The pain and trauma of this world are not unfamiliar to the Christmas story… Baby Jesus was entering a battle zone full of oppression, sickness, and death—not a world filled with mistletoe, gingerbread houses, and holiday parties. Jesus came, in the midst of all this, to eradicate death, free the oppressed, and fill us with unspeakable joy. This is the fullness of what it means to “save his people from their sins.”
The Christmas story we know from popular culture can be so sanitized that perhaps the ideas of sickness, isolation, and hopelessness sound foreign to you—perhaps even sacrilegious for the Advent season. But Jesus chose to be born into a broken world and to take on our pain in order to make us whole. Leaders who come near to the pain of those they lead will find they are emulating Jesus.
Yesterday, I shared honestly about the painful irony of my family experiencing so much hardship and heartache over Thanksgiving week. How did Jesus have so much joy amidst his own tremendous suffering?… How can I find joy amidst the reality of the presence of pain? I choose to believe that the writer of Hebrews was hinting at Jesus’s bigger vision of the cross. Yes, the cross was real pain and suffering, but it was also real redemption and hope.
I want to “get in the spirit” of this Thanksgiving season, but there’s just so much bad news that it’s just harder for me this year… As our churches prepare for Advent, I can’t help but think of the name, “Immanuel.” God with us. God in our skin. The Suffering Servant. So I will consider him this Thanksgiving week and trust that gratitude will find its way out of my broken heart and toward my lips in due time.
When you focus on a few, there are going to be some who are disappointed that they weren’t chosen. But good leadership isn’t driven by pleasing people… If we study Jesus’s leadership, we will see that his investment in a few key people was a core strategy for his short three-year ministry.
Why does [Jesus] leave when there is so much momentum in Capernaum? At the very start of Jesus’s ministry, he is disappointing followers by not doing what they want and not meeting legitimate needs… Apparently the greatest leader to ever walk planet Earth understood that fulfilling his calling perfectly would leave many people disappointed.
Leaders do not only regularly disappoint those we lead, we can also disappoint ourselves. When we don’t hit benchmarks, when we let down a parishioner, or when we fail to reach a goal, we not only have to contend with the swarm of people disappointed in our leadership but also with our own self-criticism. Often, we are our own worst critics.
In my twenty-plus years as a leader in the non-profit sector, I’ve found that much of leadership involves disappointing people. When I got into church leadership, I assumed I would spend the majority of my time inspiring people with my vision, comforting people with my pastoral skills, and instilling God’s Word through my preaching. Little did I know that in every one of those areas (and more) I would disappoint people.
I believe God values coherence (integrity) of his followers as they express God’s goodness in their work and lives. The most logical thing for the Christian is for their leadership to express love for God and love for others, leading to a joyful life that is deeply coherent.
This past summer, my church blessed me with a sabbatical, which allowed me to rest, study, and prepare to lead my church with renewed energy and purpose… One of the books I committed to reading during my sabbatical was Dave Evans and Bill Burnett’s Designing Your Life, which challenged me to reflect on my workview and lifeview.