Leading out of Brokenness
Even though the cross is central to Christianity, I still get surprised every time God asks me to pick up mine and follow him. It’s a bit of a shock to the system, and often induces confusion. Surely I took a wrong turn somewhere… If God is in this, where is his grace? Not only that, but how could he possibly be asking me to lead when I’m feeling so crushed and broken? This is where I found myself during a season that had started as a grand adventure with God.
I came to NYC in 2004 out of a conviction that God wanted me to help with a church plant. After 18 months of prayerful discernment, I put my career on hold in Boston and left everyone I knew to move with a small band of 10 people to a city I’d only visited as a tourist. I was excited!
During my discernment process, I told God, “I feel like Abraham, a wanderer following you into a new land simply because you told me to go. But could you confirm it’s really you?”. That very Sunday, the leader of our church’s prayer team prayed for me and said, “I get the sense that I’m supposed to tell you you’re hearing correctly and I’m getting a picture of Abraham. Does that mean anything to you?”. With tears streaming I nodded, marveled at God’s grace, and felt peace. I told God, “I can’t do life apart from you. I’ll go where you ask me to go.”
I didn’t expect the road to be so hard. The team that came to NYC was comprised of ordinary, sinful people like myself. In the crucible of planting, our areas of emotional unhealth, sin, and brokenness all get magnified. In the midst of heartache, the pastor of our plant would tell us that by year 3 most church plants have lost all their original planting team members – so we, with our level of conflict and challenge, weren’t doing so badly!
During my 10 years at the church, fruitfulness and pain coexisted. I tend to assume that experiencing pain means I’m failing somehow. Thus it takes me aback to realize that God could be in my experience of being crushed and broken; that he could in fact be asking me to endure through this – and not only to endure through it myself, but to serve and lead others at the same time! This is unexpected.
I’m not sure what Abraham expected when he set out at God’s request, but what he experiences right away is famine and a situation in which he fears for his life (Gen. 12), followed by more wandering and many years of waiting for God’s promise to be fulfilled. We see this pattern repeat with many who are called by God into leadership. Joseph is sold into slavery, and then put in prison, yet leads in both situations. David runs for his life for years and leads while on the run. And most of all, Christ endures the cross set before him, while continuing to model a perfect life for all of us.
And so we’re reminded that we may be called to not only follow God, but to serve and lead others in the midst of pain and in the midst of feeling weak and broken. There is truly nothing like it to build a humble dependence in us and bring a testimony of glory to God. As Paul says in 2 Corinthians:
I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
2 Cor 12: 7b-10
As one wise leader once told me – I never trust a minister without a limp. Meaning, there’s a trustworthiness and safety that emerges from a leader who’s served through a crucible season, and has emerged still eager to follow Jesus, but more honest about his or her own brokenness, and dependent on God’s grace.
~ Pastor Denise Rhrissorrakrai
Pastor Denise serves as the Executive Pastor of Hope Church Astoria in Queens. She enjoys listening to people’s stories and her passion is to see people thrive through forming an intimate relationship with Christ. In 2004, God rocked her world by calling her into a church-planting adventure in New York City, and it’s been home to her ever since. She served on staff for several years at the Vineyard church she helped to plant in Manhattan, before transitioning to pursue her MSW from Hunter College. Denise is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, and has enjoyed working as a counselor. She currently lives in Woodside with her beloved husband Kahn.