Ministry Pain

It's a fascinating thought: pain sets the threshold for our leadership. "The amount of pain we’re willing to endure sets the limit of our effectiveness," writes Samuel Chand in his book Leadership Pain. "If we avoid it or numb it, we’ll risk nothing, sacrifice nothing, feel nothing, and accomplish nothing." Our leadership is limited by our unwillingness to suffer. "You and your organization will grow only to— and not a step beyond—your pain threshold," he writes.

I've often believed that leadership is a matter of technique. While we can learn effective leadership skills, it's possible that the issue isn't really about skill. The issue is that we don't want to pay the price.

When I read 2 Timothy 2, I encounter someone who's okay with pain. "Share in suffering," Paul writes. Imitate soldiers, athletes, and farmers, who all happen to understand hardship. Paul has credibility when he talks about suffering, because he's writing from prison. "I endure everything for the sake of the elect," he writes, "that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory." He tells us to think about what he writes, and that God will give us understanding about these things.

In other words, think about the fact that signing up for ministry is signing up for pain.

The limiting factor in our ministries may not be skill. The limiting factor may be our unwillingness to endure pain for what matters most. Want to see God work through your life? Raise the threshold of your willingness to suffer.

Comment

Darryl Dash

Darryl Dash is a graduate of the University of Waterloo, Heritage Theological Seminary, and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He’s married to Charlene, and has two children, Christina and Josiah. Darryl is currently planting Liberty Grace Church in Liberty Village, Toronto. He previously served as pastor of Richview Baptist Church and Park Lawn Baptist Church, both in west Toronto.

Shepherd the Flock of God That Is Among You

Shepherd the flock of God that is among you...
— 1 Peter 5:2

When I've preached 1 Peter 5:2, I think I've skipped right over the last part of this phrase. I shouldn't have. Peter calls our attention to the church that's right in front of us. The problem, for most of us, is that the flock that's among us isn't as exciting as we'd like it to be.

Zack Eswine talks about this in his book The Imperfect Pastor. God calls us to a particular people, and a particular place. "If the Holy One of God is Jesus of Nazareth," he writes, " then the Holy One of God has a hometown. The shade giver has roots." The way to go somewhere, he writes, is to stay put. "You needn't repent of doing only a long, small work in an extraordinary but unknown place."

Two pastor friends have taught me about this recently. One pastors a large church in downtown Toronto. He credits much of his ministry success to turning down invitations to speak elsewhere so he can shepherd the flock that's among him. Another told me that he abides by a simple rule: other than vacations, don't miss a Sunday for the first two years, or until the church reaches 200 in attendance. Years later, it's still under 200 people, and other than vacation, he's always there. And he loves it (mostly). It's a privilege.

It's tempting to preach with the sermon podcast in mind. It's tempting to dream of other places. But God gives us people in a place. It's a privilege to pastor them until our calling there is done. Then fact that I skipped this part of the verse reveals how much I needed to absorb it.

1 Comment

Darryl Dash

Darryl Dash is a graduate of the University of Waterloo, Heritage Theological Seminary, and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He’s married to Charlene, and has two children, Christina and Josiah. Darryl is currently planting Liberty Grace Church in Liberty Village, Toronto. He previously served as pastor of Richview Baptist Church and Park Lawn Baptist Church, both in west Toronto.

Pastors Need This Too

Church revitalization does not happen much, but it does happen sometimes. I have been struck by how infrequently it actually occurs.
— (Ed Stetzer, Planting Missional Churches)

A church planter assessment took place in Toronto last week. Eight candidate couples settled in for the three-day process. The assessment team had identified the key characteristics of an effective church planter, as well as some possible issues to avoid. The assessment team knew what they were doing, having worked with scores of planting couples before. The whole process was rigid but filled with grace, and honest feedback was given.

Since becoming a church planter, I've been impressed by the assessment, training, and coaching offered to church planters. It's needed; in fact, we need more.

What boggles my mind is that so little of this is available to pastors who are called to revitalize an existing church. I've never seen an assessment process for a revitalizer, nor do I see a lot of ongoing support. I'd argue that it's just as needed for revitalizers as it is for church planters.

"Every church leader needs a coach," writes Scott Thomas. What would it look like for pastors, not just planters, to get the assessment, training, and coaching they need?

1 Comment

Darryl Dash

Darryl Dash is a graduate of the University of Waterloo, Heritage Theological Seminary, and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He’s married to Charlene, and has two children, Christina and Josiah. Darryl is currently planting Liberty Grace Church in Liberty Village, Toronto. He previously served as pastor of Richview Baptist Church and Park Lawn Baptist Church, both in west Toronto.

The Sexual Integrity of Christian Leaders

Here are seven lessons that stood out to me from the new book Unburdened: The Christian Leader's Path to Sexual Integrity:

Nobody's immune. Don't ask, "Do you struggle with sexual integrity?" Ask, "How do you struggle with sexual integrity?" (p. 12) "None of us are somehow beyond the struggles of any other men in our sex-saturated culture" (p.13). "There’s not a one of us who doesn’t face real challenges to our personal sexual integrity" (p. 20).

Our integrity matters. "Our purpose in the kingdom will only be accomplished to the extent we don’t allow spiritual disease into our life that siphons off our strength" (p.14). "We can’t imagine what God wants to do with our lives if we’re willing to let him use our lives, including our brokenness, for his glory" (p. 120).

Our sexuality is a prime target. "Clearly our gender (male and female) and the union of our genders (our sexuality) is at the very heart of our representation of God’s image. Why, then, should it surprise us that Satan’s number-one target in the twenty-first century is both our gender and our sexuality?" (p. 34)

Sexual temptation is the perfect trap for the Christian leader. "Who else has such privacy, time alone, lack of accountability, a presumption of integrity by others and isolation from close friendships than the typical minister?" (p. 51)

Don't think black and white. Think red (choices to avoid because they're inconsistent with God's design), yellow (slippery slope items), and green (healthy, God-honoring choices) (p. 57). Avoid the red; minimize the yellow; invest in the green.

Disclosure is better than discovery. "While not everyone needs public disclosure, all of us need at least one or two people who know our whole story and can walk alongside us in the road ahead" (p. 18). "As a rule, proactive disclosure before being confronted results in better recovery than telling the whole truth after being confronted" (p. 63).

You can help others. "Once you’re at least ninety days out and feel you’re in a better (not perfect) place of personal application and growth, you’ll be more able to serve as a guide for other men on the path" (pp. 131-132).

Choose the Lesser Place

The first church I pastored was a humble affair. They all are, really. There were only about 30 people, but it seemed like more because some of them were characters. We stayed for seven years, and loved almost every minute.

There was nothing at all that was glamorous about pastoring that church. To most, it was inconsequential. I was careful not to see that church as a stepping stone, but I remember sensing a desire for a larger and more significant ministry.

I'm not alone. We're uncomfortable with the small, insignificant places. We want to make a difference in places that really matter.

In his book The Imperfect Pastor, Zack Eswine challenges this way of thinking. "Smaller is always better than larger," he advises, "unless, and only if, God extrudes us." Pastors: look for small, insignificant churches that nobody else wants, unless God forces something else on you.

The basis for Eswine's advice is Jesus' teaching in Luke 14:7-11 to seek the lowest, not the highest, seats at the table. He quotes Francis Schaeffer:

All of us—pastors, teachers, professional religious workers and nonprofessional included—are tempted to say, “I will take the larger place because it will give me more influence for Jesus Christ.” Both individual Christians and Christian organizations fall prey to the temptation of rationalizing this way as we build bigger and bigger empires. But according to the Scripture this is backwards: we should consciously take the lowest place unless the Lord Himself extrudes us into a greater one.

The word extrude is important here. To be extruded is to be forced out under pressure into a desired shape. Picture a huge press jamming soft metal at high pressure through a die, so that the metal comes out in a certain shape. This is the way of the Christian: he should choose the lesser place until God extrudes him into a position of more responsibility and authority. (No Little People)

"Most of us have no category for what I just said," writes Eswine. "We need help."

Nothing against big places. It's just that we shouldn't push ourselves there, and we must learn contentment in the small places. Small places matter. We need God's grace to take the lowest seats, and to find our identities in him rather than the size of our charges