Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Only the Pioneers Get the Arrows

Written by: on April 10, 2018

One of my first bosses said to me, “Only the pioneers get the arrows.” Little did I know what that meant, but I now see how people may substitute the word pioneers with “leaders”.  Or maybe also, “Pastors”.

My first year of pastoring, I visited a retreat center for Pastors outside of Bozeman, Montana. I was surprised they had a full-time resident Counselor. I asked why? Their immediate response was, “You are going to need it.” They were right! Unfortunately, my pain rarely came from non-believers, it mostly came from within God’s family.

When my dad heard I was going into the ministry, his cautionary words surprised me, “Uh oh” and then he told me how most of his Pastors the past 50 years seemed to have a lot of pain in their lives. Don’t get me wrong, I really like being a Pastor, but to be honest, I have some fairly significant scar tissue to show for it. This is hard to carry, especially for a pleaser personality like mine, because this job makes it IMPOSSIBLE to please everybody (but thankfully with God, all things are possible).

Then I read a quote from our author, Samuel Chand, “If You Are Not Hurting, You Are Not Leading.” [1]  He had my attention right away.

Did anyone else notice Chand quoted a recent reading of ours? (Douthat’s Bad Religion), stating, “Many of the people Christian leaders are trying to reach in the community begin with a negative bias against God, against the church, and against the Pastor. And those who come to church are often so distracted by other things that they do little more than show up a time or two a month to check ‘spirituality’ or ‘church attendance’ off their list of good things to do.” [2]  Like I said, this job is IMPOSSIBLE for man.

I stress that I am not complaining, this adventure with God has been glorious, in spite of His people.  But, after 15 years as Lead Pastor, I did not know how much pain baggage I was carrying around. Then I was voted Superintendent, and resigned my position within 8 hours. After the adrenaline wore off, God had some major re-wiring to do…

Today, for the first time, I told my wife what God did the first 30 nights of no longer being called Lead Pastor. To be honest, it wasn’t a lot of fun–like the quote from Craig Groeschel’s mentor, “The only thing I can guarantee is that God is going to…break you.” [3]  Spot on!  But my recent testimony has more to it than the breaking, because after God breaks you, He rebuilds you into being more like His image, all the while shouldering the pain for you.


In the above picture, I feel like Jesus has been carrying me for a few months. Here’s how: He has woken me up dozens of times in the middle of the night, with a vivid memory of a painful experience from the ministry. A disappointed parishioner, an angry staff member, a calloused counselee, etc. I immediately become anxious, even though I know we are not supposed to do that. Then He does the miraculous–he literally lifts the weight off my shoulders and I go back to peaceful sleep. In the morning I remember the experience, but not the actual memory.

Our Cohort is full of Pastors, Counselors, Missionaries, Teachers and other “pioneers” who have been shot with some painful arrows. I am sure our Lead Mentor has absorbed a few, too. I wonder how many Chuck Conniry took in the back while pioneering the Seminary at Fox? My favorite quote from H.B. London makes me laugh every time, when talking about the joy suckers in his ministry, “We’re only one funeral away from having the church we want.” [5] During one particular painful time in my ministry, gratefully I read the helpful book Well Intentioned Dragons: Ministering to Problem People In Your Church. [6]  Chand mentioned often the “devils” [7] all around us in ministry, and he wasn’t talking about Mike’s research topic of Satan. Remember, “If you’re leading you’re bleeding.” [7] Then he quoted our previous book by Macintosh and Rima, mentioning one of my achilles heels, “perfectionism” from Overcoming the Dark Side of Leadership. [8]

On goodreads.com (where reviews scored 4.44 out of 5), one of the reviewers (Ben Miller) knocked the author for his non-academic approach, but the overwhelming number of reviews were positive. [9] Personally, I think this book fits in well with the DMIN program, as it relates directly to ministry.

So I choose to close with this: This book did not stretch me theologically, nor did it stretch my critical thinking skills. I simply found myself nodding with understanding, while constantly saying to myself, “Yep, been there…” In fact, I think I will share it with the 107 Pastors who are now my flock.

[1] Chand, Samuel R. Leadership Pain: The Classroom for Growth. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2015. p. 3.

[2] Ibid., p. 44.

[3] Ibid., p. 1.

[4] Gaultiere, Bill. Psalm 23 Pictures to Pray. July 21, 2011, soulshepherding.org. Assessed April 9, 2018. soulshepherding.org/

[5] London, H.B., Wiseman, Neal. The Shepherd’s Covenant for Pastors. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2011.

[6] Shelley, Marshall. Well-intentioned Dragons: Ministering to Problem People in the Church. Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers, 1994.

[7] Chand, Samuel R. Leadership Pain: The Classroom for Growth. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2015. p. 33.

[8] Ibid., p. 33.

[9]  Miller, Ben. “Goodreads Review: Leadership Pain.” Goodreads.com. January 5, 2018. Accessed April 11, 2018. https://www.goodreads.com/.

About the Author

Jay Forseth

Superintendent of the Western Conference of the Evangelical Church. Blessed with 28 years as the husband of my amazing wife who I can't make it without. Now three of four in our family are attending University, but both my children are way smarter than me.

6 responses to “Only the Pioneers Get the Arrows”

  1. M Webb says:

    Thanks for the rest of the story after “God breaks you.” I am always hopeful for the Holy Spirit’s reshaping process and when He helps lighten the load, PTL. Since our service to Him is not about us, and all about Him, we usually mess it up, again and again. Nevertheless, praise God that He knows our every thought, our next move, and what we still need, and I find it comforting that we do not surprise Him.
    Watch out for the prosperity bias that Chand discretely promotes. Read Jennifer’s post, she saw right thru his bigger is better doctrines. I give him credit for the pain hurts story line, but as in all things, moderation might be advised.
    Stand firm,
    M. Webb

  2. Shawn Hart says:

    Jay, I have always joked that the hardest part of ministry was dealing with all of those Christians. It is amazing how something so rewarding one moment could leave you so broken the next…and yet…here we are. Though I agree with the lack of intellectual growth this book brought, but I still believe the lesson is crucial…current and future ministers must realize that a lot of pain is just part of the job.

    So why did you resign from the superintendent role after 8 hours: a moment of clarity or a sanity?

  3. Chris Pritchett says:

    Nobody gets put into a position like yours who doesn’t have a high capacity for pain. To walk alongside churches and step in the gap when they are in trouble or in hardship, and to take the arrows upon yourself, this takes great courage and long-suffering. I admire you for what you are doing Jay!

  4. Greg says:


    Love that photo. Yet how often as a leader for Christ do we see ourselves as being carried. So many leaders I have known (and sometimes myself) like to image we are one of the follows of Jesus that doesn’t need to be carried. Maybe that is part of the pain and refining part of the journey.

    I saw this book as an encouraging book of confirmation to the pain that comes from those “devils” in our midst or in us. I appreciate you once again sharing our journey and pastor’s heart with us.

  5. Enjoyable last post of the quarter Jay! I loved your authenticity in your writing and your illustration and dream of Jesus carrying your burdens like a little lamb. You seem like the perfect pastor to pastors because of your natural empathy for others and because you will be able to relate to their pain and love them to the other side of it. By the way, you won’t have all the answers and won’t be able to please everyone in this role either, but God is faithful to fill in the gaps. Blessings on your ministry to fellow ministers in pain.

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