It happened at the gym. I had just hopped on an exercise bike, started moving the pedals and began to read the next book from my Doctor of Ministry reading list. The book was Leadership Pain by Samuel R. Chand. Now, even though this book had a name that was attractional as “How to Make Staff Meetings Longer,” I was excited to read this book because of the author. I had read Dr. Chand’s book Cracking Your Church’s Culture Code a few years ago, a book I really enjoyed and was looking forward to reading his newest book.
As I began to read, I stopped pedaling. These words lept off of the page…
Growth = Change
Change = Loss
Loss = Pain
Growth = Pain
Something rang true in my heart as I read this simple logic proof. I have been serving in ministry around 30 years. Over these three decades, I have had a lot of “mountain top” experiences. Similarly, I have had times that I could not think straight because of a conflict in the ministry.
Conflict has a way of sapping my energy. Over the years, there have been times that I have faced conflict with church members or staff members. During these times of conflict, I find myself off balance. I disparately want to find that magic remedy to make all things better. I reflected on some of these times in my past as I read Leadership Pain.
In serving in youth ministry, I always felt pain when kids in my ministry left to attend another church… or worse, when entire families left. Youth ministry often follows the “edutainment” principle. Youth groups that have free pizza, bounce houses, or video game tournaments every week tend to attract kids from the community…and other churches. I always grieved when I heard that one of the teens in my ministry decided to attend another church in town.
The book Leadership Pain does not talk about what to do IF you face challenges in ministry. The book is about how you grow WHEN you face challenges in ministry. Dr. Chand assumes that pain in ministry is normal. He used the analogy of a professional athlete. Those athletes who have the tenacity to play well even when injured are the champions of their sport.
The book lays out a huge challenge to church leaders. Another sentence that leaped off of the page when I read it was “You’ll grow only to the threshold of your pain” (Chand, 15). That really caused me to think. “What is the threshold of my pain?” How much pain am I willing to endure to be able to grow my ministry.
This book reminded me of a phrase I once heard. I am I respected once referred to another pastor and said “He will only grow his church to as many people that he can be involved with personally. In other words, this pastor wanted a quality, personal relationship with everyone in the church. This fact will determine the size of the church. In the same way, some pastors only lead until they hit a wall of conflict. They are then thrust into a different world. Former supporters become critics. Some church leaders seek to do whatever it takes to go back to the status quo of peace, even if it means a willing decision to avoid changes that are necessary for growth.
Leadership Pain is filled with intriguing stories by a variety of church leaders. While these are all intriguing, not was as inspiring as the story told by the author. Sam Chand came from India to story at a Christian college in Georgia. While a student at this college, Sam, and a girl began to like one another. The college responding by making serious, guilt-inducing threats to both of them. It was brutal and overtly racist. Yet, Sam and the woman who eventually became his wife did not let this opposition destroy them. I was amazed to read that ten years after graduation, Dr. Chand returned to the college as the President of the school. As I read this story, I detected a refreshing lack of bitterness. Through this painful experience of being a victim of racial prejudice, Sam developed both a toughness and a sweetness. The gospel of Christ was on display as he made peace with one of the Deans who had been so hateful.
This book is highly practical. While the first few chapters help the reader to understand the symbiotic relationship between leadership and pain, the book moves on to give the reader a lot of practical help in facing challenges. Lessons that can be learned from painful experiences are explained. The pyridoxal value of being both a bold leader and a humble leader was something that echoed what I had read in Jim Collin’s book Good to Great last year. And the value of surrounding yourself with quality friends is also highlighted.
Leadership Pain approaches life in a very different way than Dr. Norman Vincent Peale or Joel Osteen. It is a tough book with the hope of developing leaders who can walk THROUGH the valley of the shadow of death, not AROUND it.
Samuel Chand, Leadership Pain: The Classroom for Growth, (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2015)