Leadership Burdens – John Stumbo Video Blog No. 107

John offers some perspective—and encouragement— about this odd, burdensome season of leadership many leaders find themselves in.

I don’t know if there’s ever an easy time to be a leader, but this moment in time is particularly difficult. Would you not agree? I wanna bring a word of encouragement today to those of us who are in leadership. It’s such a privilege to be part of The Christian and Missionary Alliance family. Thank you for the way that you have engaged in GC Day.

Many of you have personally given or called your church to participate. The result has been strong so far, but we need a good finish so that we would end our fiscal year well. If you’ve not yet contributed personally or called your church to join us for GC Day, would you please do that by the end of June so that we can be present in the vast and varied places that God has sent the Alliance family. Some of us are uniquely feeling the burden of leadership right now. And so, I come to you today, leader to leader, to honestly acknowledge some of these burdens, to give some vocabulary, perhaps, to what you’re experiencing, and I trust, some perspective as we move forward.

Everyone in leadership feels burdened in some way, shape, or form at any given time, but the leadership burden is neither singular nor felt uniformly. What I mean by that is it helps us as leaders to be able to identify, specifically, what burden we’re feeling and what hits us most acutely. Let me give you a list. It’s not comprehensive, but I do feel it’s significant. There is the leadership burden of complexity. It’s the feeling of, “I can’t figure all this out.” Someone else already solved all the easy issues, but the complicated ones have come to your desk or your inbox. And the resulting burden is this weight, this heaviness of, “I can’t solve this.” Another one-the burden of quantity. It’s the “I can’t do all of this” kind of feeling. A bad metaphor for me to introduce is that a bulldozer is coming towards you with a mass of material, and you’ve got a shovel, and you’re just trying to keep up with all this, and ,”I can’t keep up! I can’t keep up! I’m just burdened.”

God has a better metaphor for you if you seek Him for it. But it’s the burden of quantity. There’s the burden of confidentiality. Some issues are so sensitive, difficult, or undeveloped, and you don’t know who to share them with. There is a loneliness to leadership, and some of the loneliness comes through, “I don’t know who to talk to. I’m alone in this right now.” Well, you’re not as alone as you think you are, but that is another one of the weights that some of us feel. There’s the burden of conflict. Nothing is more draining for me personally than interpersonal conflict that I experience. It’s the “My energies are being zapped from me right now” kind of burden.

I grieve with you, Alliance leader, for the people that have walked out of your life, walked out of your church, over what seems to have been the silliest of issues. You journeyed with them. You ministered with them. You discipled them. You prayed with them. And now they’re gone, and it hurts. There’s the burden of chemistry. “I’m not sure that I’m the right one for this.” “I’m not sure I’m suited for this.” “I’m not sure I’m properly placed for this.” When I was just starting out in the pastorate, I felt this strongly. I, looking back, realized that what was happening was that in my first pastorate, I was trying to do what I had watched my dad do, who was 50 years in the ministry by the time I was starting out. I was comparing myself to him and tried to do what he did, ’cause I had watched him be a pastor, and he was a really good pastor. But I didn’t know if I fit because I hadn’t figured out how I could live out my personality in my role. And so, for some, if you’re feeling the burden of, “I don’t know if I even belong here,” it may be a hard conversation with your district superintendent, “Am I mismatched for my role?” or your supervising leader in your church, “Am I placed in the right position?” ’cause you’re not sure if you’re ever gonna thrive. Even if ever all the circumstances were good, if your soul is still being dissatisfied, maybe you are in the wrong spot, but identifying the specificity of that. But maybe you’re in exactly the right spot; you just haven’t been released yet and given permission yet to be a Holy Spirit-filled form of you in that role.

One more. There’s the burden of the cost. The “Is this even worth it?” burden. We live in a strange moment of time when the whole financial situation in America is such that certain professions have just escalated in how much they’re getting paid. And some of us have thought, “I could double my salary if I just became an over-the-road trucker.” And, “Is this even worth it, what I’m doing?” Well, let me remind us that we didn’t get into this for money, and it’s not money that’s gonna keep us into it. We got into this because of a call that came upon our lives to serve Christ through His Church. But money aside, some of us are asking that cost question: “Is it even worth it?”

In my second pastorate, I remember leaving the church one Sunday. That was a particularly difficult day. And I said to myself, “There has to be an easier way to make a living.” If we’re looking for ease, we shouldn’t have signed up for this in the first place. But it’s okay, permission granted, to feel that burden and to process it. So, I’ve given us this handful of specific weights that some of us might be experiencing at a time in hopes that if we could give language to this burden that we feel, so it’s not just this generic thing, this weightiness that I don’t know what to do with, but we give some specificity that, “Here’s what I think I’m actually processing,” that helps us in conversation with others and in prayers of the Lord to do a better job of engaging with it and knowing how to address it. It also gives us the opportunity to come back to the Christ who said this: “My burden is easy. My yoke is light.” Jesus said that we will carry a yoke, that we will feel a burden, but that it should have a lightness to it, that the heaviness is on His side of the yoke. And if you look at what you’re currently experiencing right now and honestly say, “This is not sustainable. Something is going to give. Either I’m gonna break down, have some sort of blowout in my life, or I’m just gonna walk away because I can’t handle it,” I wanna come to us and appeal to us, my friend.

Before we go to the extremes, let’s come to the Christ and say, “Lord, here’s what I’m feeling right now. Here’s what I’m experiencing. And am I taking a yoke that’s not mine to take? Am I carrying a burden that’s not mine to carry?” So, let me come back to a couple of the specifics that I mentioned-the burden of complexity: “I just can’t figure this out.” Friend, be released. Maybe you’re not supposed to. You have a mental image of leader as fixer, as leader as problem solver. And once in a while, it works, but much of the time, it doesn’t. And maybe your mental image should not be leader as fixer, “I’m the one to solve this,” but leader as Sherpa, leader as the one who’s leading the way through the journey, who’s being led by the Spirit in the process to state the essential and the obvious. But it’s not yours to solve; it’s yours to lead your flock, lead your congregation, through this mysterious place, to journey with them. Because we all know that sometimes the greatest growth in the life of the person, in the life of the Church, is not getting quickly to a solution but it’s who we become in the process of getting to some place of resolve. Be released, somebody, from needing to be the one who solves the problem, but walk with your people in the process.

Or let me come back to the burden of quantity: “I can’t keep up with all this. I can’t do all this.” Again, maybe somebody needs to hear the word: Be released. You’re not supposed to do it all. Yes, it is coming to your desk, but that doesn’t mean that you are the one to address everything, to do everything, to find the joy of coming to a leadership team and humbly admitting, “I’m being overwhelmed. What are the things that are essential for me to do? And what are the things that I’m free to say no to? And what are the things that we shouldn’t be doing at all? And what are the things that we should be doing but are not mine to lead or to own?” Quantity of work can become a great conversation starter with your leadership team. For the burdens of confidentiality, conflict, and chemistry, could I argue that this might be a moment in time that you need to more fully engage with your district leadership, to invite them into the conversation? Don’t walk through conflict with your board alone. You don’t have to carry so many of these burdens by yourself. But there’s many district leaders who would welcome the invitation to be brought into your soul journey or your church’s journey.

And so, reach out and engage please. Finally, the burden of the cost. There is a price. There’s always been a price to be paid for leadership, but doesn’t it take us back to our calling and the One who called us? And He called us to serve Him, to love Him by serving and loving His Church. And is it not worth it? The Bride of Christ, the eternal plan of God, the God story that He’s writing through all eternity, is there anything more worthy of our efforts, our energies, our life, our passion, to join God in His great story? So, is it worth it? Yes. Is it easy? No. The easiest things in life have little outcome, little significance, little meaning, little lasting value, but you have committed yourself to something of greatest significance. Carry on, my brother and sister, because this matters, and He walks with us.