Last year, I sat in a men’s conference with a bunch of guys from the Junction Church and listened to a speaker who was refreshingly authentic and deeply thoughtful. Thirteen years earlier, Pete Wilson pioneered a church called Cross Point – an amazing Christian community which grew to become one of the most prominent in America. His influence was truly immense, impacting the lives of millions of people around the nation.
However during September, he announced to his congregation that he would be stepping down as senior leader. His statement was made in his usual gracious and thoughtful way which no doubt helped ease the sense of shock among a stunned audience. But still, there was no denying their sense of loss.
So what was the reason for his decision? Well, it wasn’t because of some moral failure or misdemeanour. No, it was because years of leadership had taken their toll on his mind and body, leaving him exhausted and worn out. Painful as it was for him to step away from leading the beloved church that he’d planted fourteen years ago, he wisely recognised that he could not keep running on empty and expect to avoid a crash.
He told his congregation “Most of you in this church only experience what I do on Sundays…but the reality is as leader and the pastor of a church, what happens in between those Sundays is just as important and it requires a lot of leadership energy. Leaders in any realm of life who lead on empty don’t lead well and for some time now I’ve been leading on empty. I really need your prayers and I need your support. We’ve said that this is a church where it’s OK to not be okay, and I’m not okay. I’m tired. I’m broken, and I just need some rest. I love you guys”
This man has invested a huge part of his life into pioneering a new church and serving others. He is gifted, anointed, sincere, loving, caring & passionate. Yet, despite his brilliance as a pastor and leader, he struggled with a pressure he knew was killing him. He realised he could not continue on like this and his decision required an act of truly enormous courage.
This story brings home again some sobering & important truths which we would all do well to remember. Here are four of them:
1) LEADERSHIP IS TOUGH
This applies to leadership in any sphere of life, church leadership too. Lets not get pious about how leadership would be easy if it were done right….yeah right! Doing it right is what makes it tough! That’s leadership.
2) LEARN THE RHYTHMS OF REST
Rest is a personal responsibility. It’s a discipline which no-one is going to arrange for you. Remember, God is not in a hurry but he’s always on time. He is far more interested in pace than speed. He has created rest as a means of refreshing and renewing us. We’d be MAD to go off beat!
3) NOBODY IS THAT GOOD
The story of Pete Wilson shows that no-matter how brilliant or gifted someone is, no-body is THAT good. Even pastors are human beings who are subject to the same frailties and vulnerabilities as anyone else. The call of God doesn’t exempt us from them. That’s why it’s wise to pray, show grace and be kind to them.
4) BE AN ENCOURAGER
No-one has ever died from an overdose of encouragement. But plenty have suffered from the lack of it. Encouragement is like oxygen – it helps us breathe. Sow it well and you will eventually reap it when you need it.
Finally, I am praying for Pete Wilson and his family. No doubt the day will come when he will be back in action again. Meanwhile, maybe you’ll join me in praying that in this next season of his life, he will experience refreshing in his heart, renewal in his mind and rest in his body. His best days are ahead of him.