ANDERSON, S.C. – Craig Groeschel, senior pastor of LifeChurch.tv, spoke to thousands of church leaders at the NewSpring Leadership Conference (NLC) on Thursday and told them a leader's "constant companion" is pain.
While he acknowledged that leaders should do everything they can to "avoid stupid pain," Groeschel also said there is "purposeful pain" that is necessary for them to experience in order to be effective.
"As leaders, there's a type of pain that we carry that sometimes may be even more intense than physical pain. And if we are too afraid to step into the glorious pain of leadership we will limit what God wants to do through us as leaders," he said.
He challenged leaders to start making the painful but necessary decisions they've been avoiding, and shared a painful decision he made 16 years ago that devastated him and hurt his church's attendance as well.
At that time, when his church was attended by only about 100 people, the church had two small groups, one of which was led by a person who began teaching "dangerous theology." While he understood that he might lose some church members over the dispute, Groeschel told the small group leader to stop teaching certain doctrines and, as a result, the leader left the church and took about one-third of the congregation with him.
While he may have despaired over the loss of some of his flock at the time, Groeschel says the split taught him to "do what's right, and trust God with the results." Today his church is attended by about 50,000 people on average.
"Sometimes the difference between where you are and where God wants you to be is the pain that you are unwilling to endure ... In fact, I will argue all day long that your potential in every area of your life is equal to the pain you are willing to endure," he said.
He spoke of a time when God broke him of a "self-sufficient attitude" through another painful ministry experience. He once led a ministry for single adults that dropped drastically in attendance from 100 people down to just four. Groeschel says he felt like a failure, and even questioned his calling to the ministry.
But it was around that time he felt like God spoke to him and said, "Don't blame yourself for the decline, because if you blame yourself for the decline you may be tempted one day to take credit for the increase."
He also cautioned leaders to avoid being "people pleasers," and confessed that he struggled with wanting the approval of men for a long time.
"Becoming obsessed with what people think about you is the quickest way to forget what God thinks about you," he said. "Everybody is not going to like you. Everybody did not like Jesus. You have to be okay with that."
NLC, which was held at NewSpring Church in Anderson, S.C., brought together eight of the nation's most influential pastors who spoke to approximately 2,300 people during the one-day marathon of messages on leadership. Among the pastors who spoke at the event were NewSpring Church's Perry Noble, Elevation Church's Steven Furtick, North Point Community Church's Andy Stanley, Harvest Bible Chapel's James MacDonald and more.
Jason Moorhead, chief operations officer for NewSpring Church, told The Christian Post during the event that all of the speakers have good relationships with Noble, even though they differ from one another in their approaches to preaching and in certain doctrinal positions.
"They're all diverse in their thoughts and the things they believe. And we're trying to kind of promote that diversity, that you can be different and still love each other and be on the same team," said Moorhead.
Groeschel said NLC is like "packing in a four-day conference into one day," and Moorhead says that is one reason why the conference is beneficial to church leaders.
"We try to pack as much into one day as we possibly can so they can best utilize their finances and resources," he said.