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

Turning Failure Into Success

Written by: on January 24, 2023

As we go through the doctoral program, we learn and apply from each book we read, blog, and discuss. I have personally found that I am learning a great deal through my colleagues. In Monday’s zoom class, I again realized what a gift it is to be in this program. How do I slow down and really come into a place of being a mature and well differentiated leader. I have found myself failing in this, as at times I have had an emotional response to a book instead of digging for the gold in the book.

Being a mature well differentiated leader, we are no longer being reactive, but rather as mature leaders we are to respond professionally and precise. After all God has trusted us with leading others. Often, we become focused on leadership skills or form (how things look or presentation) rather growing in our emotional/mental well being. Often in times of distress, those unhealthy emotions or strongholds bear negative fruit in our lives.

If I was to take Camacho’s book on Digging for Gold and apply them to reading Friedman’s book on Failure of Nerve, I would dig for the positive to help me or my congregation and not waste anytime on bothered or offended me. I am able to take a step of becoming a well-differentiated leader and moving through emotions of anxiety and being reactive instead of proactive of my growth as doctoral student. Not only as a doctoral student but as a pastor.

Coaching Process

Recently I have had some coaching done. A few of the questions I did not really want to answer or address. I decided to ask the coach if I could have time to respond to the question so I could have clarity. Through this process I had to go to the cross to seek the help of the Holy Spirit. Through this process of the Holy Spirit revealing to me, I was also reminded of a goal with the doctoral program that when I graduated, I would have a new credo for ministry and life.

There is a book called Critical Thinking Concepts and Tools by Richard Paul & Linda Elder that seems to have been written for people like me. It is one of the smallest books but impactful for me. I often keep it in my bible and try to read it once a week. Books like these help remind me of my credo and to be able to say yes or no to things without any guilt and grief. Or as Camacho put it, to live and thrive in our sweet spot.

Reacting vs. Responding

One of the core thesis of Failure of Nerve is that leaders do not fail because they lack information, skill, or technique, but because they lack the nerve to stand firm in the midst of peoples emotional anxiety and reacting.[1] Through Friedman’s book and my recent coaching, I have come to realize that there is a pattern in my ministry where I fail because of high anxiety people wanting control or to change things so their fear of emotions can be less. I have found I have often stepped into the trap of someones emotional anxiety. Often I have found myself questioning myself, leadership, and at times, my calling.

Emotional Process

We see that one of the key concepts of understanding leadership focuses on the idea of emotional process. We see in the family, church, and institutions there is a certain environment and a way of operating in that culture. We see that there can be many subcultures in that culture as well. It is important that we are aware of these cultures, but mostly as Christian leaders what the Holy Spirit is doing in that culture and partner with that.

Leaders Presence

This is one of my main goals as a leader to be more present. To be more present in the moment, conversations, and relationally. To truly be a pastor. I believe this is an area where my Identity Gift works against my calling as a pastor. Worse, combined with a little bit of dopamine my desk turns into a command center and I become task oriented and accomplish driven, instead of fulfilling my calling as a pastor and being present in the moment of those I lead.

Over the weekend, I prayed and asked the Lord for help as I wanted to recenter myself on Him. I felt my life and responsibilities were going faster than I could keep up with, I just wanted to simplify again. I had allowed myself to get too busy again. The Lord gave me a song called Deliverance (Live) from Gateway Worship from the Greater Than album. As I listened to this album, I began to cry, I began to worship, I began to “declare that Jesus is my deliverer.” As I sang this song and declared these words, my emotions and thoughts focused on Him. My deliverer.

Personal Application

My goal through this program, is that upon graduation I am a well differentiated leader. Therefore His love for me can defeat the anxiety I have in a hostile situation of high emotions, hight anxiety where I do not react emotionally but respond with Living Water and cool the fire in that person.


In conclusion, Friedman’s book is a treasure chest full of gold. Often we just need to stop and pray and ask the Holy Spirit for a key to open the treasure chest to see the gold inside of someone. Too often we see the outside of the treasure chest and do not place value in things that do not catch our immediate attention. We want the quick fix, instead of being willing to go through the process. This is where tempering as a leader is so important. We see the process in Tempered Resilience by Tod Bolsinger is so important.[3]

[1] Freidman, Edwin H.A. Failure of Nerve, 2017

[2] Tom Camacho, Mining for God: Developing Kingdom Leaders through Coaching (LaVergne: IVP, 2019)

[3] Bolsinger, Tod. 2020. Tempered Resilience. Intervarsity Press.

About the Author


Greg McMullen

Pastor Greg resides in Lake Stevens WA and pastors a small rural church in the Machias area . The Well Church has a large food ministry in which many different cultures come each week to gather food and counsel. The Church has a small school that is bearing good fruit. Pastor Greg has a large family of 10 children and enjoys fishing and hiking.

8 responses to “Turning Failure Into Success”

  1. mm David Beavis says:

    Hey Greg, I am glad you touched on the importance of a leader’s “presence.” In Friedmans work, he contends that the leader’s presence of maturity (hopefully) can mitigate the immaturity environment that lack self-differentiation. How is this playing out in your work of people present with your people? This is certainly a delicate balance of maintaining self-differentiation and maturity without succumbing to the emotionally regressed maturity of one’s environment.

  2. David,
    Bless you my friend. YesI agree, it’s certainly a good balance of being filled by God to give living water to others. Once the spiritual tank runs dry a pastor/leader is in a vulnerable place.

    As with my NPO the importance of practicing Sabbath, I am developing a creed to help guide myself and our ministries to have boundaries. I am thankful that many resources and government agencies have reopened their doors to the public and we are able to start focusing on being a church again.

    The last 30 months this has been difficult, however the last couple months I have seen improvement in our church. I have seen less anxiety and fear where people are using their faith and hope in Jesus Christ.

    The most growth we see is in our school, youth, young adults and those who attend services 2+ times a week. We are now doing a Sunday night teaching on the identity gifts and strongholds. I am hoping by the end of the teaching this will help bring the church body back into a healthy body as Paul refers to in Ephesians.

    Please let me know if you have anymore questions. Bless you my friend.

  3. Michael O'Neill says:

    Awesome post, Greg. I agree with you and also pray that I am a well-differentiated leader when I graduate. I have noticed a change in me for years and the books and people in this program have helped mold me into a new type of leader that feels more like Christ than my previous style.

    I like that you mentioned being more present. I also did some coaching this week and it seemed to me that I was applying my own pressure and I need to be in the moment more. Listen more. Be still. This is difficult with a fast world and a million things going on but it’s important. Thanks for your leadership and thoughts on the subject.

  4. Michael,
    I appreciate your encouragement and transparency. Sometimes with being a husband and father we take on a great deal of responsibility. In bible college, I had a renewed love for the Gospels and the “Jesus Model” of ministry. It helped me focus more on the spirit of sonship and letting the Father love and help me. For some reason I still slip in to old ways of striving to make things happen.

    Bless your brother. You are a champion of people.

    God is Able!

  5. Jenny Steinbrenner Hale says:

    Greg, Thank you for your post! I love how you wove together so many different thoughts from the authors we have read. When you are bringing together various books and using them to enrich each other’s messages, do you rely on notes from the various books you have taken or are you remembering the insights and pulling them together from memory? I, too, so appreciate the ways we are learning from each other and would like to get better at weaving together our various readings, as you have done.

    Thanks for your thoughts!

  6. Jenny,

    Thank you for your compliment. The Lord has blessed me with a prophetic gifting that allows me to see and make connections. I am thankful for the anointing and spiritual gifts that help me minister.

  7. Alana Hayes says:


    Tell me more about your coaching now that you have had a bit to process…. How can you use Friedman’s work to continue to break that down for you?

  8. Alana,

    I had someone recently say to me that it easier to raise a dead person back to life than to change a poor person’s thinking.

    With Friedman and having some coaching done, the Lord has really gave me freedom in having stronger boundaries. I offer help to people and willing to walk it with them, but they still have to do the work to change.

    With Friedman, to not react emotionally, especially change everything in a crises. To help guide them growing rather than enabling poor behavior and poor choices.

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