Leadership Is Hard
Leadership is not for sissies.
The task of a leader is to help people or organizations move from where they are to the better place they need to be. In Christian leadership, it is helping move people or organizations from where we are to where God wants us to be.
An Increasingly Difficult Task
That’s not easy, because most change is uncomfortable.
The pandemic period was hard for everyone, but for leaders in any organization the pandemic came with unprecedented challenges. Making all the adjustments was one thing. That’s expected in a crisis.
But the anger, fear, and mean-spirited polarization? I for one did not see that coming. As leaders faced a broad wave of criticism, accusation, controversy, division, and vitriol, it threw all of us for a loop. As a result, most leaders I talk to, including 100 percent of faith leaders, are coming out of this period depleted and, in some cases, disheartened.
A recent Barna study found that 29 percent of pastors have seriously considered leaving the ministry as a result of this pandemic.
I suspect that number is low, and what is true of pastors is true of leaders across the board. Similar studies in the business sector have demonstrated that CEOs are hanging it up at a rate not seen in recent history.
Leadership isn’t for sissies, and in some seasons, it is just flat-out hard.
God gives leadership gifts not just for easy times, or “regular” times with the occasional turbulence. He provides leaders especially for times of upheaval, fear, and division, to lead His church or organizations through the chaos in a way that can make organization and its people stronger.
Part of that role is invigorating for a leader like me, and the other part is exhausting.
What can we do when we find ourselves depleted during a hard season in leadership? The answer isn’t usually to hang it up and move on. God placed us where we are for a reason.
But what can we do to not just hang on but to be replenished, so we can lead into the next season?
David in the Old Testament can help us out. His leadership situation was a difficult one. He was chosen by God to be the king, but the one who currently had the job was not so willing to go along with that plan. Instead, King Saul was doing all he could to eliminate his rival.
An Unexpected Challenge
David had been on the move with his band of loyal followers, who, along with their families, endured great risk to support the one they knew to be God’s choice. David fled with his small army of 600 and their families to a city in Philistia. David had negotiated well with King Achish, a Philistine ruler, and had won both his trust and ownership of that city as a refuge from Saul.
We can see in 1 Samuel that leadership, though tricky, was going pretty well for David. That is, until Chapter 30.
(Chapter 29 was also a leadership disappointment to be sure. The Philistines were going on the offensive against Saul, and David was excited to join the effort with his troops. However, the king rejected that idea: although he trusted David, his military leaders did not. David was voted off that island. That stung, but the events in Chapter 30 did more than sting.)
David and his troops, rejected for the earlier battle, decided to return to their home in Philistia. Unknown to them, while they were on their way, the Amalekites raided that unprotected city, burned their homes to the ground, took away their wives and children, and plundered all they owned.
So, when they returned, all they saw was devastation.
When David and his men saw the ruins and realized what had happened to their families, they wept until they could weep no more…David was now in great danger because all his men were very bitter about losing their sons and daughters, and they began to talk of stoning him. (1 Samuel 30:3)
David’s men had always been incredibly loyal, but this was too much. They were disillusioned and bitter. How could David have allowed all this to happen? David’s crew was ready to mutiny, and the talk of stoning him was no empty talk.
That was a bad leadership day for David. Not only was his own family kidnapped, but the people that he thought would never turn on him were now on the verge of doing so. He wept along with all of them until he could weep no more. He was depleted, discouraged, and disheartened.
So what did he do?
The next sentence tells us: "...But David found strength in the LORD his God." (1 Samuel 30:6)
A Renewed Strength
On his own, he would have hung it up. But David knew that he was not on his own. Instead, he chose to find strength in the Lord. This is different than just trying to find strength within or to “buck up” as a strong personality. He found strength in the Lord.
That’s the key phrase: “in the Lord.”
Those of us who are Christian leaders are not on our own. Like David, we’ve been given leadership gifts and purposefully placed wherever he has set us.
As Jesus told the first leaders of the Christian movement, wherever they went with the mission, they would not be on their own. God would be with them, just as He is with us.
So, how do we “find strength in the Lord”? That will probably look a little different for each of us with our various gifts and personalities, but I would think for all of us it includes the following choices:
- Choosing to spend time with the One Who is above it all. As we spend time in His presence, in His Word, in prayer, we find perspective and strength. David sought the Lord for wisdom and strength, and in God’s presence he found both.
- Choosing to “be filled with the Spirit,” and not just rely on our own strength. We have the presence of His Spirit in us, ready to fill us and empower us for whatever we face.
- Choosing to be in the presence of godly people. We also see people like Jesus and Paul, when they were ready to give it up, choose not only to be in God’s presence but also the company of those who could refill their faith tank and provide fresh energy and perspective.
For leaders to endure the inevitable periods that leave us depleted, we have to learn to “find strength in the Lord.” The great news is that He is not far. He is with us always.
If you find yourself as a leader discouraged, disheartened, or just flat-out worn out, you are in good company. Every great leader through history, even Jesus, got there. Don’t give up. Don’t throw in the towel. Instead, take the time necessary to be strengthened in the Lord.
Your organization or church or group needs you to lead toward the next chapter. It will likely be a great one!
That’s what happened for David. With fresh strength, he moved forward as a leader to rectify a horrible situation. God enabled him to do so, bringing David and his followers to a better place than they were before.
Sure, the pandemic was hard on leaders. But coming out of the pandemic are new opportunities we could not have imagined beforehand. More than ever, our world needs us as leaders as well as the churches and organizations we lead.
So, let’s do the David thing. Let’s find our strength in God so that we can lead toward the better future God has in store.
For more helpful resources for leaders, check out Lead with Jack from Chase Oaks Church Executive Pastor, Jack Warren.