The Burden of Leadership
by Josh Wood
Oftentimes in my line of work there is an expectation of super-holiness. If anyone is going through a spiritual crisis we ‘Call the Pastor’ as the Pastor will always know the answer, the Bible text, the prayer to pray and, ultimately, God’s will for each of our individual lives… at least thats how it feels sometimes.
One of my challenges is that this expectation, real or imagined, has become all too real. It’s as though I’ve made this my own personal expectation of myself regardless of whether anyone else truly has the same expectations of me. It’s a burden too big to bear, because I know that I’ve never met these expectations of a ‘super-holy’ Pastor, I’ve not even come close.
I preach sermons, undertake pastoral care, visit sick people, pray prayers and conduct Bible studies but there is one area of my life that has been truly lacking. An area I’ve never really developed or be taught much about - how to have my own personal time with God. That is, how do I have time with God that has no agenda, that is spent without need to develop a sermon, develop a Bible study. There is always so much to be done, so much to keep me busy that deliberately setting aside time just for me and God has been hap-hazard at best. The worst part? Even when I do ‘find the time’ I’ve got no idea what to do. I’ve never been taught how to just ‘read the Bible’ and allow God to speak to me. But with all of that hesitation I made a decision in 2018 that I need to prioritise my time with God regardless of what else comes up, but where to begin?
I found a Bible Reading Plan (there are literally thousands to choose from which became a task in itself as if there are more than 3 items on the menu at the restaurant I struggle to choose) and began reading. I chose to read through the book of Psalms focussing on Psalm a day, and whilst I can’t claim to have read a Psalm every day, I’ve certainly made every effort to catch-up if/when (more so when) I’ve missed a day. And as I’ve read I’ve begun to recognise and appreciate (perhaps for the first time) its actually OK to doubt God’s plan, to lament in feeling alone, to be frustrated with God for not presenting Himself as I feel He should... even as a Pastor.
David was just like you and I, albeit God’s anointed king, but like you and I nonetheless. He battled feelings of inadequacy, he felt lonely, he struggled with lust and even cried out to God wondering if God even cared.
As I continued to read I often found myself awestruck, shocked, scared, humbled and needing to just pause, allowing the Holy Spirit to really allow the words to sit with me.
Soon I got myself into a rhythm and began to really resonate with David. I mean essentially what I’m reading are the devotional journals of a king from some 3000 years ago. A guy who didn’t have a ‘Bible’ to read but just his daily experiences with God, I became frustrated at myself for my laziness and amazed at David’s faithfulness in the midst of such adversity. Then, suddenly, as I reached Psalm 69 the seriousness of the Christian life hit me:
Lord, the Lord Almighty, may those who hope in you not be disgraced because of me God of Israel, may those who seek you not be put to shame because of me.
Did you get that? This isn’t just a call to kings, politicians or pastors but a wakeup call to everyone.
Each and every one of us has influence over someone. It could be a sibling, a colleague, a peer - we all have influence. As Christians that influence can be either negative or positive, but the impact of that influence can’t be understated.
As I read that verse I was floored. I am nowhere near a ‘super-holy’ pastor, I’m not a ‘super-holy’ anything. But as a person with influence, as a leader, there are some heavy expectations placed on me. As I conduct myself do people see me as a reputable, honest, true representation of Christ? Are people looking at me and my life and being drawn to Jesus or pushed away from Him? Am I a bridge or a barrier to bringing people into a lifesaving relationship with Jesus?
Each and every day I am challenged personally to be the best representative of Christ I can be and, to be honest, that’s perhaps the most difficult expectation of all.
Josh Wood is a Pastor in the Victorian Conference of Seventh-day Adventists and lives in Melbourne.