I had to work through the problems that inevitably result from measuring myself by my performance, or from comparing my performance against that of others. I had to come to grips with the fact that I was trying to satisfy my need for affirmation, love and security by trying to make people like me, respect me or fear me.

Turnaround pastors lean on their value as image bearers

Not a healthy place for a minister of the gospel and a pastor of God’s people to live. Thankfully, and only by his grace, the Lord led me out of this cul-de-sac and set me on a path toward confidence in my identity in Christ. It began when he led me once again to Genesis 1:26-28. Rather than studying to prepare a sermon or teach a lesson, I was looking for myself in the Word of God.

26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

I pondered several questions.

If  you’re a depressed pastor who’s stuck on the performance treadmill, think on the following questions. Let them filter down into your soul and your self-image.

  1. What value or worth is inherent in being human simply because we were created by God’s hand?
  2. What additional worth or value flows from the fact that we are image bearers?
  3. How is God’s evaluation of his work upon completion of human creation different than his evaluation of all the rest of his work? (compare Genesis 1:31 with 10, 12, 18, 21). What does this imply about the special dignity, value or meaning of human life?
  4. In what ways have I tried to create my own dignity and value rather than finding satisfaction in the dignity and value I already have as an image bearer?
  5. Another way of asking this is, “Why is being an image bearer not sufficient for me?”

I let these questions percolate through my thinking. I reflected on them over a period of weeks and months. I began to appreciate the fact that my worth as a human being isn’t ultimately grounded in what I can do, it is grounded in who I am – one who bears the image of God.

Let that soak for a while. Lean into it by letting go of the notion that your value is gauged by how many attend your church on Sunday, how many conversions (or baptisms) you record every year. Your ministry success – or lack thereof – has no bearing on your value.

Turnaround pastors feel the price paid for their redemption

You are of infinite value simply because you bear the image. That point is driven home in Genesis 9.

5 And for your lifeblood I will require a reckoning: from every beast I will require it and from man. From his fellow man I will require a reckoning for the life of man.

6 “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.

7 And you, be fruitful and multiply, increase greatly on the earth and multiply in it.”

This passage seems to lend further insight into the nature and dignity of an image bearer. Let your mind wander over these questions.

  1. Why must human life be protected?
  2. Is an attack on the life of an image bearer an attack on the Creator?
  3. Are there other ways of attacking or devaluing human life – apart from killing – that are an attack on God?
  4. (This is a bit of an anachronism, but I think it true illustrates the point) What becomes of those who deface the image of a dictator in a totalitarian state today?

Finally, my mind turns to a passage in Peter’s first epistle.

18 knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.

In the marketplace an item is worth what someone is willing to pay for it. If you tried to sell a house during the last market downturn you know what I’m talking about! Contemplate that fact while you consider the following questions

  1. How would you measure the value of the blood of Christ against perishables like gold or silver?
  2. Who is best qualified to assess what you’re worth – the Creator, a classmate, a colleague, or even yourself?
  3. Did God pay too much for you, to redeem you and restore you to his family and fellowship?

Conclusion

This was not an easy process for me. I’d been well schooled in the world’s merit system. I was a fierce competitor. But God graciously applied his Word to my life. As promised, it pierced through self-deception, misguided self-talk and revealed my brokenness to me. I discovered that I was serving my needs for affirmation, love and security by offering the fruits of my own labor to myself.

I was an idolator. I was the idol.

It finally dawned on me. “If God says that I’m of infinite value simply because he made me and redeemed me with the blood of Christ, then who am I to disagree with him? And what business do I have listening to messages from the world, from colleagues or even my own family members who say that I’m not?”

I hope you find yourself in Christ. I pray you come to the place off unshakable confidence in your worth. May the love, affirmation and security that God extends be sufficient for all your needs.

Cling to these three statements and you’ll find yourself being slowly released from the deadly trap of trying to find love, affirmation and security in anyone other than God himself.

  1. You are of infinite value because you are an image bearer
  2. Any attack on your life or any words that devalue you as a person are an attack on your Creator
  3. God says that you are worth the most precious commodity, something of infinite value. Who are you or anyone else to say it isn’t so?

Notes

  1. We know that self-awareness is a hallmark distinction of turnaround pastors. See Jared Roth. “The Relationship Between Emotional Intelligence and Pastor Leadership in Turnaround Churches.” Ed. D. Diss., Pepperdine University, 2011, 46-47. What remains to be demonstrated is whether turnaround pastors are also distinguished by the degree of confidence in their identity in Christ  â†©