Anxiety Can Kill Your Church

Church Planting / Featured / Leadership / March 25, 2013

Anxiety is a virus.

Indiscriminately, it can paralyze decision making, undermine confidence and annihilate joy in even the most capable of leaders. When left unchecked, anxiety will forge a dark apocalypse of the soul. For the church leader living out an anxious season, the tension is real and there’s no clear escape.

The bigger problem is that anxiety is viral and highly contagious.

Image a young child who gashes their knee in a parkour stunt gone wrong. In that bloody moment, the child becomes hypersensitive to his caretaker’s anxiety level. If mom shows up in a panic, her kid will undoubtedly be infected with dread. But if the caretaker tends to the wounds with confidence and poise, the child is likely to be immune to the tension of the moment and likely to be climbing trees in just a matter of moments.

A leader’s high anxiety infects the health of an organization’s emotional system in the same way.

No matter how much the leader attempts to conceal his inner anxiety, the organization will sense that something to off. (though, they will not be able to put a finger on what’s wrong) And like a dog that can sense fear, a church will feel the impact of a leader’s anxiety and emotionally shut down.

I believe that high anxiety is likely a major growth barrier in many churches and church plants. Therefore, a leader shouldn’t just seek to camouflage his anxiety, but should learn to manage the struggles that confront him in a grounded and non-anxious way.

What ways have you seen toxic anxiety impact church leadership?

For more on this topic, check out the book entitled Failure of Nerve by Edwin Friedman. And for a short book review, check out this post on Todd Hiestand’s Blog.

Dave Milam
Dave Milam is a pastor, communicator and the founder of One Life Church in Charlotte, North Carolina. As a a gifted communicator Dave's right brained style of delivery helps his listener connect and remember God's truth in a uniquely visual way. Connect with Dave on Google+

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on March 25, 2013

It is not just a growth barrier, it is a progress barrier on all levels. And while people cannot put their finger on it – which you said in your post, and rightly so – people sense it. And they are reluctant to engage and sell out to a mission that is motivated by anxiety.

This is one reason why it is important to note from James that perfect love casts out fear. How do we overcome anxiety? Love our people, love our God, love our mission more.

When we love progress, growth, expansion, influence, comfort, security more than we love God, people, or mission; we create a “toxic” level of anxiety. And people feel it. It is like a gross coating of stench that falls on the church and its people. And turn over creates anxiety because people don’t want to be a part of the stench. It becomes a self fulfilling prophecy so to speak.

This is perhaps one place I see toxic anxiety.

on March 27, 2013

[…] good white-board video summary of the book. So, since I suggested the book on my post entitled Anxiety Can Kill Your Church, I thought I would post that […]

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