Leadership and Inadequacy

 Leadership and Inadequacy

The bad news about leading a church is that you will most likely always feel (and often be) under-resourced. I am not sure I have ever met a church planter or church leader who feels like they have too many resources and are unsure what to do with all they have.

The good news is that what your people and your church most need from you have nothing to do with finances, assets or budgets. Last time I checked, hope, vision, clarity, purpose, and modeling were free.

The great news is that Jesus has a history of taking sardines and saltines and creating a meal that satisfies the multitudes along with a bounty left over. He can take our measly offerings and truly do “exceedingly, abundantly more than we could ever ask or imagine” (Ephesians 4:20).

The feeding of the 5,000 is the only miracle of Jesus recounted in all four gospels and is the first miracles designed to train the twelve in ministry. The miracle is pregnant with leadership and ministry lessons but for this topic, we will stick with provision and resources and how God can take our limits and create sufficiency for those we serve.

With dinner approaching and a huge crowd of hungry people (the text mentions 5,000 which is probably a counting of the men only, with women and children some estimate upwards of 15,000 to 20,000), Jesus and the disciples are faced with a huge problem. The disciples suggested sending them away; Jesus said, “you give them something to eat”. The disciples scoured the crowd and come back with two fish and five loaves. That’s it. These under-resourced disciples were commanded by Jesus to meet the needs of people. You and I—under- resourced disciples ourselves—are in good company.

The disciples (and us!) are meant to learn a foundational lesson: In light of the incredible needs around us, the sum total of all that we bring to the table to meet those needs—gifts, skills, ideas, experiences, talent, educations, budgets, and plans—are like a couple of sardines and a few saltines with a calling by Jesus to feed thousands. Our insufficiencies are comical and ridiculous, unless, like we heed Jesus’ words to “bring them to me.” That’s the game changer.

Jesus takes our insufficiencies and inadequacies and does what we can not do and only what He can do. Jesus takes, blesses, breaks, and multiplies. It’s the “Black Magic” of ministry. Somehow, someway, He turns insufficiency and inadequacy—brought to him—into sufficiency and abundance. Do not ask or worry how. Divinity has its privileges.

Incidentally, in this story, I love that before the disciples have any clue of how this will all play out Jesus has them organize the crowd in preparation for a meal. He forces them to take steps of faith, by faith, in faith to act as if a provision was coming. In other words, he puts them in the glorious position of acting “in faith” and risk looking like idiots if He does not come through. They know what’s in the kitchen: two fish and five loaves. They also know who is in the kitchen: Jesus, the ultimate game changer.

Feeling under-resourced and inadequate to do what you feel like Jesus calls you to do? Great, it’s an incredible opportunity to walk by faith and trust in a Jesus who can take limited resources and provided a meal where “they all ate, and were satisfied. And there were twelve baskets full left over.”

Leading in the Midst of Misery

Leading in the Midst of Misery

In Stephen Pressfield’s classic War of Art, he mentions that the high performers —the creatives, those who produce, those who are effective—eventually have to learn to “be miserable”.

Pressfield explains: “The artist must be like that marine. He has to know how to be miserable. He has to love being miserable. He has to take pride in being more miserable than any soldier… because this is war, baby. And war is hell.”

I believe this is a powerful idea and one every leader and every change agent must learn in order to perform and push through tough seasons of life and leadership.

Navy Seals teach this. Two-a-day football practices teach this. Medical School Residency teaches this. That was my greatest lesson when I trained and ran a marathon.

Again, the lesson is this: No one wishes for misery, but you can be miserable and still move forward, produce, and thrive. God teaches his people this too (see the stories of people like Abraham, Moses, Joseph, David, Ruth and Paul).

What a powerful lesson we should all live!

Unfortunately, there are few who truly understand, theologically, that we live in a fallen world. There are few who truly understand that this is not heaven, life is hard, there is much pain, disappointment and misery… but in the midst of that, by God’s grace, we can learn to cultivate and create in the midst of circumstances that will rarely, if ever, be ideal.

A friend once told me to pinch Genesis 1 and 2 in one hand and Revelation 21 and 22 in the other. Those 4 chapters are perfection. The other 1,185 chapters in the Bible teach us to contend in the midst of a fallen world.

You and I are limited as a fallen human in a fallen world. Let’s learn to cultivate and create—even in the midst of our seasons of misery. 

If you can thrive and stay on mission, especially through the worst of circumstances, you are preparing to be a game changer and a true leader, who can adapt, adjust, and endure.

Do this “looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” Hebrews 12:2.