Wednesday, August 6, 2008

The Cause of Stress in Ministry

In my previous two posts, I highlighted the extraordinary strain that Christian leadership represents, at least in large circles. An obvious question is: what is the cause? On this, the Christian leadership literature is clear. It is the need to influence followers, and the resistance or opposition that this brings about. The “greatest trial” for the Christian leader lies in driving values and visions against the status quo (Wofford J C 1999:85,86); there is a “depth and pervasiveness” of malaise among leaders over resistance to change (Roxburgh A J and Romanuk F 2006:16); instituting change is a draining process, even under the best of circumstances (Murren D 1997:205); leaders may be decimated by negative reactions to innovation (Barna G 1997:207); casting a vision is a daunting challenge, and opposition is hard to deal with (Hybels B 2002:41); selling vision is “an onerous task” (Blackaby H and Blackaby R 2001:65); and about 10% of followers will “predictably” not only resist Christian leadership but seek to sabotage it (Hunter J C 2004:75). Emotional strain is therefore clearly linked with the notion of the Christian leader as a person whose responsibility it is to influence followers through values or visions. QUESTION: What lies at the root of needing to drive “values and visions”? The diagram shows Wofford’s conception of the process.

Friday, August 1, 2008

The Most Pressing Issue

The previous post referred to the “Herculean effort” of Christian leadership. This will inevitably go hand in hand with the effect of such effort on the lives of Christian leaders -- and here are some examples. Hybels (2002:231) writes: “The single most pressing issue [for Christian leaders is] enduring.” Ford (1991:131) asks: “Is there enough strength to stand then?” Christian leaders are under enormous pressure (Blackaby and Blackaby 2001:5); many have a sense of desperation (Blackaby and Blackaby 2001:31); and there are countless leaders who would quit today (Blackaby and Blackaby 2001:3); deep depression is not uncommon in Christian leadership (Engstrom 1976:100); the burdens of pastoral ministry are onerous (Jinkins 2002:39); it is demanding and exhausting (Jinkins 2002:50); the Christian leader faces grief and abandonment (Jinkins 2002:45) and the desire to flee resistance and sabotage (Jinkins 2002:44); and many are overwhelmed by the challenge (Gibbs 2005:139). Sanders (1994:53) suggests the prayer: “God harden me against myself,...”; Thomas (1999:135) is guided by the prayer: “Lord have mercy”; while Jinkins (2002:32), quoting Eugene Peterson, calls for Christian ministers to be lashed to the ministry mast. Of course, Christian leadership would be expected to involve some strain -- but these examples surely qualify as “abnormal strain”. They represent intense emotional conflict. Again, all the authors quoted here represent Christian transformational leadership, a popular Christian leadership model of the Global North. QUESTION: Why does this model of leadership engender such strain? Again, would this be true of all Christian leadership?