National Association of Christian Ministers How to Series: Ministry #
By Michael Mooney, NACM Exec. Elder
How Ministers Can Manage their Emotions as Christian Leaders
“A fool expresses all his emotions, but a wise person controls them” (Pro 29:11 GW).
Emotions are one of the greatest forces in all the world. In response to them we choose spouses, friends and even make enemies. By them some cry tears of joy while others laugh with hatred in consideration of revenge. Emotions drive some to raise weapons at fellow humans, while emotions cause others to bandage the wounds of war torn refugees. Whether or not we are willing to accept their power in our lives, emotions are here to stay. They are a fundamental aspect of the human experience, and they will continue to shape human behavior.
While some would like to think that ministers are super humans, we are not exempt from these feelings either. We become angry about injustices; sorrowful for our sinful mistakes, and at times, we lack enthusiasm for ministering to others. Further, the enemy of our souls knows how to push our buttons and he plays dirty by using our families to do it. After all, even Jesus said that a prophet is not accepted in his own town (Luke 4:24).
Pastors who preach on Sunday mornings are very aware of how distracting their home lives become just before church. If ever there is a time to have an argument with our spouses, or find the need to discipline our children, it will be in the last few hours before we are scheduled to preach. Then, as predictable as the hands of a clock, we will hear a voice saying: “you call yourself a preacher?” “How could you possibly minister to others when you cannot minister to yourself?” By these questions of doubt, the enemy hopes to reduce our morale, weaken our confidence, and quench our fire.
Paul says that we must put away the emotions of anger, hatred, and hot tempers (Col 3:8). However, in so doing we should not make the mistake of pretending that our emotions are not real, nor should we think that anger is a sin. Paul differentiates between the two saying, “be angry without sinning. Don’t go to bed angry. Don’t give the devil any opportunity to work” (Eph 4:26-27 GW). Here we see permission to recognize our anger. But then we are instructed to deal with the emotion quickly, and without behaving in a way that hurts others.
How should we respond?
Throughout the life of Jesus’ ministry we see him expressing emotions. He even wept with the people over the death of Lazarus, knowing that in a few moments he would raise him from the dead. In Luke 4:16-20, Jesus says that his ministry is to repair the brokenhearted. And the author of Hebrews reminds us that Jesus “is able to sympathize with our weaknesses. He was tempted in every way that we are, but he didn’t sin.” (4:15 GW).
How to Manage Your Emotions in Ministry
First we should take a deep breath and recognize the way in which we are feeling. To pretend like we are not feeling only leads to temporary numbness and suppressed anger that will vent elsewhere when we least expect it.
As ministers, when we find ourselves in emotional overload, we must remember that the Lord is the first person with which we should speak about it. His can sympathize with our condition, and he desires to heal our brokenness.
Peter says that we are to “cast” our cares upon the Lord who cares for us (1 Peter 5:7). In other words, ministers should throw it all on Jesus –even if that means screaming at the sky during prayer.
After doing these things, it is time to put on a happy face in faith, and perform the work of the ministry. Sure we may feel disingenuous, but this is exactly what the enemy hops will distract us from service. Rather, we must hold onto the promise that God is faithful to complete the good work that He started in us through Christ Jesus (Php 1:6). No matter how we feel at that moment, “A fool expresses all his emotions, but a wise person controls them” (Pro 29:11 GW). This applies just as much from the podium as it does anywhere else in life. Frankly, I find it comforting.