When a Leader Has Doubts

When a Leader has Doubts

All leaders have doubts.

As Christian leaders, we want to have faith to move mountains, but sometimes our faith is too small. What makes that happen? Why can’t we believe big all the time?

Among the common reasons for doubt are things like:

  • You’ve prayed and didn’t get the answer you hoped for.
  • You worked hard, but the idea or program didn’t work.
  • People have let you down or hurt you.
  • A staff member turned on you.
  • You’ve never done a certain thing before.
  • You are trying to do too much alone.

Most of the time, however, doubt resides within a leader, not outside or connected to circumstances.

Doubts come in three primary categories:

(Isolating the category helps you conquer the specific doubt.)

1) Personal Doubts

You might question yourself. Perhaps you are unsure of yourself. You may tend to overthink some things, which burns even more energy. This can lead to wondering or even worrying about what people think of you as a person. Whether this begins or ends with insecurities, the result is the same.

Short term or occasional personal doubt is normal, but can’t be allowed to take root. Long-term personal doubt is unhealthy, and I strongly encourage you to talk about it with a trusted mentor or counselor.

2) Leadership Doubts

In short, you’re not sure what to do, so you second guess your leadership. All leaders experience this at times. For example, it might be that you are not entirely confident about a staff or financial decision you need to make, and the deadline is coming soon. This is a common experience.

When you experience this, you may wonder if you have the right stuff to pull it off. You do. The key here is to not keep it all inside yourself. Don’t try to do it all alone. Pride can take you out!

Take time to get wise counsel. That will help immensely. Then compare the thoughts of your counsel to your thoughts. You will either receive a confirmation which will boost your confidence, or you will learn. Either way, your experience is deepened, and you are a better leader.

3) Faith Doubts

I’ve never met a leader that didn’t wonder “Where is God in all this?” The doubt I’m referring to here is not about your salvation or God’s existence. It’s more about an occasional doubt of God’s immediate presence or trying to understand His will in a matter. This can leave you uncertain about your faith as a leader.

Let me share one of my favorite Spurgeon quotes that helps me when I experience a faith doubt.

“God is too good to be unkind. He is too wise to be confused. If I cannot trace His hand, I can always trust His heart.” –C.H. Spurgeon

I may not always know or understand God’s plan, but I trust his heart—I trust his love for the church and me completely. I can rest in that truth, and trust Him until I gain clarity.

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Dan Reiland
Dr. Dan Reiland serves as Executive Pastor at 12Stone Church in Lawrenceville, Georgia. He previously partnered with John Maxwell for 20 years, first as Executive Pastor at Skyline Wesleyan Church in San Diego, then as Vice President of Leadership and Church Development at INJOY. He and Dr. Maxwell still enjoy partnering on a number of church related projects together.

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