The Antifragile Pastor

The Antifragile Pastor

What if hardships made you better? What if opposition and criticism energized you instead of drained you? Impossible? Think again.

The Teacup and the Skeleton

While engaged, my mom made me and my wife register for a set of china dishes… They’re the worst. You can’t put them in the dishwasher. You don’t use them very often. They break easily. They’re fragile. Fragile things break when stress comes. Rocks, on the other hand, are resilient. They don’t change much from stress. But author Nassim Taleb in his book Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder calls resilience “sissy resilience.”

Sounds harsh, right? But what if the opposite of fragile wasn’t resiliency but something else? What if something could be made better from stress?

Taleb labels things which gets better from stress as antifragile. For example, God made our bodies antifragile: your muscles and skeletal system need stress to grow and stay healthy.

An Antifragile Faith

Our faith actually gets better from stress too. Check out these verses:

“We rejoice in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance” (Romans 5:3)

“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance” (James 1:2)

“You have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:7).

Trials can make us better Christians. They can also make us better pastors.

Becoming an Antifragile Pastor

Taleb’s book unpacks the concept of antifragility in way more depth than a blog post can do justice too. For a great summary of Taleb’s work check out this article. While he often he speaks to the business world, his principles can apply to pastoral ministry.

Sermon Feedback

Antifragile things grow from some stress being injected into them. To become a better preacher have trusted friends give you (honest) sermon critique and feedback. It’s better to hear criticism from a good friend than to be savaged online. Plus, if you’re used to hearing feedback from those you trust, you will develop the ability to ignore the keyboard tough-guy who spouts his mouth off.

Plurality of Leaders

Taleb goes on to show that antifragile things have built-in redundancies. Think emergency winter supplies in your house.

Do you have redundancies in your ministries? If you were hit by a bus today, would your church survive? In other words: have you raised up leaders to replace you? Our job is to equip the flock, not do all the work ourselves. We must be raising up new leaders. Plurality is antifragile.

Risk is Right

Taleb unpacks something called the barbell strategy: “playing it safe in some areas…and taking a lot of small risks in others” (161). For the whole church, this could mean adding one new outreach initiative you’ve always wanted to add. By not adding a ton of ministries at once, you will better be able to handle the workload which comes with it. By not changing the core of what you do as a ministry, more of the congregation will find it easier to get on board with the new idea.

Rather than a complete overhaul of a ministry, think about what the easy wins are. What are small changes that could have a huge payoff? Make sure you stay strong in the foundation of what you are as a church while at the same time look for opportunities to stretch.

Share Your Thoughts

What are your stories of how trials have shaped you? What practices do you recommend for becoming antifragile? Join the conversation. You can do so on social media: Join our Facebook Group, tweet us, or post on our Facebook Page.

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Written by Chris Pascarella

I am a pastor at Lincroft Bible Church in Lincroft, NJ. I graduated from Southern Seminary with an M.Div in 2013. I like the New York Football Giants, coffee, and watching TV (don't judge me).