Inadequacy, Fear, and Calling
God is more than enough to conquer my shortcomings—and my insecurity
Inadequacy. It’s a fear that paralyzes many women. As women leaders and ministers, we are not exempt, this 20something included. While vocationally we may be successfully directing teams, managing volunteer committees, and running effective programs, all too often we fall prey to the “imposter syndrome.” We honestly think, “I’m not qualified to be here. I may appear to be a great leader, but if they knew the real me…”
If there were an anonymous group for helping women ministry leaders overcome feelings of inadequacy, I imagine the first meeting would go something like this:
Introduction: “Hi. My name is Tiffany.” Whew. Got that part over.
Statement of Need: “Despite a seminary education, an undergraduate degree in Biblical Studies, and having led numerous small groups, I still feel inadequate in one aspect of my calling: my ability to share the gospel.” Wait. I just used three qualifying statements to explain my need. I can’t even express my inadequacy simply. No, instead I have to highlight to you the incongruence of it all. Can I sit down now? This is embarrassing.
Background and Objective: “I serve on the leadership team for a ministry dedicated to helping young professional women connect their faith with their career. One of my responsibilities as a leadership team member is to develop meaningful relationships with young professionals and to help connect them with a local church community. I would thus love to overcome my fear, and share the gospel with confidence.” There. It’s all out in the open. For better or worse, this is the real me.
I think such an experience would actually bring a lot of freedom and health to our lives as ministry leaders, both professionally and spiritually. Because somewhere along the ministry-as-vocation track, we’ve gotten derailed by the illusion that we are supposed to have it all together to shepherd and lead others. That the call to full-time ministry is a call to perfection. And that God’s work is accomplished in my own strength, excuse me, in my zeal to serve him.
But thankfully, our Lord is gracious. In his kindness, he gives us what we do not deserve. He uses whom he will for his good purposes. He equips those whom he has called. And he does it all regardless of our perceived inadequacies. And so despite my fear of sharing the gospel, in the past two years God has granted me the privilege of forming friendships with three women who each want to know more about God.
The first woman actually asked me to meet with her weekly to walk through the basic tenets of the Christian faith. My response? “Thanks, God. I guess this is your way of forcing me to overcome my fear. I am terrified of doing this, and so please show up.” One year later, I witnessed her prayer to accept Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior. She wept with the tears of one who had been set free. I cried as I remembered an insecure eighth-grader writing on her bucket list, “Be part of someone coming to Christ.” Yes, our Lord is gracious.
Several months later I found myself having lunch with a recent acquaintance who was grieving the loss of her mother and questioning the goodness of God. Somewhat more confident in the faithfulness of God, yet still sick to my stomach at the thought of misleading her, I simply prayed, “Lord, reveal your goodness and love to her.” She and I discussed the nature of sin, the hope that is in Christ, and the unfailing love of the Father. And while she didn’t make a profession of faith, we both left with full stomachs and the encouraging reminder that the Lord sees and hears us. My fear was loosening. Yes, our Lord uses whom he will for his good purposes.
Then five months ago I met with an intelligent and committed skeptic. She had initiated the meeting but made clear that she was only asking questions. “I’m not here to be converted.” The old fear crept back up and whispered with fierceness, “You’re wasting your time. You can never convince her. You’re not even proficient at sharing the gospel with seekers, much less skeptics.”
I took a long sip of iced tea and reflected on what the Lord had taught me. She was right. I wasn’t there to convert her. I was just the messenger. My role was to be present and to respond to the guiding of the Holy Spirit.
I cleared my throat and simply said, “You’re right. I’m not here to convert you. I just want to have an open and honest dialogue about any questions you may have regarding God.” And then I smiled with the knowledge that her salvation was not dependent upon how effectively I shared the gospel. Her salvation is the work of the Holy Spirit.
After reflecting on these three lunches, I realized that my fear wasn’t so much the fear of sharing the gospel, but the fear of being exposed as a less-than-perfect and inadequate leader. And you know what? My fear was correct. I am less than perfect. We all are.
The beautiful truth is that God is enough. He uses my less-than-perfect talents and my inadequate abilities to advance his kingdom work. So as my calendar fills with lunch appointments, I go into each lunch less fearful and more prayerful. I’m growing in confidence as a ministry leader, knowing that the Lord is with me and working through me.
So when you feel that old fear of inadequacy creeping up, take a moment to pray and ask God to show himself to be enough in your situation. After all, God equips those whom he has called. And he does it all regardless of our perceived inadequacies.
Tiffany Stein is the women’s ministry coordinator at Irving Bible Church in Irving, Texas. She also serves as vice president for the Association for Women in Ministry Professionals and has served on the leadership team for Polish Ministries for the past three years.