Leading from Our Soul: Pressure

This new blog series is for anyone in leadership, whether you pastor a church of 200 or lead a cafe team of 5.
For most leaders the past few months have been intense, exhausting, constant, bewildering – and we know there is only more change to navigate and lead others through ahead of us. So how do we make certain that we are not leading from the final dregs of whatever energy, wisdom, grace and compassion we have left but leading from souls that are connected to the life-giving breath of God?
In this series, a few different leaders will share from their personal journeys in leadership something they have learned that has been key for them to live and lead in a sustainable way. Scott Brennan kicks us off.

There is a word in the Bible that has spoken to me for many years. It is the word pressure. I’ve been involved in leading churches for the last 20 years and pressure is something I know about.

If you are anything like me, that pressure results in stress, it causes me to doubt myself, to wonder if I am cut out for this role?

Pressure is not automatically bad. I love Iona marble. It is more beautiful and tougher because it has had to endure pressure.
This word pressure in NT Greek is thlipsis. It can be translated as tribulation or suffering.
A good example is Romans 5:2-4 which says:
we boast in the hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings (thlipsis), because we know that suffering (thlipsis) produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.

I am very aware of the pressure that is on leaders at the moment. We are meant to come up with solutions to Covid-19 pastoral care, we are meant to have solutions for the Church’s decline in Scottish secular society.

It is a pressing time. I find it interesting that the word Gethsemane means oil press.
The Garden of Gethsemane had an olive grove and they must have pressed the olives to get their oil. Jesus often met his disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane, it was a place of fellowship and shade from the midday sun. However, it is also where Jesus sweats blood.

How did Jesus handle this?
First of all, he entered a place of prayer. He wrestled with the Father, seeking answers but finally submitting his will to the Father’s will. Luke 22:42 says:
Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.
I have often felt like this. The pressing and the pushing are part of the process.
The next verse says, “An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him.
To glory in pressure, we must seek the presence of God, and that can include the ministry of angels.

Secondly, Jesus sought the support of Peter, James and John. In Matt 26:38:
“He said to them, “My soul is consumed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with Me.
Even Jesus sought the comfort of soul friends. Leaders need people to walk with them. The danger is we go it alone and that is often our experience.

I have three observations:
1. Pressure is part of the glorious work of God, it shapes and moulds us
2. We need intimacy with the Father, Son and Spirit which means we have to set aside time in silence and retreat to listen
3. We need soul friends to help us navigate the ups and downs of life.

If we do not change our rhythms and expectations, we will suffer burnout. Better to build in new habits now and build reserves for the future.

Scott leads Lighthouse Central in Prestonpans where he lives with his wife Faith and their two sons. He has a passion to see transformation of both the individual and community. When he’s not out talking to people about how much Jesus loves and values them, he can often be found with a paintbrush in hand, sometimes retreating away on a remote island.

Crystal Cryer

Crystal Cryer originally hails from Oregon, but now claims Scotland as home. She is the National Coordinator for 24-7 Prayer Scotland. She is also part of the Prayer Spaces in Schools Scotland team as well as the Central Church family in Edinburgh, where she is based.