What is the Achilles Heel of your Pastoral Ministry?

There is a legend in Greek mythology that details the story of a baby on whom a young death was prophesied. This baby’s name was Achilles.

To thwart this prophecy, Achilles’ mother, Thetis, took him to the River Styx, a river that supposedly offered powers of invulnerability. Thetis placed her faith in this river’s fabled power, and commenced to dip her son’s body into it. Because Achilles was still a baby, however, Thetis had to hold on to him throughout the event, and, as she did, held him by his heel.

Therefore every part of Achilles’ body was made invulnerable by this magical water, minus his heel.

Achilles grew up to be a mighty warrior and survived many battles, but one day an arrow happened to puncture his vulnerable heel, killing him shorty thereafter. Today, in light of this story, we often use the adage, “His Achilles Heel,” to describe, in spite of all of his strength, a man’s greatest weakness, a weakness that could ultimately lead to his downfall.

When it comes to the ministry, many pastors have their own “Achilles Heel.” That is, in spite of all of our invulnerabilities, we have an even greater vulnerability. And this, like the original Achilles, can lead to a devastating conclusion.

Many pastors–and I include myself in this camp–have things in our lives that we savagely protect. And if anyone, including God, threatens these things, we lose all diplomacy. Like a loose thread on a garment, the ministry can pull the right string causing everything to unravel. Some of these things include our ambitions, our reputations, our possessions, our rights, and our alleged greatness.

We are okay until we don’t get that raise. We are okay until we don’t get that new church. We are okay until we don’t get that book deal. We are okay until we don’t get that convention position. We are okay until we don’t have a certain amount of people in morning worship. And we are okay until Pastor X gets an opportunity over us.

The result is that we spend our lives building up our own name, but limiting ourselves from being able to share God’s name.

Leonard Ravenhill, in his book Why Revival Tarries, describes how Paul lived his life as if he had been totally dipped into the River Styx. That is, as if he didn’t have an Achilles Heel. He writes,

He had no side issues, no books to sell. He had no ambitions–and so had nothing to be jealous about. He had no reputation–and so had nothing to fight about. He and no possessions–and therefore nothing to worry about. He had no ‘rights‘–so therefore he could not suffer wrong. He was already broken–so no one could break him. He was ‘dead‘–so none could kill him. He was less than the least–so who could humble him? He had suffered the loss of all things–so none could defraud him” (emphasis mine, pg. 164).

In light of this, I wonder, what is your “Achilles Heel”? In spite of all of your strengths, what is the one thing you savagely protect that can unravel your life faster than Tony Romo in the 4th quarter of a football game? Is it your reputation? Is it your personal ambitions? Is it your stuff?

Paul shows us that when we are at our weakest, God is at his strongest. He had nothing to lose, and so he gained everything, because he gained Christ.

But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ (Phil 3:7-8).

Comments

  1. Dave Miller says

    I guess it would have to be my good looks!

    Seriously, excellent article, Jared. Thought-provoking.

  2. says

    Romans 12:3 tells us we’re to think of ourselves with sober, or sound, judgment. I drill this at my class all the time … if they look at me and assess my abilities in certain areas, they should use the same discernment and sound judgment in thinking of themselves.

    There’s no room for pride, nor is there, for false modesty.

    I think it may be that pastors are reluctant to reveal, or even discern, their own inabilities, as the fear seems to be that the congregation thinks pastors are without flaws or weaknesses. I know the pastors in my life, that I’d march with against the devil with just a water pistol, are the guys who were most open about their own shortcomings. Sadly, they’ve been in the minority (not that I’ve had THAT many pastors…..).

    • Dave Miller says

      I would guess that most of us, in our honest moments, would say that our Achilles heel is, as you suggested, pride, self-centeredness – a tendency to take the glory that belongs to God to ourselves.

      I know that is a constant struggle for me.

    • Christiane says

      “22 To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some.”

      (1 Cor 9:22)

    • Tarheel says

      A little off topic here….

      Bob,

      “I know the pastors in my life, that I’d march with against the devil with just a water pistol, are the guys who were most open about their own shortcomings. Sadly, they’ve been in the minority.”

      I feel confident in saying… Pastors open up to you because, based on what ive seen from you in our limited Internet interactions, you don’t seem to be one that’s looking for a soft spot in your pastors’ back to knife him.

      Sadly there are those who have and are looking to do just that….that’s why many pastors don’t open up. Sadly, we must find appropriate balance between appropiate transparency and giving people too much ammunition, so too speak.

      I so grateful I have a few guys I can and do open up to (both inside and outside my church), they know me, love me and have taken opportunity to “withstand me to my face” …many pastors don’t have that.

      Thanks for being one of those reliable, trustworthy confidants. :-)

      ————-

      Now back to your regularly scheduled, awesomely written, and convictingly helpful OP. Thanks, Jared!

  3. Jess says

    I think I have several Achilles heels, and they trouble me to no end.

    1. I cannot stand for a man to wear a hat during the worship service. I have to take a calm down pill, because I get so upset.

    2. I can’t stand for singing groups to talk too much. We didn’t have them to come to our church to talk, we want them to sing. It really makes my blood pressure rise.

    3. I can’t stand for someone not keep their appointments because their dog acted sick.

    4. I cannot stand to misspeak a single word. I mark it down to apologize for misspeaking something the following church service. I hate to apologize.

    This is no doubt weaknesses that I possess, but these are some of my Achilles heels.

      • Dave Miller says

        One time, a few years ago, we posted a “top ten” list or something like that, but it was solely based on number of hits or numbers of comments – can’t remember which.

  4. volfan007 says

    Jared,

    Very good insights. When you said, “Some of these things include our ambitions, our reputations, our possessions, our rights, and our alleged greatness,” you said a mouthful. I really believe that these things are what MOST Pastors deal with and struggle with…..of course, there’s other things that some Pastors struggle with….but, I would say that these things are some of the biggest.

    David