Immorality and dishonesty are certainly two things any leader should avoid. There is one thing that leaders should not…adversity. God uses it to shape us as leaders.
Jesus sent his disciples into the teeth of adversity. “See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves,” he said to his disciples (Matthew 10:16) They were to expect adversity. The wolves would literally be at their door.
Years ago in the midst of church conflict, a long time member of the congregation took me aside after a particularly difficult week in the church. She said, “Pastor, think of all the things you are learning through this. This will help you later in your ministry.” It was more than a "look on the bright side" sentiment. She invited me to lean into the conflict, not to run away from it, because of how it would form me as a leader.
Theophan the Recluse, a 19th Century Russian Orthodox Saint, wrote:
Every struggle in the soul’s training, whether physical or mental, that is not accompanied by suffering, that does not require the utmost effort, will bear no fruit…Many people have worked and continue to work without pain, but because of its absence they are strangers to purity and out of communion with the Holy Spirit, because they have turned aside from the severity of suffering. Those who work feebly and carelessly may go through the movements of making great efforts, but they harvest no fruit, because they undergo no suffering. According to the prophet, unless our loins are broken, weakened by the labour of fasting, unless we undergo an agony of contrition, unless we suffer like a woman in travail, we shall not succeed in bringing to birth the spirit of salvation in the ground of our heart.
Recently a study reported that eighty percent of pastors expect conflict in their church this year. This is good news. Congregational conflict when done well can drive its mission deeper and bear more fruit in the future. God is at work. Worrisome to me would be if eighty percent of congregations were reported to live in benign co-existence. Think of it this way, the number one complaint shared by couples to therapists is “we don’t talk anymore.” Lack of communication is a sign of ill health in a relationship.
Lean into adversity with courage and allow God to use it to form you inwardly for the future.