Spiritual Leaders: Are you a Lion a Lamb or Both


I love Henry Nouwen. When you read his books you realize this man walked with God and oozed wisdom. I ran across this quote that caused me to think about my leadership.

“There is within you a lamb and a lion. Spiritual maturity is the ability to let lamb and lion lie down together. Your lion is your adult, aggressive self. It is your initiative-taking and decision-making self. But there is also your fearful, vulnerable lamb, the part of you that needs affection, support, affirmation, and nurturing. When you heed only your lion, you will find yourself overextended and exhausted. When you take notice of only your lamb, you will easily become a victim of your need for other people’s attention.

The art of spiritual living is to fully claim both your lion and your lamb. Then you can act assertively without desiring your own needs. And you can ask for affection and care without betraying your talent to offer leadership. Developing your identity as a child of God in no way means giving up your responsibilities. Likewise, claiming your adult self in no way means that you cannot become increasingly a child of God. In fact, the opposite is true. The more you can feel safe as a child of God, the freer you will be to claim your mission in the world as a responsible human being. And the more you claim you have a unique task to fulfill for God, the more open you will be to letting your deepest need be met.

The Kingdom of peace that Jesus came to establish begins when your lion and your lamb can freely and fearlessly lie down together.”

Henri J. M. Nouwen, The Dance of Life: Weaving Sorrows and Blessing into One Joyful Step, ed. Michael Ford (Notre Dame, IN: Ava Maria press, 2005), 156.

When I read this quote, I asked myself which do I neglect, the lion or the lamb. How about you?

Related post: What Pastors should look for in Safe People

When Pastors get Pigeonholed

Pastors face a common vocational hazard, getting pigeonholed. Labeling is another term to describe this ministry hazard.


It goes something like this. You make a statement in conversation with somebody or in a sermon, you do something as a leader, or you communicate your intentions about an issue. Or you intentionally or unintentionally make known your unique ministry rhythms or daily routine (ie, study in the morning rather than take counseling appointments or take off Mondays and turn off your cell phone so you can take a break from ministry demands).

5 Really Bad Ways Pastors React when People Compare Them to more Successful Churches

This week I’m posting a series of blogs about how pastors respond when people in their church compare their leadership and preaching to others or when they brag about another church by insinuating that we don’t measure upreact, reactions, emotionality

Yesterday I posted 5 ways we should respond when we feel compared to others more ‘successful’ than us.

Today, we’re looking at really bad ways to react when someone in your church compares you to others. I’ve listed five unhealthy reactions here.

  1. Find something about the other ‘guy’ to criticize, like, “We’ll, I’ve heard he’s a real jerk when he’s one-on-one with other people.”
  2. Tell the other person that maybe they need to start attending that church.
  3. With a sarcastic tone tell that person, “Thanks, I really needed that!”
  4. In your mind, beat yourself up about what a failure you are.
  5. Go home and overeat, take your anger out on your spouse and kids, or look at pornography.

How have you or your friends reacted when felt compared to those in ministry more ‘successful?’

When Pastors don’t Measure Up to Others’ Expectations

meeting pastoral leadership expectationsYesterday I began a series of blogs to unpack this issue: what should pastors do when people in our churches compare us to other more “successful” pastors.

In that blog, I shared an email a pastor received from someone in his church who boasted about another super-successful pastor and his church. He was tempted to respond with sarcasm.

I don’t recommend sarcasm.

So, how should we respond when we feel compared to others?

Here are my thoughts.

  1. Recognize that comparison comes with the territory. As the old adage goes, “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.”
  2. Ask yourself when you feel compared, “Is God trying to teach me something?”…about my confidence in where God has me…about what I can learn from this other pastors…about how I receive unpleasant messages.
  3. Respond with a gracious spirit to the person who compares.
  4. Don’t read in ill motives. Perhaps someone in your church simply wanted to share how God used another spiritual leader in his or her life.
  5. Thank God for blessing the other pastor.

How have you responded when someone compared you to another?

When Church People Compare their Pastors to Mega-successful Pastors

comparing your pastor to mega-church pastorsMany pastors secretly struggle with measuring up to the very successful. One pastor I know who has grappled with comparison received this e-mail from someone in his church. The names are changed to protect the innocent :)

Hi Pastor Jim:

Sharon S. here. How are you? I have been meaning to send you a note for quite some time and tell you about a pastor in California that I thought you might be interested in. Yeah, I know. If I were you I’d be rolling my eyes about now. But I must say, this guy is awesome and has challenged me personally in my life over the last year.

He has pastored [God’s Favorite] Church just outside [Utopia] for about three years and has grown it from 150 people to over 3,500. I have never seen a young guy with such a passion and a heart for God, willing to go against the “appropriate” evangelical grain and just teach the scriptures.

He just started a new series a week and a half ago. I am going to attach the first message because I would love for you to listen to him.  I can’t tell you how many people I know listen now. His name is [Gabriel, the archangel]. He has some of the best teaching I have ever heard on leadership in the church, justification, and some other tough subjects. He is a lot like [another famous pastor], who is his friend and a “fan” of his. Anyway, I have felt led to connect you with [Gabriel] for a long time. I’m not really sure why. Take it for whatever it is worth. 


“Jim” emailed this response back.

Dear Sharon,

Thanks for reminding me that my preaching stinks. It’s great to know that people in my church are making sure they get podcasts from somebody who will never know their name or answer their encouraging emails.

You’ve really made my day. I was studying for this week’s message when I got your note (I’ve already spent twenty hours on my sermon). I immediately stopped to download his magnificent sermon. It’s also wonderful to know that his church has exploded in growth; as you know, our attendance declined by 3% last year because people like you stayed home to watch guys like him on TV!

Gotta go finish my shallow sermon.

God’s blessings on you,

Pastor Jim

“Jim” didn’t really send this e-mail—he only wished he had. Have you ever felt that way when someone compared you to another?

Although we pastors often struggle when we compare ourselves to others, it really stings when those in our church compare us to others more ‘successful.’

This week I’m beginning a blog series on this issue, when church people compare their pastors to mega-successful pastors.

I hope you will join the conversation.

What’s your story? Have people in your church ever compared you to others?

Related post: The Curse of Comparison