The pastor will face many difficult, daunting, demanding, and, sometimes, dangerous situations – both outside the church and inside the church. That’s why the military model of leadership is used so commonly in Scripture. It also addresses the perennial issue of cowardice in the ministry.

But it’s not just a ministry problem. Apart from some notable exceptions – mainly in the military and the emergency services – most people are cowards. We avoid danger. We walk away from conflict. We prefer comfort and ease to sacrifice and pain. 

And Christians especially may have a tendency towards timidity rather than bravery. Fear comes more naturally than faith.  Why is this? Let me suggest seven reasons: 

1. The Holy Spirit has wrought a new tenderness and sensitivity in the Christian’s heart. The sanctified Christian feels things more deeply than he used to. He used to watch war films with cold and steely hardness. Now the loss of precious life pains him to the core of his being and moves him to tears. Suffering and death impact him much more than before. He is much more sensitive to the impact of his words and actions on others. And others’ words and actions also affect him much more now.

2. An unbalanced teaching emphasis on Christian humility, patience, love, and peacemaking. This imbalance in many churches, tends to produce weak and timid Christian leaders that are characterized by retreat, hesitancy, and indecision.

3. Pastors are dependent on the voluntary givings of their congregations. Unlike CEO’s or civil leaders, they have no financial or judicial levers of power to pull. They cannot sack or jail disobedient or problematic members! They have probably tried to address problems before, and the person or family (and their money) have just moved to the church next door.

4. When a pastor takes a public stand, it usually results in media misrepresentation and a backlash of opposition on the local or even national level. This embarrasses the more nominal members of his church, while others hint that his hard-line views are hindering evangelism and outreach.

5. A pastor often has to take decisions alone. Even when there is a plurality of elders, the buck often stops at the pastor. It is much harder to be brave alone! Even with a plurality of elders, it is usually down to the teaching elder to initiate programs, begin reformation, and execute the elders’ decisions. 

6. The risk of persecution. In some contexts, there is a very real possibility of persecution, of suffering loss if we are faithful to the cross of Christ. Sometimes a pastor may be willing to face this, but his wife isn’t.

7. The old sinful nature. The Christian pastor still has the remnants (and sometimes much more than a remnant) of a sinful nature that usually prefers easy compromize rather than courageous confrontation.

These tendencies explain why we need the more aggressive and offensive (as in going on the offensive) model of the courageous captain, and why the military metaphor is so common in Scripture. It is used in the Old Testament (Josh. 1:6,9,18) and in the New Testament (1 Cor. 9:26; 1 Tim. 6:12; 2 Tim. 1:7; 2:3-4). And, of course Christ Himself is called the Captain of our salvation (Heb. 2:10).

Captain implies authority, bravery, and a proven track record. In pastoral ministry, these take a while to develop. The office or role does not bestow it on a man automatically. He has to earn his stars. And he does so not by keeping his powder dry for major battles of his choosing, but by courageously marching into the small battles that God decides to send his way in the early days of his ministry. As these battles are faced and won, the pastor will grow in stature and gain the respect of the congregation. His authority will also grow as they see him more and more like Christ in character, word and action.

Tomorrow we will look at some examples of courageous leadership.