I sat in the large auditorium of a megachurch on the West Coast. It was Monday morning, I was bleary-eyed and my coffee had jolted me just enough to make me alert. The ugly truth was that my alertness was rendered ugly and painful by a harsh reality the night before: we were a relatively small church at this conference and we had accidentally wandered into the land of the giants. I knew that the host church was doing some cutting edge ministry to reach the next generation that was just entering adulthood. What I didn’t know was that most of the churches who were exploring how to do what the host church was doing were large enough to pump a lot of resources into their efforts.
And then there was us. “Us” was Tom, our worship pastor, and me. Tom was very excited about all the possibility this conference held. He was excited about the conference format, which was largely in discussion groups, rather than lectures delivered by some “expert.” Tom was exited about the possibility of “doing church” a different way, thus reaching people whose language most churches didn’t speak. He was excited about the interaction with people we were meeting. Tom was effusive!
Not me; I was insecure.
My insecurity cranked into gear as I started realizing the big-name pastors and big-name churches in attendance. I could imagine them, having preached to thousands the weekend before. They brought large retinues of staff to help them dissect the issues on the docket and figure out what their churches would do. In the meantime, I could almost imagine the “get acquainted” conversations:
“Hi, I’m Joe Jones from XYZ, the church where everyone in the universe has traveled to find out how to be a church. Have you read my latest book? What did you say your name was? I think I may have heard about your church. What was it, Rock-something, right? And it’s in Yuma? Where’s that? O, yeah, I think I drove past it on the freeway one time.”
I wanted to crawl under something. I wanted to go home.
But I had to stay. It cost too much to make the trip. Besides, Tom was in a dream world of coffee and conversation.
It came time to sit down for a plenary session, which included a devotional led by the host pastor. He stood up, bright smile and air of confidence in his voice. I expected the usual, “We’re so glad you are here,” said with a humble lilt, but laced with a “Did you notice the amazing job we’re doing?” undertone. Even more, I wanted to escape as I awaited the expected authoritative exposition of Scriptures. But that’s not what he did.
“Let’s get this out in the open,” he said, “before we even begin our two days together: WE’RE ALL INSECURE!” I took my eyes from the table that was a potential hiding place and looked up. The host mega-church pastor looked out at all the rest of us and said, “I felt so intimidated when I found out who would be here. I started thinking about whose churches were bigger than mine; who was more successful. And then it hit me; you all feel the same way!” It was like a collective sigh all around the room. Then he read a Scripture about God’s great love for us, followed by, “We all need each other. We need to hear each other and to learn from each other. Otherwise, we will find ourselves woefully unable to discover what God wants to teach us about reaching the new generation.”
Everywhere I turn lately, I have opened my eyes to see how insecure we all are. We put on a good front, acting out confidence we don’t feel. Some people try to cover their insecurity by doing extreme things that provide a facade of courage. Others find a way to hide. I read a book not long ago that identified inferiority and insecurity as the two major roots from which all sin flourishes. I’m inclined to agree. The good news is that God designed us to uproot those weeds!
We continue our “Shattered” series this weekend at Stone Ridge Church with “Shattered by Insecurity.” The topic is one of the most painful and the most relevant we will cover as we lead up to Easter, so I hope you can join us. Can’t make it? Catch the podcast! And no hiding under tables!