Can you feel the pain?

"Leadership begins with identifying with the pain of the people you trying to lead"
John Perkins in "Follow Me to Freedom"

"Matt 9:36-37
When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them because they were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. (NLT)

Movement: Collective, organized, and sustained challenge to the status quo (Predominant culture, beliefs, and practices)

Pain is natural.  It is a God-given sensation and awareness that something is wrong.  Without chest pain, we wouldn't know our hearts our sick, and without heart pain, we often do not know our emotions are wounded.  Pain often trumpets the warning that damage has been and is being done.  Its a call to change, rest, restore, or even move.

John Perkins, the transformational leader and founder of the Christian Community Development Association, takes the bold step of understanding that leadership and awareness of pain are an essential link.  What he, and many other cultural architects have understood is that one of the primary motivations of humanity, is simply to relieve pain.  Physical pain, emotional pain, spiritual pain, relational pain: every sphere of life, we are simply seeking to relieve pain.

Jesus himself tied leadership (shepherding) with pain (confused and helpless) as he understood that to truly minister to people is to minister to their pain. The vision that He casts ultimately speaks to the abolition of our pain and the wrongs that cause them (Revelations 21:3-4).  It was this pain that launched Christianity from being a sect, to becoming a movement.  A movement does not develop to sustain peace, but to gain it.  It exists only to challenge what is perceived to be injustice and pain resulting from an existing context.  Once that context is changed so that injustice has been replaced with peace, or pain with healing, the movement loses its fuel.

One of the major flaws in contemporary American Christianity is the failure to minister to people's pain. Not only do we often fail to minister to their pain, but we absolutely reject identifying with it.  Systemic pain such as that found in poverty, addictions, victims of violence,  are often seen as more as manifestations of evil brought on by bad choices in which have nothing to do with us.  Jesus, our leader, chose to identify (Live with, advocate for, speak with, give dignity to, etc) with the poor, the condemned, and those in pain.  Interestingly, Jesus does not allow his morality to flavor his mission or ministry, but simply allows his mission to inform his morality and ministry.  Jesus obviously did not agree, accept, and encourage thoughts and actions that were outside of the will of God, but clearly saw the Kingdom of God as a response to pain. (one of the dimension of the Kingdom of God, it is much richer that this narrow definition)  The pain of the injured man in the parable of the Good Samaritan motivated ministry, not the goodness or moral character of the wounded man.  

Jesus warns us in Matthew 25:31-46, that many people who think they are following him will be disqualified by their unwillingness to identify, as He did, and minister to people in pain.  Its really that deep!

Want to be a great leader?  Want to be part of a movement and not just an institution?  It begins with identifying with the pain of others.

May God bless you as you enter the pain of others.

Pastor M Traylor