Samuel Chand’s book, Leadership Pain: The Classroom for Growth, has a distinctively prosperity-gospel flavour to it, which made it difficult for me to connect with his take on the relationship between leadership and pain. He rightly observes that within the USAmerican culture, “Christians often have more difficulty handling personal pain than unbelievers. They look at the promises of God and conclude that God should fill their lives with joy, love, support, and success.” Chand explains that this perspective comes from a selective reading of scripture, but despite this observation, most of the testimonies that Chand included in his book describe “painful experiences” that are rooted in first-world problems such as building campaigns, church growth, and financial challenges.
Bigger buildings: Bishop Thomas writes, “It was abundantly clear that it was time to move to another site.” When a church is busting at the seams, why is the “abundantly clear” response to build a bigger building? Church buildings have become a type of status symbol in the Christian world. I shutter to think how much money evangelical Christians have poured into building projects. The dollar amounts mentioned in this book alone are shocking. Some might say scandalous. Many pastors suffered painful experiences as the result of a building campagin, but few seemed to have any remorse over having initiated those projects in the first place. Where is the discussion about the pain that comes from regret? Where is the pain that comes from repenting, and admitting that ego might have been driving the bus?
And when there is truly need for a larger space, why not build collaborations with schools or businesses in order to capitalize on existing structures and create shared spaces. Those typse of partnership require compromise and commitments that come with their own kind of pain–the pain of letting some dreams die. The pain of letting go of status symbols or finding our identity in preceived success.
Growing numbers: “Leaders of large organizations have proven they can handle more pain.” The insinuation is that if your organization is small, you have not proven that you can handle pain. Chand even offers a discussion on how to navigate growth and break through what he calls “growth barriers,” using an analogy of a ladder. The ladder represents the leader’s vision, and the higher the ladder, the more people are needed at the bottom to stabilize the ladder in order to “take you and your church to the next level.” But in my opinion, the pain of getting higher up the ladder is nothing compared to the pain of having the ladder collapse underneath you altogether, even though you did everything just as God asked. Chand doesn’t talk about what to do when you find yourself there.
Second, Chand goes on to explain how pastors should structure their staff (firing and hiring) in order to get their church to the “next level”—for which the only measurement is the number of members. But he never questions whether or not the vision (the ladder itself) might be the problem. The assumption is that a vision for a bigger church is always right, holy, and good. I’m not so sure. Current trends in the US tell us that the day of the mega-church is drawing to a close. Bigger might not be better.
Maybe it’s time to talk about multiplying small ladders and broadly distributed leadership as a pattern for growth instead of bigger individual ladders. Consider the human body. Growth is healthy up until a certain age. But eventually, if a person keeps putting on weight, they are becoming unhealthy. The only healthy way to continue to “grow” biologically is through reproduction. What if the “growth barriers” represent a moment in the church where the body should cease to grow and instead focus on reproduction? What if the leader is meant to share her authority more broadly, to let go of control and even reduce her own visibility and impact so that the Gospel might go further. Chand doesn’t talk of the pain of surrender and release.
In addition, much church growth in the United States is transfer growth rather than conversion-based growth. In other words, churches aren’t growing because more people are coming to faith, but because Christians are switching churches. “Much of transfer growth has been the result of the consumer mentality creeping into churches. Many Christians have become church hoppers and shoppers to find the right church that meets their needs and preferences.”.
Financial Challenges: When Chand and his wife applied for food stamps, and the social worker ended up being a woman from his church, Chand laments, “A private urgent need made us a public spectacle.” While I can sympathize with the financial strain that many ministers experience, I’m frustrated by the insinuation that his need to apply for food stamps made him a “public spectacle.” Were there not others in his church in the same boat? Why should this be a cause for shame? It’s no crime to be poor, in fact, in the Kingdom of Christ, the poor are to be honoured. Again, this reveals the perspective of a culture that equates financial stability with success, and poverty with failure. Where is the compassion for the poor? Is this not, too, a pain that leaders are called to bear?
While I agree with his thesis—that we need to “make friends with our pain” rather than stuff or ignore it, the overarching focus on buildings, numbers, and money made Chand’s book seem shallow to me. I’m not dismissing or belittling the pain that comes with these challenges, but I am concerned that Chand fails to bring the reader to the place of understanding a theology of suffering. Leadership Pain misses the mark, and would have benefitted from more examples like that of Scott Wilson. He was one of the few leaders who, after having exaggerated the numbers when asked about his church attendance, admits feeling convicted. Wilson writes, “My motive was a toxic blend of fear and pride.” Wilson goes back to the people to whom he lied and confesses. He tells them the truth and asks for forgiveness. Humbling oneself like that…that HURTS. But that’s the kind of leadership pain that leads to transformation.
Which brings me to my porject. Missionaries adapting to the field go through a painful grief process. There’s the surface grief, which includes loss of language, loss of friends, and loss of comfort. And then there’s the deeper grief, which includes loss of identity and loss of control. It’s one thing to fight through and learn a new language and make new friends and set up house. It’s an entirely different thing to do what Paul suggests in Philippians 2, to empty oneself and make oneself nothing. To lay down our rights and sacrifice our agendas in order to fully submit to the work of Christ. This isn’t the type of pain that comes from one’s own sinful actions or even the sinful actions of others. This is the type of pain that comes from dying to oneself that Christ might increase in us. This is the type of pain that Chand chose to ignore.
 Chand, Leadership Pain: The Classroom for Growth (Harpercollins Christian Pub, 2015).11.
 Chand. 88.
 Chand. 32.
 Chand. 95.
 Samuel Smith, CP Reporter | Dec 3, and 2015 11:57 Am, “Megachurches Seeing Drop in Weekly Attendance, Study Finds,” accessed April 13, 2018, https://www.christianpost.com/news/megachurches-growing-face-declining-weekly-attendance-protestant-church-151570/.
 “Eleven Observations about Church Transfer Growth,” ThomRainer.com, August 9, 2014, https://thomrainer.com/2014/08/eleven-observations-church-transfer-growth/.
 Chand, Ln – Leadership Pain. 37.
 Chand. 152.