It has been said that the number one fear among people is the fear of speaking in public. This fear is even greater than the fear of death. It has been quipped by many a comics that we may be more comfortable in the casket than giving the eulogy.
But pastors get in front of people time and time again and, frankly, public speaking is just not that big of a fear for clergy. So what is the most terrifying thing for clergy? Perhaps we can look at church communities as a whole and see the fear of the minister manifested.
Most of the churches that I encounter, including the church I co-serve, are places that lack specific direction. That is churches do a number of good things, but few churches are organized in such a way that channels all the resources and energies of the community into one or two clear and specific areas of ministry. This is not necessarily a bad thing because the "Church" is people and people are different. With every person in the Church comes another set of values and views on what ministries are most important. So church service to the world looks like having lots of little teams (ranging from 3-12 people) all doing their thing at a certain time of the year and all advocating for their ministry project.
Not a bad thing at all. But this model is one that has a small impact in a small area and the problems being addressed are never solved just ministered to.
This is where the pastor's number one fear can be hidden.
You see, the greatest fear of the senior pastor is stating with clarity and boldness that the church community will be addressing a specif course of ministry. To say, all these resources, all these people all these energies in the church are going to be channeled into "these" or "this" thing.
When your number one fear is public speaking you find ways to avoid doing it. And when your number one fear is casting a vision for a group of people in such a way that may result in some people's good ministry is laid down, you find ways to avoid doing that as well.
This, in part, is why many churches do not have a clear understanding of what it is the church does. Ask senior pastors what it is the church they lead does, and you will hear pastors talk about numerous little projects that happen throughout the year. Few pastors can "tweet out" what it is their church does, because the ministry it too broad and multi-faceted. Pastors are trained to say yes to all sorts of ministry and never to turn down a volunteer or money. All this accepting and embracing is good, but creating a place where saying yes to everything makes it very hard to say no to anything.
But just as their are people who do not fear public speaking, so too there are pastors who do not fear expressing a clear and bold vision to the church.
Seminaries teach preaching. Toastmasters teaches public speaking. If you fear public speaking there are ways to help you overcome your fear.
Now, if there were only a Toastmasters variation to help clergy overcome the fear of saying no to somethings in order to say yes to others.
Sign me up.