After the upheavals, uncertainty and suffering faced by many in the past year due to the pandemic, fires, droughts and floods, it’s not surprising that mental health has become a hot topic. For community leaders, the danger of burnout may be great as they try to serve others in difficult and trying circumstances. That’s why LCANZ Pastor Adrian Kitson says it’s important for pastors and other church leaders to reflect on their mental health and watch out for …

Five signs your character is slowly imploding

Sound a bit dramatic? It’s not. I reflect on my journey as a pastor and leader and hear this as God’s gentle leading for the impossible never-ending task of serving God’s people. I share it to bless the many pastors and ministry leaders whom Jesus loves in our dear LCANZ.

This is all about self-awareness. There are few better friends for a leader than self-awareness. I suspect you have seen leaders who think they’re doing well, when in fact, everyone around them knows they are not.

How do you not become that leader? Here are five signs I’ve watched in my own life and seen in the lives of others that help me determine whether my character is in check or slowly imploding. They are a reflection on a podcast by Carey Nieuwhof, a Canadian pastor and leadership mentor (


Character rarely implodes suddenly. Instead, there’s almost always a slow erosion until eventually, it happens. Consequently, wise leaders keep an eye on gaps between what they say publicly and how they live privately.

When you preach grace but snap at your partner, kids, church members or staff, that’s a problem. When you say you care about people but don’t make time for anyone in need in your personal life, that’s an issue.

What’s the solution? If your partner, kids or close associates see a growing gap between what you say and what you do, and tell you, listen up! They will help you never say publicly what you’re unwilling to live privately.

Be honest about any flaws you have and speak from your weakness as much as your strength. And if you have a growing gap that needs to be addressed, address it. Get help. Tell a friend. See a counsellor. Get on your knees.

And in leadership, try to ensure what you say publicly is how you live privately.


A sure sign something is wrong with your character are emotional responses that are disproportionate to a given situation.

  • You fly off the handle over small things.
  • You feel nothing when people tell you something upsetting.
  • You can’t celebrate someone else’s success.

Those could be signs of burnout or could flag something deeper – a character issue. These are signs of danger ahead.

Your character is at its best when Christ, by the Spirit and his word, take over the deepest parts of who you are – your heart, mind and soul. And when he is at the centre of you, your reactions become much healthier.

The only way my character stays at this level is if I submit my heart and life to Jesus’ word daily. We call it repentance and forgiveness – and forgiveness is available!


When my character has been at its weakest, grace is in short supply.

There’s nothing wrong with having high standards as a leader. There’s a tremendous amount wrong when those high standards cause you to treat people like dirt.

Grace runs out in your life when God runs out in your life. If you need more grace, you need more God.


Leaders serve people. They don’t believe people exist to serve them. When your character begins to implode, you forget that.

Usually at the heart of a character implosion is unresolved pain. And pain, by its nature, is selfish. When you are hurting, you completely forget about anything else.

So, if you’re a selfish leader, get on your knees, see a counsellor, get help. When that pain is resolved in some helpful way, you’ll quickly return to leading well again.


There’s a certain point in the journey where you realise there’s a problem but refuse to deal with it.

How do you know you’ve hit that point? When you start justifying bad behaviour and decisions. You may start saying things like: ‘If you had this much pressure in your life, you’d do it too’, and ‘Nobody understands’.

Well, believe that if you want to, but also believe that your complete implosion and erosion of trust with those around you is closer than you think. Leaders who justify their bad behaviour lose their authority to lead. Conversely, leaders who recognise it and seek help almost always get better.

Hope is in seeking good conversation with trusted people – professionals, family members, friends and local colleagues.

Habits that stay close to God’s word are healing habits. They keep you serving with grace in the freedom that is yours in Jesus.

Listening to those who know and love you the most is very wise. Listening to people in your community who notice things and have a quiet humility with a challenging word are often the Lord’s instruments of gentle (or not so gentle) warning and prodding.

Ask people you trust to monitor your public words and give them permission to share their sense of you in that public space.

Set yourself boundaries in all aspects of daily life – how it begins, where you go and who you hang out with.

The best news is that Jesus hangs out with us, no matter the stage of our character. That is what I see in the gospels in the likes of Zacchaeus, Matthew, Peter, the Gerasene guy, the woman caught in the act and the men accusing her.

Jesus is our source of best character and faithful serving in his mission.

Adrian Kitson is Senior Pastor at St Petri Lutheran Church Nuriootpa, in South Australia and is the chairperson of the LCANZ’s Commission on Worship.

Already a subscriber? Click here to login and read this article.
Not a subscriber? Click here to receive stories & upcoming issues in full