At 22 and fresh out of college, I was honored to be one of the first small group leaders in our new church plant. I felt like I was really doing well as a Christian and on my way to accomplishing great things in the Kingdom of God. Two years later, the group I had invested so much of myself in decided together to disband because they felt they "weren't having a good small group experience". Ouch. That event was the beginning of a two-year series of blows to my confidence that led me to the point of giving up on my call. I thought my usefulness to God as a leader was over.
But looking back 20 years later, I see that as a defining moment in my life and the foundation of much of what I do in ministry. Failing at such a profound level bared my soul to God in a way that I would not trade for anything.
The purpose of suffering and difficulty in life is to break open the deep places of our hearts so Christ can enter in and remake the core of our beings. This kind of heart transplant is what makes the ministry you offer to others transformational. It is not your strengths or skills that qualify you for effective small group leadership, but how you meet God in your difficulties and failures.
When you have met God in times of trouble and He has reshaped your heart through them, you will not tend to look back on those events primarily as times you were victimized or had to survive, but as a gift you would not want to be without.Jesus says it like this: "When a woman gives birth, she has a hard time, there's no getting around it. But when the baby is born, there is joy in the birth. This new life in the world wipes out memory of the pain" (John 16:21 MSG). Developing leadership character is painful, but the joy of seeing how God uses it ...