I first started blogging because Thom Rainer, my former boss and CEO of Lifeway Christian Resources, encouraged me to use a blog to encourage and help ministry leaders thus the vast majority of my writing was for them. But after a few years of blogging Chris Martin, who helps with my blog, surveyed all the readers and found that 40% were marketplace leaders – from college coaches to entrepreneurs to business executives. I started writing with them in mind too. Though I know people at the church I pastor also read the blog, I still write primarily with leaders in mind – both ministry and marketplace leaders.
And leaders, one thing I have been reminded of during this season is the reality that pain and beauty often go together. It seems like they always go together.
I often wish pain and beauty in leadership were siloed from one another, that the bad days and the discouraging news could not clutter the good days and the exciting part of leadership. I understand that there will be tough times and rough days, but I have wished they could be isolated from the good stuff. What if we could just endure a bad day every now and then and be done with it? Unfortunately, this is not how leadership works. At all times leaders carry both the thrilling and the troubling aspects of leadership.
Our life group has been reading the book of Acts together and the mixture of pain and beauty are pronounced. Here are a few snapshots:
- Acts 4: Peter and John in prison and the Word goes forth
- Acts 5-6: Apostles on trial and the Word is multiplying
- Acts 12: James martyred and the message spreads
- Acts 14: Ministry in Iconium if filled with persecution and wonders
- Acts 16: Paul and Silas are imprisoned and Lydia, the guard, and a young woman possessed with a demon are converted
- Acts 17: There is a riot and a large number of Greeks are converted
- Acts 19: Another riot and people burn their old books of magic
Leading a local church in a pandemic and coming out of a pandemic has been filled with both pain and beauty. God has done exceedingly more than I could ask or imagine. We will see four new congregations launch this fall. Over 1000 people have stood and declared faith in Jesus in our physical gatherings over the last ten months. I taught over 1000 people from our church systematic theology online during the pandemic. These are ministry dreams, dreams I am so thankful God has done in front of us. Insanely beautiful! And yet pain is there too. Staff departures, friends on staff moving to be close to family, tensions over politics, health challenges, and clear attacks from the enemy.
As leaders, we often want the beauty without the pain but the two go hand-in-hand. To enjoy the beauty, we will simultaneously experience some pain. When there is beauty, the enemy who prowls around like a roaring lion will attack. In ministry, the Word will not multiply without the enemy’s vicious and hateful attacks. We will one day only have beauty, but this world is marred by sin and there will be pain. Yes, some of the pain comes from our own doing – our own failures, struggles, and sins. And, by God’s grace, He still works in front of us in spite of us.