By Samuel R. Chand; Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson (2015); Reviewed by MELISSA SILVA
Samuel R. Chand communicates a beautiful, and sometimes difficult, spiritual leadership truth: a leader can only grow to the threshold of his or her pain. Since God uses painful situations to help us grow (Rom. 5:3; Jas. 1:3) if we shrink from the pain we—and consequently the organizations we lead—will stagnate in growth. If we are able to endure the pain, there is no limit to what God can do through us (by His grace). Since Chand’s theory originates in the Bible, this book caters primarily to spiritual leaders, though its principles can be applied by any Bible-believing leader, whether working in the church or secular circles.
The concept is not new. As already mentioned, it originates in the Word of God. Chand, however, applies its principles in a very practical way to modern leadership. First, he looks at the main causes of pain in leadership—namely, external sources, personal unrelieved stress, and a growing organization. But he does not stop there. He spends a good deal of time looking at how to analyze and recognize the painful experiences that we have and how they help us grow. This is important because, without it, a lot of pain we suffer can be in vain. Finally, the author encourages leaders by reminding them that there are privileges that come with leadership in spite of the pain. Most spiritual leaders will acknowledge that God uses trial to refine us, but few will stop to really analyze their hardships in a way that allows God to maximize them for personal growth and the growth of their organizations. Even fewer will see this pain as a blessing and privilege.
For example, a church that has been thriving for years with a wonderful team makes plans for expansion. As the church grows and prospers, the leader realizes that the team that had done so well in a small setting cannot handle the task of a larger congregation. New people need to take their place, but it’s very painful to remove people, especially in a volunteer organization. “The price is the figurative blood of leadership . . . the pain of hard conversations and replacing people (many of whom are friends) who no longer fit the larger scope of responsibilities . . .” (loc 93). If you are not willing to endure the pain caused by replacing people, your organization will never grow. It’s a blessing to need to make changes because of growth. Chand helps us identify in practical ways why certain things hurt and how the Lord can use the pain for our growth. This brings great encouragement to leaders, aiding their ability to cope with more pain once they understand its benefits.
As Chand points out, we don’t have to endure it alone, or even just with the Lord. God often permits that we have “pain partners” (loc 203)—friends who go through pain with us or simply help us deal with the hardships.
This volume is very educational in its approach, having included thought-provoking questions at the end of each chapter. The reader must know that the author uses stories extensively throughout the book. Each chapter begins with a story, and additional stories are included in addition to that, possibly to a fault. The principles found in the book could have been presented in a more concise way if less storytelling was done. The stories, however, do illustrate the points made and inspire the reader. The content could have been broadened to include more Christian leaders who work in secular circles, both in the stories chosen and the applications made.
I highly recommend Leadership Pain for Christian leaders who, feeling called by God, want to grow to their full potential. This growth takes place not in spite of pain but through pain. “You will only grow to the threshold of your pain. To grow more, raise your threshold” (loc 21). This book can also greatly encourage any leader who has felt ready to give up because of pain, or who has begun to question the Lord’s leading. To be called by God to leadership does not mean that your path will be a bed of roses. On the contrary—expect pain. Learn to see the pain as a blessing. “At some point, we need to radically reframe our concept of happiness, realistic expectations, and the purposes of God. You’ve got to learn to appreciate the lessons you learn from pain” (loc 169).
MELISSA SILVA is a full-time mother of two, housewife and ministry partner with her husband Diego Silva in Miles City, Montana, USA.