As a leader, you’ll have the joy of seeing God use you in others’ lives. But you must remember that leadership has two sides. You’ll go through times of deep struggle. You will be tempted to leave the ranks of leadership and move away from the place where the enemy targets you. I urge you never to go there. In those times, take encouragement from the final chapter Paul wrote in his life: 2 Timothy 4. Paul prepares us for facing four areas of “the other side of leadership.”
Paul had lived his life fully for the Lord Jesus. Here in 4:6, he writes, “the time for me to depart is at hand.” He writes from a cold, dark, damp, filthy dungeon, knowing he has only a short time to live. We all know we live on borrowed time, and any day could be our last day. So what we do for Christ is all-important. Paul uses his last hours to write to his protégé Timothy, who will continue on in the ministry. In the years these two men have known each other, Timothy has needed Paul. But now Paul needs Timothy, urging him to “come before winter” (4:21). The first area of the other side of leadership is loneliness. You may see leaders and notice only the people around them, always expressing their gratitude. But leaders are often the loneliest people in the room. In your lowest moments in ministry, you’ll need someone like Timothy who will encourage you and be near you—a faithful companion who reminds you to keep going.
The second area of the other side of leadership is the disappointment you’ll feel when a ministry partner is disloyal, unfaithful, or deceptive. In 4:10, Paul says, “Demas deserted me, since he loved the present age.” It’s hard to imagine what would have been more fulfilling than ministering alongside Paul! But Scripture gives us other examples of people like Achan, Absalom, and Gehazi who took advantage of their righteous leaders. Even Jesus knew betrayal from a disciple. As the deceived leader, you’ll experience disillusionment. It may seem impossible to go on in ministry without that person, but you must press on, regardless.
The third area centers on the times you’re the target of attacks. In 4:14, Paul names Alexander, who “did me a great deal of harm.” Alexander tried to undermine Paul’s ministry. You’ll encounter people like that, and you’ll need to stand up to them and protect the flock. They’re hurting the church, breaking the hearts of good people, and stealing the strength you could have in the role God has given you to fill. Stand firm! Tell them to stop—even better, urge them to repent and get on board with the Lord’s work! You may need other trusted individuals to confront one who is hindering the ministry.
Fourth, every leader makes mistakes. In 4:11, Paul names Mark, a man he’d previously written off. Mark had deserted Paul and Barnabas on the first missionary journey, and when they prepared for the second journey (see the final verses of Acts 15), Paul stood against bringing Mark along. “He failed once—that’s it!” But years later, when Paul is alone in the dungeon, he has mellowed. So he urges Timothy, “Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is a great help to me in ministry.” How wonderful that Paul didn’t become a cranky, bitter old man who wrote Mark off forever.
Be quick to realize your mistakes. As best you can, make things right. It’s good for your soul to clear up all lingering offenses.
Regardless of the other side of leadership, stand strong. Don’t quit the ministry. Learn from Paul’s example, and stay at it, in season, out of season, day after day, year after year, decade after decade. It’s always too soon to quit!
About the Contributors
Charles R. Swindoll has devoted his life to the accurate, practical teaching and application of God’s Word and His grace. A pastor at heart, Chuck has served as the founder and senior pastor-teacher of Stonebriar Community Church in Frisco, Texas. His leadership as president and now Chancellor Emeritus of Dallas Theological Seminary has helped prepare and equip a new generation for ministry. Chuck and his wife Cynthia, have four grown children, ten grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.