Church leaders deal with pain everyday. And, in the words of Southern California pastor Miles McPherson, "it ain't going away."
"If God is going to do something powerful in you and through you ... you're going to have to voluntarily walk into pain," the former San Diego Charger told pastors and church planters Wednesday.
Frustrations, difficult conversations, tough decisions, conflict and even physical pain all come with the job of shepherding a flock. Only "sometimes" is it fun being a pastor, McPherson conceded at the All Access Twenty One conference at Healing Place Church in Baton Rouge, La.
The conference, which concludes Thursday, has drawn hundreds of church leaders and planters for three days of encouragement and connection. Attendees are being equipped to develop healthy local churches and to serve their cities effectively while gaining some inspiration from renowned pastors and speakers such as LifeChurch.tv's Craig Groeschel, Hillsong Church's Brian Houston and author John Maxwell.
Providing attendees with plenty of laughs and stories while addressing the subject of pain, McPherson – who leads the Rock Church in San Diego, one of the fastest growing churches in the country – reminded them of their purpose.
"Your purpose is the same as Christ's purpose; very simple – obey the Father," he stated. "That's it."
"Jesus came and suffered with us before he suffered for us," he stressed. And pastors are called to do the same.
"God said 'you want to do something for your people? Get ready to hurt.'"
Now, the question is how pastors will deal with pain.
"How you deal with pain is directly related on how you view yourself," the megachurch pastor explained. "If you view yourself as the devil views [you], you will deal with pain one way. If you view yourself as God views [you], you will deal with pain another way."
With the former view, the believer always feels defeated.
They may pray for a miracle but in their mind, they think it won't happen, McPherson laid out. They may receive prayers of blessings for their church, but they're already convinced those blessings won't happen. They may even have a "big Sunday" but they feel it will never happen again.
"God's like 'Man, c'mon. I'm the God of good gifts,'" the Rock Church pastor reminded attendees. "If you see yourself as the devil sees you ...you will anticipate pain [and] you'll create your own pain."
Sometimes, pain and frustration come when you don't get what you want, such as a bigger church, he noted.
"You will always have somebody who has more than you," he stated bluntly. "Let it go."
"There's some people because they see themselves as the devil sees them – a loser, a failure, second class – they'll never be enough. And because they see themselves as that, every opportunity to win is an opportunity to lose."
But to the believer who sees him or herself through God's eyes, trials of pain come across differently.
"When you go through pain, God's trying to produce righteousness in your life," he highlighted. And if you go through it again, it's because "you didn't learn the first time."
Experiencing pain also provides ministry opportunities, said McPherson.
Though some may take God's comfort and toss it once comforted, McPherson stressed to attendees that God gave comfort to you so that you can comfort somebody else.
All Access Twenty One is being presented by the Association of Related Churches, which seeks to plant up to 100 new churches around the country this year. There are currently 130 ARC churches.