A few years ago I was given a brilliant book about running, except it wasn’t really about running, it was about cupcakes and suffering.
It’s comic, very funny and surprisingly deep, and its called The terrible and wonderful reasons why I run long distances.
If you hate running stick with me.
The basic premise is that whilst runners often talk about hitting ‘the wall’ when running, ‘the wall’ being an obstacle you power through when you feel defeated.
The author says he does not believe in the wall. He believes in ‘The Blerch’, which he describes as:
‘a fat little cherub who follows me when I run. He is a wretched, lazy beast… he tells me to slow down, to walk, to quit…The Blerch represents all forms of gluttony, apathy and indifference that plague my life.’
The Blerch is ever-present, and whilst the wall cannot be silenced or outrun, you can silence The Blerch. And you silence it by running. More.
I often joke that I run so I can eat cake, and this is his point. These are the terrible reasons why we run long distances. We run to eat. To shortcut to endorphins. To look good. To achieve mental clarity through pain. Because we want to stand still. And eat.
Last week as I was planning how to lead our group of local church leaders in our monthly breakfast together, this jumped into my mind: what are the terrible and wonderful reasons why we lead churches?
For like all people, we church leaders are randomly assorted bunch of odd-bods, right? Of course there are good and holy reasons why we do what we do. But what if we pressed into the terrible reasons?
Like, what if am only a church leader because I am a narcissist? A control freak? What if it’s because I am incapable of getting any other kind of job? What if its because I truly believe every other church is badly run?
Because its a crazily risky idea and it was 8.00am on a Friday morning just before Christmas, I threw it out there to the group. And to my relief they went with me:
Why did we do this?
Because there is truth in our shadow sides, and I think it is good to be honest about them. God uses us through who we are, not some idealised version, no matter what we try to show people.
If we are a bit of a control freak, admit it. If we are deeply critical of other leaders, admit it. If we like power, or find it impossible to follow, admit it. God can change us, use us, and transform us.
It is also good to remember the wonderful reasons too.
What was interesting was that the ‘terrible reasons’ were quite honest and practical, the ‘wonderful reasons’ because very ‘spiritual’. Because in a way they have to be. You shouldn’t just be a church leader because you can, you do have to have a calling – and yet, it is because of what we can do, or are learning to do, that we are called.
We ended by singing the song Living Hope by Phil Wickham, largely due to the line that I think gets to the heart of our vanities and insecurities and failings as
Through the darkness your loving-kindness
tore through the shadows of my soul
Be honest, be hopeful, be real. Admit to The Blerch, confess our gluttony, apathy and indifference, and lead bravely, courageously and vulnerably.
Kevin Lewis is vicar of the Church of the Good Shepherd, Carshalton Beeches. He blogs at The blog of Kevin where this article was originally posted. He is considering writing a book on Christian leadership titled ‘I am a Narcissist’…