DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Growing Pains and an asterisk: a post in two acts

Written by: on March 8, 2018

This week we read the book Leadership Pain: The Classroom for Growth by Samuel Chand.  I initially misread the title as Leadership PLAN which lead to a few minutes of confusion, to be sure, but really wouldn’t have been that far off.  Chand is essentially proposing that to lead is to experience pain and, in fact, your capacity to lead will in large part be determined by your capacity to endure and persevere through pain.

I once heard author and pastor Mark Batterson say that your potential to do things for the kingdom of God is only limited by your purity (not so much in the legalistic sense, but in terms of giving everything over to God and allowing the Spirit to refine you – a painful process)I heard him say this at a leadership conference, but this article hits his point .   Chand would add to Batterson’s thesis statement that your potential for leadership is limited by your threshold for ‘leadership pain’ (Chand, pg.3) as well.

The idea is not to become a masochist and seek out pain, but rather to recognize that change and leadership  – even good leadership that is leading towards good change – will bring with it an element of pain.  This is why Chand says:

It’s inevitable , inescapable . By its very nature , leadership produces change , and change — even wonderful growth and progress — always involves at least a measure of confusion , loss , and resistance . To put it the other way : leadership that doesn’t produce pain is either in a short season of unusual blessing or it isn’t really making a difference .

So , Growth = Change

Change = Loss

Loss = Pain

Thus , Growth = Pain  (Chand, pg. 5)

Since, then, growth will lead to pain and leadership will lead to pain, pain is both inescapable and necessary.  In other words, if you aren’t experiencing pain, are you growing?  If you aren’t experiencing pain, are you leading?  The short answer is no.

With this in mind, it strikes me that one of our primary concerns should be to ensure that all of the pain that we endure as leaders and our churches and organizations endure is necessary, that it is the ‘right’ kind of pain, that the pains are, in fact, growing pains and not simply self-inflicted wounds.

Chand states that he hopes those reading the book will have the courage to do three things: See pain as the greatest teacher; Let your vision lead you; and most importantly for this point, have a rigorous personal development plan.  (Chand, pg. 19).  Having a plan – and a goal – for how we will develop and grow as leaders, is a critical piece of minimizing the ‘unnecessary’ pain that we might experience as we grow and as we seek to lead.  . . . . . .(I wonder if we should consider doing something like this as part of our program?  Hmmmm? 🙂  )

A starting point for any good leadership plan, then, might simply be the acknowledgement of the pain to come and the acceptance that leadership pain should not act as a deterrent to the work that God has called us to, but might actually be an indication that we are right where we should be, doing what we should be doing.

In the title of this post I said it would be a post in two acts.  Here begins, ‘act 2’, which is really just a footnote that is a little too long, and maybe a little too important to be left to the small print.

While I really enjoyed this book and appreciated the frank and honest discussion of the sacrifices and, well – pain, that comes with the call of leadership, as I read story after story at the beginning of each chapter, there was something that didn’t quite sit right with me in reading many of them.  To be clear, I enjoyed these stories and found valuable insight in many of them.

At the same time, there were many references to leaders that ‘worked against me’ and the like.  Again, I am very aware of the reality – and regularity with which these things occur and how painful that can be.  However, as Christian leaders the goal, the vision and the work is never to be about us – or our leadership.  The focus should always be on Jesus and whatever good comes in and through us is the work of God’s Holy Spirit at work.  Because of that, much of the tone of these stories didn’t quite sit right with me.

Again, there are plenty of times where this is exactly what is happening (someone betraying or undermining a leader through no fault of the leader), but there are also many times that the talk of loyalty and ‘working against me’ is completely misplaced and has more to do with the leaders ego and not the vision or call of God.

Chand does hint at this issue, saying:

To be fair, betrayal isn’t always a one- sided affair. Certainly, Jesus was completely innocent, and his betrayal was completely unfair, but none of us is as pure. Leaders who are insecure often demand a level of loyalty that isn’t healthy for the leader or the followers. When anyone questions him (too often or too loudly), he may react with feelings of betrayal that aren’t based in reality. In times of intense criticism, factions, and betrayal, leaders need an objective, wise friend, coach, or consultant to help them navigate the turbulent and murky waters. They need to admit their part in the conflict, even if it’s a small part. Assigning appropriate responsibility is important in any disagreement, and especially as the conflict threatens to escalate. (Chand, pg. 40)

I appreciate that Chand addresses this, and I don’t think he is simply giving lip service to the issue, but at the same time, in so many of those stories I heard the echoes of insecurity and a little bit of a ‘messiah complex’.  Self-awareness and humility are two critical traits for a leader and, in my experience at least, properly applied they go a long way towards limiting the unnecessary pain for both the leader and the organization.

About the Author


Chip Stapleton

Follower of Jesus Christ. Husband to Traci. Dad to Charlie, Jack, Ian and Henry. Preacher of Sermons, eater of ice cream, supporter of Arsenal. I love to talk about what God is doing in the world & in and through us & create space and opportunity for others to use their gifts to serve God and God's people.