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The Ugly Side of Leadership

The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. I Timothy 3:1

I’m going to add two words to Paul’s chapter to overseers (pastors) and leaders— “. . . he desires a noble and hard task.”

I love how Paul then begins to give the qualifications for an overseer. “Above reproach.” Uh, most of the time. “Husband of one wife.” Check. “Sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money.” Well, I’m most of those things most of the time.

Paul then starts talking about an overseer managing his own household well. If you don’t manage your household well, you shouldn’t be an overseer of God’s people.

Gee, I think my family is mostly managed well, but we have our struggles from time to time.

I love Paul’s exhortation to young Timothy who will also be raising up other overseers. Nonetheless, if we solely stay in the Law, none of us are worthy for leadership in the church. Praise be to God for faith in Jesus’ perfect righteousness. Praise be to God that the Father and Son sent the Spirit to be our comforter and mediator, creating and sustaining faith.

Only the Holy Spirit, fueled by the grace and kindness of God in Christ, can display the godly character needed to lead the local church. It is a high and hard calling.

I love to remember what it felt like to be a young leader. Leadership was fun. The future was bright. People generally always loved me. Hope and optimism ran through my veins, far surpassing the dopamine hit of any energy drink. I had metaphorical baby soft leadership skin. I had no wounds of dreams not working, friends leaving, marriages dissolving, or brothers and sisters in Christ deeply grieving.

I want to remember that feeling of young leadership consistently. Yet I’ve come to know the power of my wounds, my weakness, my vulnerability, my humanity.

Leadership is hard. If I daily choose pride over humility, I will hurt myself and those I lead. If I choose fear over love, I will live in constant paranoia.

The only option is faith.

Faith in my identity in Christ.

Faith in Christ leading His Church.

Faith in the Grand Story of which I am a small part.

Faith leading me to freely take risks for the sake of those yet to meet Jesus.

Faith that on that Day all of the wounds and tears will be healed and dried.

Pray for all leaders.

I am committed to praying fervently for LCMS President Matthew Harrison. Recently, he’s been placed in a difficult situation given the controversy over the new CPH printing of the annotated Luther’s Large Catechism (I just received my copy. I’m excited to learn!) It is hard to be a leader when you feel attacked from within the church from multiple sides. I am praying for humility and love to win the day for all involved.

I am tempted to write my perspective on the situation here. I don’t think that would be helpful, or edify the church. Others have written much.

I will say this: President Harrison is not the problem in the LCMS. Satan is. Pride is. Fear is. Division is. Not putting the best construction on diverse perspectives is. Leaders not behaving according to I Timothy 3 is. We should all repent and agree. Leadership is hard.

Praise be to God for our Leader, Jesus.

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Thank you Tim you are so correct


Another great post Tim. Yes, leadership is hard. I have been an LCMS Lutheran for 53 years now. It saddens me when division happens in our church. I learned a saying a long time ago. The phrase is "Seek first to understand before being understood." I love that phrase and it is one that I definitely sometimes fail at. I pray that we all embrace this phrase. I pray that our church body would attack Satan because we have been equipped to do so. Not each other.

Thank you for your ongoing writings Tim.

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