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When I stopped being CEO of a Christian charity, my friends stopped calling

When Eddie Arthur stepped down as head of Wycliffe Bible Translators he found the loss of status troubling. In this honest reflection, he explains why he believes leadership can be insidious and dangerous

As many of you know, I was the CEO of Wycliffe Bible Translators in the UK for a few years. Having worked with Wycliffe for most of my adult life it was a massive privilege and honour to be asked to take on that role. To be honest, it wasn’t a job that I particularly wanted to do, nor do I think that I was very good at it. That being said, I also believe that in God’s providence I was the right person for the job at the time. Despite my many failings (which people were kind enough to regularly point out), I was able to accomplish some things which were essential for the long term health of the organisation, which an outsider would have struggled with.

Although I wasn’t particularly keen on doing the job and was frankly relieved when I stepped down, I was surprised at the impact that leaving the role had on me. The loss of status was horrible.

People who described me as a really good friend when I was the CEO of a large (by evangelical standards) organisation have not spoken to me since I stepped away from the role. In one way, it’s quite nice not having to deal with hundreds of emails a day, but it is undeniable that being at the heart of so much communication and being 'in the know' gives you a warm glow. The invitations to attend and speak at conferences in different parts of the world have more or less dried up. People wanted to hear from the CEO of Wycliffe, they are much less interested in what some niche blogger has to say.

I know these things shouldn’t matter to me; they are ephemeral, unimportant and unrelated to my true identity in Christ. But they do matter. There are times when I really struggle with not being in leadership, with the loss of significance, with not being important anymore.

I found myself musing on these things when reflecting on the latest revelations of leaders falling from grace in the evangelical and broader Christian world.

Leadership is insidious and it is dangerous. I didn’t realise how important my role, influence and title were to me until I stepped down. I may not have liked doing the CEO’s job, but I loved being the CEO and all of the attention that came with it. At this distance, I can see that it would have been all too easy to see myself as being more important than I am and to believe that normal rules didn’t apply to me. I can understand why leaders fall and I can see why those responsible for monitoring them allow it to happen.

Dealing with my own feelings of loss of significance makes me realise the importance of praying for those in leadership who face temptations that are different to those faced by the rest of us and which have the capacity for a much wider impact.

Eddie Arthur is the former executive director of Wycliffe Bible Translators, an organisation he has worked for over 35 years. This article first appeared on kouya.netthe blog he shares with his wife, Sue 

Premier Christianity is committed to publishing a variety of opinion pieces from across the UK Church. The views expressed on our blog do not necessarily represent those of the publisher.

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