We all have our fears of one kind or another. Some are well-known, while others are locked away in personal vaults. Some are irrational. Phobias, they’re called, a kind of anxiety disorder—the most common mental disorder in America.
Phobias can range from the sublime to the ridiculous, such as a coulrophobia (the fear of clowns) to simantrophobia (the fear of church bells). I’ll leave it to you to decide which of those is sublime and which is ridiculous.
Most phobias have strange sounding names, a compilation of detailed root words or syllables to identify the dreaded curse specifically. Acrophobia is a well-known example. Acro means "height," thus acrophobia is the fear of high places.
Few people know about the dreaded religious cousin of acrophobia: acropiousphobia, the fear of tall pulpits.
Everyone has heard of agoraphobia—agora meaning "a crowded assembly"—thus, the fear of crowds. Only a few of us know anti-amen-agora-phobia, the fear that no one will show up at prayer meeting.
These are just a few of the many ministerial maladies we might suffer, but there are more. Oh my, lots more…
• Hereticaphobia—the fear that the pastor may change the order of the worship service.
• Stinky-diap-a-phobia—the fear of baby dedications.
• On-and-on-and-on-and-on-a-phobia—the fear of long sermons.
• Sup-no-cup-a-phobia—the fear of running out of juice at a communion service.
• Halitos-a-greet-a-phobia—a pastor’s fear of having bad breath while meeting church visitors.
• Halle-hypo-therm-a-lujah-phobia—the fear of ice cold baptismal waters.
• Homile-heck-a-phobia—the fear of a heckler interrupting the sermon.
• Smokey-on-sabbath-a-phobia—a pastor’s fear of being stopped by a cop in front of the church.
• Cyber-sat-no-sun-a-phobia—the fear that a computer might crash on Saturday night with the pastor’s Sunday’s sermon notes in it.
• Hic-amen-a-phobia—the fear of getting hiccups during silent prayer.
• Cell-ecclesia-phobia—the fear of a cell phone ringing during worship.
• Honey-doze-a-phobia—the fear of the pastor’s spouse falling asleep during the sermon.
It’s enough to scare any of us!
Phobias are not a new phenomenon. In fact, they abound in Scripture. In the New Testament, the Greek words phobos and phobeo, from which phobia was born, appear 140 times. Interestingly enough, many of those phobias—or fears—pop up in the short week surrounding the death and resurrection of Jesus. That one Passion Week had people in a real tizzy. For example:
On Monday—Jesus overthrew the money changers in the temple, causing the chief priests and scribes to plot His death, “For they were afraid of Him” (Mark 11:18).
On Tuesday—while trying to win back the crowds, the chief priests challenged Jesus to a debate, but they got clobbered. As a result, “They were afraid of the multitudes” (Mark 11:32).
On Wednesday—while behind closed doors, the scribes and chief priests plotted Jesus’ death, “For they were afraid” (Luke 22:2).
On Thursday—Pilate negotiated with the Jews over Jesus’ sentence. When he realized he could not save face, or Jesus’ life, “He was even more afraid” (John 19:8).
On Friday—two criminals were hanged on crosses alongside Jesus. While one hurled abusive insults at Christ, the other quizzed his villainous friend, “Don’t you fear God?” (Luke 23:40).
On Sunday—with Roman guards placed around the tomb to keep it secure, an angel appeared and rolled the stone away. “The guards shook for fear of Him” (Matt. 28:4).
The resurrection message is the greatest message we can preach. It’s the cure-all for mankind’s greatest phobia—death.
In one earth-shaking, grave-conquering, death-defeating, angel-rejoicing, devil-whipping, stone-rolling move, His resurrection power solved our biggest fear and replaced it with our greatest hope.
“By His death He destroyed the devil and freed those who all their lives were held in slavery by their phobia of death” (Heb. 2:14-15).
What an awesome God we serve!
Ron Walters is senior vice president Ministry Relations for Salem Communications in Camarillo, California.