Leadership on the incline: Why are you surprised that things are so hard?

“Why are you surprised that things are so hard?”

I heard these words from a prophet some years ago.  Well, she was an African national in exile after losing her husband who cleaned our church.  A prayer warrior, she came to me in my office and looked puzzled and asked my permission to speak those words to me.  She said that in prayer God had revealed that message for me.

Little did she actually know the pain and anguish of the moment that would lead to staff exits, conflict and the unseating of a founding pastor.  It was hard.  Ministry is hard.  And, God was saying to me through this woman what simply is in a lot of Bible verses.  So, yeah, I tested the “spirits” and found her words to be valid to me.  (See 1 Peter 2:21-25.)

One translation of 1 Peter 2:21 says that our “vocation” is to suffer with Christ.  Our job while on earth is to partake in this.  But, this is not some cruel joke.  We are meant to be delved into the mission to reach the world.  If we suffer on the grounds of being partakers in the mission of the gospel then we are blessed beyond measure.  So, being hard is expected.

What was I missing our church janitor lovingly smacked me with?  Of course, this thing is hard, dummy!  Why would it not be?  Why would I expect an easy path in following Christ and in being a leader in the local church?  How could a get-out-of-jail-free card be available to a young man who committed his life to follow Christ and serve the church?

So, the question was rhetorical and instructional.  It comforted me, actually.  God spoke into my heart about how there was nothing wrong with me just because things around me and even in me were painfully difficult every step of the way.  I could not compare the fantasy of a mountain top to the “vocation” of suffering with Jesus.  Really, the latter is the place of rest and blessing–the place of life and my real entitlement.

What happens to us sometimes is that we get an oasis of amazing success or ease on a particular year or even season of ministry and we think that all of it will be like that.  What I am learning is that those times should be enjoyed and celebrated but that the reality of an uphill climb describes ministry leadership.

Also, if we compare to the buzz of the hip church and read all the success stories our experience we risk perspective.  Ministry envy can kill your passion.  It can keep you out of seeing the long haul and the beauty of your unique call as a leader in the church. Here are some things that I hope to remember as a leader:

  • There’s a fine line between inspiration and unhealthy discontent when reading about the cool and hip and successful ministry and celebrity ministers.
  • Suffering is my “vocation”, my job as a follower of Christ
  • Being a leader means that I get to perhaps share some uniquely painful steps with Christ
  • Pain, hurt, and suffering are a given and not a sign of punishment but of blessing if done in service to Christ and the gospel.
  • I need to measure the hurt in ministry against the mission, not the moment
  • My only entitlement is Jesus, and that should be enough.

What things have you learned about dealing with the hard spots in ministry have you experienced?

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Rich Kirkpatrick

Rich Kirkpatrick

Writer, Speaker, and Musician. Rich Kirkpatrick was recently rated #13 of the “Top 75 Religion Bloggers” by Newsmax.com, having also received recognition by Worship Leader Magazine as “Editor’s Choice” for the “Best of the Best” of blogs in 2011, 2014, 2015 and 2016.

28 comments

  1. One thing that helps my perspective is to remind myself that I don’t deserve to be used by God, especially in a full-time church capacity. Also, big picture thinking always helps you keep perspective. I always use the basketball analogy, and say you have to have “court vision”.

  2. One thing that helps my perspective is to remind myself that I don’t deserve to be used by God, especially in a full-time church capacity. Also, big picture thinking always helps you keep perspective. I always use the basketball analogy, and say you have to have “court vision”.

  3. One thing that helps my perspective is to remind myself that I don’t deserve to be used by God, especially in a full-time church capacity. Also, big picture thinking always helps you keep perspective. I always use the basketball analogy, and say you have to have “court vision”.

  4. One thing that helps my perspective is to remind myself that I don’t deserve to be used by God, especially in a full-time church capacity. Also, big picture thinking always helps you keep perspective. I always use the basketball analogy, and say you have to have “court vision”.

  5. Gary… well, none of us “deserve” anything however your right as God’s child is to be used by Him. So, you don’t deserve to not be used by God. 😉 Its just that we don’t deserve the cakewalk we might think it should be.

  6. Gary… well, none of us “deserve” anything however your right as God’s child is to be used by Him. So, you don’t deserve to not be used by God. 😉 Its just that we don’t deserve the cakewalk we might think it should be.

  7. Gary… well, none of us “deserve” anything however your right as God’s child is to be used by Him. So, you don’t deserve to not be used by God. 😉 Its just that we don’t deserve the cakewalk we might think it should be.

  8. Gary… well, none of us “deserve” anything however your right as God’s child is to be used by Him. So, you don’t deserve to not be used by God. 😉 Its just that we don’t deserve the cakewalk we might think it should be.

  9. Truth at it’s finest. And there is a lot of pain in church leadership. Good stuff again, encouraging in the toughest of times.

  10. Truth at it’s finest. And there is a lot of pain in church leadership. Good stuff again, encouraging in the toughest of times.

  11. Truth at it’s finest. And there is a lot of pain in church leadership. Good stuff again, encouraging in the toughest of times.

  12. Truth at it’s finest. And there is a lot of pain in church leadership. Good stuff again, encouraging in the toughest of times.

  13. Your prophet’s words are alive and well. They pierced my heart, too. Truth resonates and is timeless. I found your revelations encouraging; in a way, this post was like a letter from another soldier fighting in another battle distant from my location, but close to my situation. And, after reading it, I am renewed to my own assignment. Thanks.

  14. Your prophet’s words are alive and well. They pierced my heart, too. Truth resonates and is timeless. I found your revelations encouraging; in a way, this post was like a letter from another soldier fighting in another battle distant from my location, but close to my situation. And, after reading it, I am renewed to my own assignment. Thanks.

  15. Your prophet’s words are alive and well. They pierced my heart, too. Truth resonates and is timeless. I found your revelations encouraging; in a way, this post was like a letter from another soldier fighting in another battle distant from my location, but close to my situation. And, after reading it, I am renewed to my own assignment. Thanks.

  16. Your prophet’s words are alive and well. They pierced my heart, too. Truth resonates and is timeless. I found your revelations encouraging; in a way, this post was like a letter from another soldier fighting in another battle distant from my location, but close to my situation. And, after reading it, I am renewed to my own assignment. Thanks.

  17. Rich, I think we sometimes forget that part of the work of God is to refine and beautify His Bride, the church, which is us. So brokenness and pain can be a place of great suffering, yet great transformation, at least it has been for me. The work of God is deep and beautiful and sometimes painful and difficult, but worth it. One thing is sure – it’s not cheap or easy, as we’d sometimes lik eit to be.

  18. Rich, I think we sometimes forget that part of the work of God is to refine and beautify His Bride, the church, which is us. So brokenness and pain can be a place of great suffering, yet great transformation, at least it has been for me. The work of God is deep and beautiful and sometimes painful and difficult, but worth it. One thing is sure – it’s not cheap or easy, as we’d sometimes lik eit to be.

  19. Rich, I think we sometimes forget that part of the work of God is to refine and beautify His Bride, the church, which is us. So brokenness and pain can be a place of great suffering, yet great transformation, at least it has been for me. The work of God is deep and beautiful and sometimes painful and difficult, but worth it. One thing is sure – it’s not cheap or easy, as we’d sometimes lik eit to be.

  20. Rich, I think we sometimes forget that part of the work of God is to refine and beautify His Bride, the church, which is us. So brokenness and pain can be a place of great suffering, yet great transformation, at least it has been for me. The work of God is deep and beautiful and sometimes painful and difficult, but worth it. One thing is sure – it’s not cheap or easy, as we’d sometimes lik eit to be.

  21. If it was easy then everybody would be in leadership. The blessings seem so much better when it’s hard, right?

  22. If it was easy then everybody would be in leadership. The blessings seem so much better when it’s hard, right?

  23. If it was easy then everybody would be in leadership. The blessings seem so much better when it’s hard, right?

  24. If it was easy then everybody would be in leadership. The blessings seem so much better when it’s hard, right?

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