by David Dockery
Leadership is always challenging, but there are certain times when leadership is even more challenging than normal, especially during trial, suffering, and setback. The important and helpful book in Catastrophic Crisis: Ministry Leadership in the Midst of Trial and Tragedy contains powerful leadership lessons learned at key times in the midst of real-life experiences, lessons that are often beyond our ability to fully grasp in the moment. Usually, it is only on reflection that these lessons can be communicated to others. The chapters in this book communicate those reflections in ways that we hope will provide guidance and instruction for others when their moments of challenge arise. The authors of this project, Allen England and Steve Echols, are to be commended for their vision and desire to provide such a useful resource.
In his book The Problem of Pain, C. S. Lewis says that God often uses the experiences of suffering as a megaphone to awaken us. According to Lewis, suffering and pain are often the essential means by which God brings about dependence, fortitude, patience, and forgiveness in His children, while also arousing acts of mercy and compassion among others. On February 5, 2008, the campus of Union University, where I served as president, suffered massive damages from an EF-4 tornado. Bringing destruction to almost all aspects of our residential area and to several other key buildings on campus, the $45 million hit has been declared one of the worst disasters in Southern Baptist history.
That morning we had over 3300 students in class, and nearly one-half of them were on campus when the tornado arrived at 7:02 that Tuesday evening—a night that we will never forget. That night we took 51 students to the hospital. Almost a dozen were seriously injured, and a few had lengthy hospital stays. Everyone who saw the campus during the first 48 hours was overwhelmed by the fact that the lives of all of the students who were on campus on that Tuesday evening were spared. For God’s providential protection we remain grateful.