By Alex Early
It is imperative that leaders in the local church continually stay reminded of the fact that being called to lead in kingdom work at any capacity (pastor, deacon, Sunday School teachers, greeters, custodians, etc.) is an outlandish act of grace. Paul told the Ephesian elders that Jesus purchased the Church with “his own blood” and that the Holy Spirit appointed them as overseers in the church (Acts 20:28). To be entrusted with the Gospel as well as to look after, care for, and be involved in the ongoing discipleship of the souls of other believers is incredible grace! Leading is serious work. It’s also seriously hard work.
What Leadership Really Feels Like
Ask any leader in the church and they’ll tell you that leadership can feel awfully lonely at times. Sometimes the loneliness can go on for days, weeks, months, and for some, years. You don’t even have to bear the title “pastor” or “deacon” in a church to know loneliness accompanies responsibility–just ask any parent. Leaders are often taken for granted being that there are hours of work that nobody sees, menial tasks performed that go unnoticed; or big wins that nobody or congratulates or celebrates along the way. Additionally good leaders, like parents, know that it is ultimately up to them to take responsibility for when things go bad, and yet, rarely, if ever, should leaders take the credit for when something goes right. After enough of these routine punch-to-the-stomach-experiences, it is not uncommon for leaders to moan over feeling used and burnt out. When there’s a shortage on thank you’s and honor is a foreign concept, the seeds of discouragement set in, and before long, apathy blooms in the heart of the leader.
Disorientation, Big Egos, and Beat-Downs
This all leads to a place of real disorientation. Once a leader is disoriented, anything can happen. Tension, fights, blow ups, sporadic spending, moral failure, everything disastrous, start cropping up. Then there’s the fact that some leaders are put on a pedestal and unnecessarily glorified. This inflates the leader’s ego, and they become haughty and entitled. Or there are those who for the sake of “keeping the leader humble” constantly nit-pick and critique the leader without end.
Living in the leadership paradox is tough. The swing of the pendulum of the over-inflated ego or total beat-down of critics is exhausting. Oh, and then there’s continual renouncing of oneself and looking to Jesus for strength, purpose, and identity, (like every other Christian!) doesn’t go without resistance from the world, the flesh, and the devil.
Anybody want to sign up for leadership, yet?
The Love of God: Remedy to the Leadership Paradox
So where does the Christian leader find strength, comfort, encouragement, and identity? What brings clarity, grounding, and sanity to the leader? It is surely not in pithy self-talk nor is it in grinding it out, white knuckling the whole experience, just hoping the it’ll end soon. It’s not in bigger budgets or more staff. Rather, the answer to the leadership paradox is in the nature of the very personal love of God for the leader!
A 30 Second Exercise
Leader, when was the last time you thought about God loving you with no strings attached to your role in the church? What if its not about what you bring to the table? What if the answer for your ego-tortured or beat-down soul is found at the communion table? What if the wind you’ve been looking for to fill your sail has been blowing from Calvary for 2,000 years and isn’t showing signs of dying down?
Take 30 seconds and try this exercise out of my new book, The Reckless Love of God
In Galatians 2:20 Paul writes:
“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
Theologian, Tom Schriener tells us that Paul sees this love as extending to all Christians, but the individualistic emphasis must not be neglected.
Now let’s read this verse a bit differently. Remove Paul’s personal pronouns, and in your poverty of spirit and with the bold confidence you have in the person and work of Jesus, put your name in the blanks:
“____________ [has] been crucified with Christ. It is no longer _________ who [lives], but Christ who lives in ___________. And the life __________ now [lives] in the flesh __________ [lives] by faith in the Son of God, who loved __________ and gave himself for ____________.”
Leader, Jesus wants the best for you. And therefore, he gives you his love.