Leadership Pain: The Classroom for Growth

Leadership Pain: The Classroom for Growth

by Samuel Chand


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780718031596
Publisher: Nelson, Thomas, Inc.
Publication date: 04/07/2015
Pages: 224
Sales rank: 351,284
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Who would have thought, when in 1973 student Dr. Sam Chand was serving Beulah Heights Bible College as janitor, cook, and dishwasher, that he would return in 1989 as president of the same college! Under his leadership it became the country's largest predominantly African-American Bible College.

In this season of his life, Dr. Sam Chand does one thing—leadership. His singular vision for his life is to be a Dream Releaser—to help others succeed.

As a Dream Releaser he serves pastors, ministries, and businesses as a Leadership Architect and Change Strategist. Dr. Sam Chand speaks regularly at leadership conferences, churches, corporations, ministerial conferences, seminars, and other leadership development opportunities.

Read an Excerpt

Leadership Pain

The Classroom for Growth

By Samuel R. Chand

Thomas Nelson

Copyright © 2015 Samuel R. Chand
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-7180-3159-6



We must embrace pain and burn it as fuel for our journey.

—Kenji Miyazawa

Craig Groeschel, Founder and Senior Pastor of LifeChurch.tv, Edmond, Oklahoma

Before we started LifeChurch.tv back in 1996, one of my ministry role models told me that he had one and only one promise for me. I remember thinking that he was going to promise something encouraging like, "God would do more through me than I thought possible." Hanging on his every word, I waited eagerly for his promise of good news. Pausing, as if for dramatic effect, my mentor said slowly and soberly, "The only thing I can guarantee is that God is going to ... break you."


That's not what I wanted to hear. But his words could not have been any more true.

Over the course of the next dozen or so months, God started to do a deep work in my soul. It wasn't a work resulting from time in his word or time in prayer. It was a work stemming from pain, heartache, disappointment, and betrayal.

So much of the pain we experienced as a church could have been spared if I had been a better leader. But at the young age of 28, I specialized in making easy things more difficult. For starters, I panicked and hired staff members I shouldn't have hired. Within a year, I had to replace almost every staff member I brought on, along with most of our key volunteers. If you have ever fired anyone, you know the pain of looking into the eyes of someone you care about and telling them that they can no longer be employed. I can't even remember how many tears I shed and how often I couldn't hold my dinner down because of the agony involved with removing people I loved from their ministry roles.

Another great blow came right after we launched our new small group ministry. With just over 100 people coming to our church, we were thrilled to start some groups to help people grow spiritually and develop deeper relationships with one another. One particular group exploded with growth to 30 or more people each week. The leader was a close friend of mine, but our theology differed in one important area. I asked him not to teach on that subject, but he continued to teach on that very topic week after week. Because I believed what he was teaching was dangerous, I pleaded with him to stop. He shocked me by saying he'd just take his group and start his own church. We weren't even one year old and experienced what resembled a church spilt. People chose sides. Many people got caught in the crossfire. And our small startup church hit an unexpected landmine that left me reeling. Losing the people that helped us start the church was a big blow. Losing the friendship was even more difficult.

But nothing compares to losing my mentor in ministry. To respect the family, I won't go into the details. There are parts of this story that no one knows but my friend, my wife, and me. And we will keep it that way as long as we live. My mentor and best friend was one of the most amazing men of God I knew. Unfortunately he struggled with depression, and he was tormented by the sins from his past. When I had to confront my hero over something he needed to deal with, the encounter went sour. After exploding at me, he charged out of the room and said things I'm sure he wished he hadn't said.

I assumed we'd have a chance to iron things out. But that chance never came. His wife called me days later in sheer panic explaining that she found her husband dead, hanging from a rope tied around a beam in his garage. A few days later, burdened by things I could never reveal about his struggles, I officiated the funeral of my best friend and mentor.

That event changed my life forever.

The promise that God would break me was true. I started out confident, bold, and full of faith. One year into our church plant I wondered how much longer I could continue. If leading a church was always going to be this difficult, I didn't know if I had what it took to be a pastor.

Some time later, I was at a pastor's conference, still spiritually bleeding from the recent wounds. Sitting on the second row, I cried all the way through a talk given by Dr. Sam Chand. He explained that the best leaders had to endure more pain. And many people could never have more influence because they didn't have a big enough leadership pain threshold. Dr. Chand explained, "If you are not hurting, you are not leading." And that's when I started to learn the lessons I believe God wanted to teach me.

Here are a few of the things I believe God has shown me about pain.

• The longer I avoid a problem, the bigger it generally becomes. If I summon the courage to endure small amounts of pain and do what's right early, I will avoid larger doses of pain later.

• Pain is a part of progress. Anything that grows experiences some pain. If I avoid all pain, I'm avoiding growth.

• Often the difference between where I am and where God wants me to be is the pain I'm unwilling to endure. Doing what's right, no matter how difficult, is a rare trait in ministry. Most choose easy. We must choose right over easy.

• God is always faithful. Even when life is hard, God is always working for our good. Pain teaches us to depend on Him. It purifies our motives. It keeps us humble and moves us to pray.

Looking back at all the hard decisions, misunderstandings, false accusations, relationships gone sour, and heartbreaking losses, I'd never want to endure any of it again. And I know there's even more pain coming around the corner. But I'd never change what God does in me through these hard times. Because of what He's done in me, He can now do more through me. Today, I find myself thanking God for breaking me. Even though it's painful, the pain is worth the progress. And it's an honor to suffer in a very small way for the One who suffered and gave it all for us.

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


Growth = Pain

When leaders in any field take the risk of moving individuals and organizations from one stage to another—from stagnation to effectiveness or from success to significance—they inevitably encounter confusion, passivity, and outright resistance from those they're trying to lead. It's entirely predictable. Any study of business leaders shows this pattern in the responses of team members. Pastors' teams and congregations are no exception. The long history of the church shows that God's people are, if anything, even more confused, more passive, and more resistant when their leaders point the way to fulfill God's purposes. Organizational guru Peter Drucker observed that the four most difficult jobs in America are, in no particular order: president of the United States, university president, hospital CEO, and pastor. (I've been in two of these roles: pastor and university president.) If you're a church leader and struggling in your role, you're in good company!

The public image of church leaders may be of gentle people who read most of the time when they aren't visiting people in the hospital. Certainly, reading and caring for the hurting and needy are important parts of spiritual leadership, but the public doesn't see the incredible complexity and persistent strains happening behind the scenes.

It Shouldn't Be a Surprise

The principles and practices in this book are addressed primarily to people who are in positions of leadership in ministries and nonprofit organizations. This includes pastors, staff members, and volunteer leaders. The stories and insights here, however, aren't limited to the realm of ministry. They apply to leaders in businesses and every other kind of organization. Every leader feels pain.

In fact, leadership—all leadership—is a magnet for pain, which comes in many forms. We catch flak for bad decisions because people blame us, and we get criticism even for good decisions because we've changed the beloved status quo. When people suffer a crisis, we care deeply for them instead of giving them simplistic answers (or blowing them off). We "carry their burden," which means at least some of the weight of their loss and heartache falls on us. We suffer when our plans don't materialize or our efforts fail, and we face unexpected new challenges when our plans succeed and we experience a spurt of growth. Along the way, we aren't immune to the ravages of betrayal by those we trusted, the envy of our friends, and burnout because we're simply exhausted from all the struggles of leading people—especially God's people.

Some leaders feel shackled by past failures or past pains. Others look into an uncertain future and feel paralyzed. I've consulted with leaders whose churches and nonprofits have grown from a few hundred to several thousand, but they feel overwhelmed because they have no idea how to manage an organization of that size. A few of these leaders have difficulty articulating the vision God has put on their hearts. They can almost taste the future, but all they get are blank stares when they try to explain the direction God has given them. For most, the crush of financial worries is an almost constant strain. Merging new staff and volunteers with an existing team can make everyone feel confused. And sometimes a leader has to dig deep to find the courage to fire a friend. Misunderstanding, conflict, and all other types of stress come into our personal lives from our families, our staff and leadership teams, our church, and our communities. Sometimes, like Moses, we want to scream, "God, why have you given me these obstinate people?"

At a retreat for pastors who were considering leaving the ministry because they were burned out, the director asked, "Why did you enter the ministry years ago? What were your hopes, your aspirations, and your expectations?"

Of the dozen or so deeply discouraged pastors in the room, all but one remarked that they had an idealized view of ministry when they began. During the conversation it gradually dawned on one or two of them that their idealism had set them up for shattering disappointment. They had been surprised—shocked!—when they encountered difficulties in ministry and when God didn't resolve them neatly and quickly. One commented, "I was sure 'God's blessings' meant things would go smoothly and growth would happen naturally. Maybe if I'd realized difficulties are part of God's curriculum, I wouldn't have been so devastated." His eyes widened as the insight hit him. "And the heartaches that have shattered me would have been God's tools to shape me and my church. Oh, man, I missed it. I really missed it."

At conferences, round tables, and consultations, I've talked to many Christian leaders who were not idealistic at the beginning of their ministries, but they certainly didn't expect the level of conflict, discouragement, and struggle they endured as they were "doing God's work in God's way." They were blindsided by the pain, and many of them assumed something was terribly wrong with God or with them because the pain didn't quickly go away. Their solution was to do anything and everything to stop the pain. They didn't realize this was exactly the wrong response. Numbness isn't a viable answer. In fact, it always compounds the problems. It's what I call "leadership leprosy."

Nerve Endings

In her book On Death and Dying, Elisabeth Kübler-Ross observed the progression of dying patients as they faced the ravages of their disease. She noted they went through definable stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, grief (or sadness), and acceptance. Others observed that people pass through these stages in any kind of significant loss. Leaders experience them too.

When the reality of pain strikes, the first response is often, "This can't be happening!" That's denial.

Then, when the leader can't ignore the painful truth, anger surfaces—at the cause, at himself, at God, or at anyone else who comes to mind.

A natural and normal reaction to blunt the pain is bargaining. The person instinctively tries to make a deal. "What can I do to get rid of the pain and go back to normal?" It seems like a perfectly valid question, but it is more of an escape than the courage to face the hard facts.

Slowly, gradually, the person gives up on making some kind of deal to get out of the pain. The loss takes shape. It's almost palpable. And profound sadness fills the heart. This stage may look and feel a lot like depression, but there's a light at the end of the tunnel.

Sooner or later the person experiences renewed hope. New insights—ones that couldn't have been learned any other way—become treasures found in the darkness. The person now has more compassion, deeper joy, and more love to share with others.

The stages of grief aren't linear. People can go forward and backward in deeper cycles of pain realization. It's messy and ugly, but it's essential if people are to make peace with their pain.

The normal human response to pain is to do anything except face it. We minimize the problem ("Oh, it's not really that bad"), excuse those who have hurt us ("She didn't really mean it"), or deny it even happened ("What conflict? What betrayal? What hurt? I don't know what you're talking about!").

But pain isn't the enemy. The inability or unwillingness to face pain is a far greater danger. I grew up in India where I saw thousands of lepers. They are often missing noses, ears, fingers, and toes—but not because their flesh rots away. (That's a common misconception.) Various body parts become severely damaged because they don't sense the warning signs of pain to stay away from dangers. Dr. Paul Brand worked with lepers in India and the United States. In The Gift of Pain, coauthored by Philip Yancey, Brand tells the story of four-year-old Tanya. When her mother brought Tanya to the national leprosy hospital in Carville, Louisiana, Dr. Brand immediately noticed the little girl appeared totally calm as he removed her bloodstained bandages and examined her dislocated ankle. As the doctor gently moved her foot to assess the extent of the damage, Tanya appeared bored. She felt no pain at all.

Her mother explained that she first realized Tanya's problem when she was only eighteen months old. She had left her daughter in a playpen for a few minutes. When she returned, she saw Tanya finger painting with large red swirls on the sheet. She hadn't remembered giving her daughter any paint. When she got closer, she screamed in horror. Tanya had bitten off the end of her finger and was using her blood as paint! When her mother screamed, the little girl looked up with "streaks of blood on her teeth."

Tanya suffered from a rare genetic malady called congenital indifference to pain, a condition very similar to leprosy. In every other way, she was a healthy little girl, but she felt no pain at all. Seven years later, Tanya's mother called Dr. Brand to tell him that the little girl had lost both legs to amputation as well as most of her fingers. Her elbows were constantly dislocated, and she suffered sepsis from ulcers on her hands and leg stumps. She had chewed her tongue so badly that it was swollen and lacerated.

Years earlier, Tanya's father left because he couldn't handle the stress of raising her—he had called her "a monster." Dr. Brand observed, "Tanya was no monster, only an extreme example—a human metaphor, really—of life without pain."

Leprosy can be contagious, but Dr. Brand assured his colleagues at the hospital they were in no danger. Then, one night after a flight from America to London, Dr. Brand went to his hotel and began to undress for bed. When he took off one of his shoes, he realized he had no sensation in his foot. The numbness terrified him! He found a pin and stuck it into the skin below his ankle. Nothing. He pushed it deeper into his flesh. This time some blood appeared, but still he felt no pain.

All night Dr. Brand lay in bed with his mind racing to imagine his new life as a leper. How would it affect his personal life? Would he have to leave his family and live in a colony so they didn't catch it? What assurance could he now give his staff that they, too, wouldn't contract the disease?

The next morning, as the day dawned, Dr. Brand picked up a pin and stuck it into his ankle. This time he yelled. It hurt! From that day forward, whenever he felt discomfort from a cut, nausea, or anything else, he responded with genuine gratitude, "Thank God for pain!"

Fresh Eyes, Open Hearts

Tanya and millions of others without the capacity to feel pain endure a severe, involuntary handicap, but the rest of us often choose to be numb and suffer the consequences. Many leaders think they have to put on a happy face (or at least a stoic face) for the people in their organizations, so they refuse to admit their discouragement, disappointment, and disillusionment—even to themselves—or they try to delay their pain. They tell their worried (and maybe angry) spouse, "As soon as the building campaign is over, the new music program is in place, the new staff member is hired, or some other benchmark is achieved, I can slow down and the stress will subside." For pastors and all other leaders, ignoring pain is leadership leprosy. It may promise the short-term gain of avoiding discomfort, but it has devastating long-term consequences.


Excerpted from Leadership Pain by Samuel R. Chand. Copyright © 2015 Samuel R. Chand. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments xiii

A Look Inside xv

1 Leadership Leprosy 1

2 External Challenges 23

3 Too Much Too Often 53

4 Growing Pains 83

5 What Makes You Tick 105

6 Root Cause Analysis 129

7 You Gotta Love It 151

8 The Privilege of Leadership 171

9 The Power of Tenacity 185

10 Pain Partners 203

11 It's Your Move 227

Notes 243

About the Author 249

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