Getting Uncomfortable to Become a Better Church Leader

Posted by Aaron Buer on September 17, 2020

I don’t know about you, but I like to be comfortable.

I like what I like. I order the same things over and over.

It’s a Blonde Americano at Starbucks and a Spicy Chicken Deluxe at Chick-fil-A.

And I haven’t changed my hairstyle in…well; I guess I’m not ready to admit this publicly.

Let’s put it this way: I have things pretty locked in.  

There’s just one problem with being comfortable: I’m not uncomfortable. Meaning, I’m not being stretched or challenged.  

I’ve observed a plateau in many middle-aged or older leaders.

We stop asking good questions. We cease to be curious, and we get stuck.

I don’t want to be like that…but I’m afraid I will if I don’t pursue disciplined action around being uncomfortable.  

This post is about getting uncomfortable and letting people and situations challenge you.

So, who is challenging you? Who makes you uncomfortable?  

I have a few unofficial discomfort mentors.

I haven’t asked any of them to be a mentor, but I’m watching them and, in some cases, talking to them, and each of them makes me uncomfortable in healthy ways.

The First is a Preacher

He’s the best preacher I know.

He has far more experience and skill than I do. But, more than that, he’s relentless in his approach.

It’s not that his preaching challenges me, although that would be true; it’s his work ethic and focus.

  • It’s him beginning to study every morning at 7 am.
  • It’s disciplining himself to read the same book of the Bible six times before even opening a commentary.
  • It’s organizing his schedule around uninterrupted study blocks.

On the one hand, hanging out with him is discouraging because I typically feel lazy and inadequate—not because of what he says but rather just observing his relentless energy.

On the other hand, I’ve grown so much over the last few years because I’ve been adopting his work and study habits.  

Here’s my point: Who in your life is challenging you to do what you do better? Who is challenging you to be more disciplined, focused, and organized?

I encourage you to spend more time with that person.

The Second is a Friend

This is a friend who is making a mess of her life.

It’s possible to pursue habits and make decisions that blow up your family, career, and mental health.

Sadly, she’s there.  

Now, this might not sound very empathetic, and I assure you that my group of friends and I are walking closely with her, caring for her, keeping her accountable and helping where we can.

But there are uncomfortable lessons to be learned in seasons like these.

Let’s be honest. I’m not immune to making bad decisions that would devastate my family and end my career, and neither are you.

The bad decisions of friends can be an opportunity to get uncomfortable and be challenged.  

The big bad decisions that blew up her family started with small bad decisions that were barely discernible.

I make some of those small bad decisions and it’s likely you do too.  

What I’m saying is this: Pay attention. The book of Proverbs puts it this way:

When a mocker is punished, the simple gain wisdom;
by paying attention to the wise they get knowledge. (Proverbs 21:11)

A few years ago, I had the privilege of spending time with the executive teams of two large churches rocked by scandals involving their senior leadership.

While traveling home, my reflections from these uncomfortable, yet important, conversations were: “I don’t ever want to do that to my church!”

The Third is Conversations With People Different Than Me

The third way I’m seeking to get uncomfortable and be challenged is through conversations with people who are different from me.

I believe I have two options. The first is to become more isolated and entrenched in how I have always viewed people and the world. The second option is to become more aware and empathetic through relationships with people who are different than me. 

The racial tensions we have experienced this summer challenged me to pursue conversations with black brothers in Christ. Here’s an example:

I’m pursuing conversations like this for my own personal growth but also filming them so I can model behavior to our congregation. If we all pursued conversations like these and allowed the experiences to challenge and shape us, I think we might have a shot at unity in the church.

Wrap Up

Let me leave you with this: Who is challenging you? Where are you uncomfortable?

I pray you don’t allow yourself to get so comfortable that you get stuck.

What challenging conversation can you pursue today?

Topics: Advice

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