(This post is raw and has not been edited for errors.)
Life is hard without being a leader.
I often say that when I was a kid all I wanted to be was an adult. I didn’t know my single mother paid car payments or premiums. I just rode in the backseat. I didn’t know she paid for health insurance or co-pays. When I was sick she just took me to the doctor and I got better. Adulthood, I thought, would be GREAT!
After this past week, I wish I was a kid again. While my life is completely and totally what I have made it and I love who I am and what I do, I think the first week of June, 2011 was the lowest week I ever had as a leader.
Life at home, thankfully, is great. Professionally, it’s been brutal.
I wanted to blog about the brutality that has been my life this past week for 3 reasons.
1. Most leaders only blog (and brag) about the success. So much so that it gives the impression that success is normal, regular, and consistent. It’s not. It comes and goes. When leaders don’t blog about both sides of life new leaders and followers think something is wrong with them when life doesn’t feel like that.
2. I’ve learned some painful and valuable lessons that I think are only learned after being beat down and squeezed a lemon then picked up and squeezed some more….then drop-kicked.
3. My wife said it’d be a good idea. She’s rarely wrong about these things 🙂
So, here goes… (get ready, it’s ugly)
When I announced that Courageous Church was making a huge shift in how we practice and encourage Christianity, I was keenly aware that the ish could really hit the fan. Before I ever announced this, I held many very contentious, stressful, knock-down, drag out, closed door meetings about this transition. We did this for months.
My suggestion was always that if the idea could withstand intense scrutiny and survive those meetings, we’d make it. Not one leader left during that time. I was shocked. We fasted. We prayed. We read the Bible together. We came out on the other end of the conversation on the same page, but…and this is a huge but…
The idea was still just an idea. It had not been enacted yet.
It has now and this is what I want to share with you.
Since putting in place this idea that I believe in with all of my heart…since putting in place this idea that I think honors scripture and looks more like the life Jesus lived than anything we’ve ever done….since going in the direction that I have felt more confident that God was directing me than any single thing I’ve done since launching the church itself….
Since we stepped out to do this, some of the hell that I expected to break loose did and some hell that I didn’t expect to break loose did too. Hear my heart…it takes a lot to get me down. I’ve been so far down in life that what equates down for me is a whole different level of down. A few days ago I got under my covers @ 6pm and didn’t get out until the next day. That’s what this has done.
It’s been messy. It’s been brutally messy. And to be clear, my own weaknesses and deficiencies as a leader have gotten in the way.
I think the worst pain is over. Losing key leaders in a church (or any organization) is very painful and, in spite of folk suggesting it shouldn’t be, it’s also very personal. When you lead a church, you lead with your heart wide open and it makes us all very vulnerable in so many ways.
So, let me tell you the lessons I have learned. I don’t think I could have learned them any other way and that is one of the few positive things I can squeeze out of where I am right now.
1. Knowing that times will get tough and that you will face spiritual warfare is totally different than actually being in the storm. Seeing on TV that a tornado is coming and actually experiencing it are so different that they’re not even in the same ballpark. No matter how much you prepare, a storm is going to tear stuff up, but I can honestly say that I didn’t take enough time in prayer and consulting wise leaders to storm proof my life. Now I know.
2. When you firmly believe that a decision is from God or honors God and making it begins to cost you leaders and resources, resisting the urge to buckle, give up, or throw in the towel is much harder than I expected. I am a determined dude. Not once since launching Courageous Church had I EVER thought about quitting. Not once. For the first time this past week, I considered throwing in the towel. It’s just that hard. I read Craig Groeschel state that, early in the history of LifeChurch, he once made a decision that cost him half of the church and that he set up brochures and fliers from other churches so people knew they had good options. That’s where I am right now and it just feels harder than it seemed in Craig’s blog because experiencing it is not reading it.
3. When grown folk make up in their mind that they no longer want to be a part of your church, take their word for it. One of my favorite guys in life and at our church told me that he just didn’t believe in the direction that I was taking the church. I love this guy. I don’t want him to leave because I love him. However, how can I have someone that sincerely doesn’t believe in the church lead it? It doesn’t work that way. Everything in me wanted to beg him to stay, but it would be a mistake for him and for our church for me to do so.
4. Spiritual leadership (particularly in tough times) requires real spiritual practices in place. I must pray more and study scripture more. This week has hit me so hard that I barely had enough spiritual strength to endure it. I have to be stronger in healthy times so that I can endure the unhealthy times.
5. Flexibility still has to exist! In our transition, I have communicated to everyone that I am open to changing, adjusting, tinkering, or overhauling anything we’re doing that is not working. I am not a my way or the highway type of dude and will not hold on to broken ideas. However, our transition as a church will take many months and up to 3 years to feel normal. I have to remind people of this often.
I have many more lessons to share, but have to pick the kids up from camp. Please pray for me, for Courageous Church, for those families that are leaving, and for our future. I believe in it now more than ever.