Why young Christian leaders are already experiencing “dark nights of the soul”

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This post originally appeared on Chuck Lawless’ blog on Nov. 1. 

Some years ago, I wrote a post entitled, “Why Christian Leaders Struggle with ‘Dark Nights of the Soul’” that caught some steam. I’m afraid it spoke to many of us who’ve been in ministry for any length of time. These days, I’m beginning to hear from many young leaders who also deal with dark nights—sometimes very early in their ministries. Here’s my sense of why this is happening:

  • They sometimes enter ministry with fears already enveloping them. They know God has called them to this work, but they’ve seen enough heartache in the church that they’re worried about it. Their concerns often become self-fulfilling prophecies.
  • Some churches chew them up quickly. I’m always amazed by churches who take the life of a rookie minister under their wings and then treat him in rotten ways. Some congregations scar a minister for life.
  • At times, they make dumb leadership decisions that cost them much, and they come to grieve their choices. They discover their arrogance the hard way, and then they don’t know how to get off the mat again. They just beat themselves up for their youthfulness.
  • The stresses of ministry bring to light their own insecurities and struggles. What they’ve been able to hide to this point isn’t so easy to ignore under the strains of leading other people. Sometimes, in fact, those struggles first come to light in this role.
  • They often come from broken homes themselves. They’re trying to be godly leaders in their church and their home, but they’ve never seen godly leadership in the latter arena (or even in the former one in some cases). Thus, they usually fail over and over again.
  • No one has ever modeled for them consistent and deep spiritual disciplines. Consequently, they start ministry in their own ability. And they continue in it until conviction and despair eat at their soul.
  • They have few older men walking beside them – including other pastors. When they want help and guidance, they don’t know where to turn. Struggles continue. Defeat happens. They fight and lose alone. For that cause, older pastors, you and I will likely be accountable.

What other causes have you found?

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