When Love Conquers Compassion

When Love Conquers Compassion

“Unless you suffer the pain
of spiritual discipline
you will suffer the pain
of spiritual defeat.”

– Ian Gardner

She walks her son down the long hospital hallway. People scurry about and take no notice of the suffering mother and child. Mattie holds firmly to his mom; in part to keep his balance, but mostly he wants to feel her warm hands in his own. “I’m tired mom. Please, I want to sit down;” but she does not let her son stop. He has to keep walking. He must exercise his limbs or his body will not heal. Only two days earlier Mattie was burned when a pot of boiling water was knocked from the stove; severely injuring his arm and leg. Pain now fills Mattie’s three-year-old body, but his mother’s love must force her son to walk. It takes every ounce of strength to resist the urge to pick up her son, to hold him, to comfort him, and to let him sit in his little red wagon. If Mattie is to recover from his burns, love must conquer compassion. Holding back her tears, a mother’s love must force her son to experience suffering. For Mattie, healing is on the other side of pain.

Where are you along life’s path? Do you hurt? Does no one stop to notice your pain? In the darkest moments, you cry out to your god, “Where are you now! If you are real… if you are really loving… Where are you now when I need you the most!” Anger is a constant companion. Sorrow seems like the only escape from depression.

Only when your “god” becomes Father will you understand. Only when you experience a love that forces you to walk will you know rest. You must pass through the agony before the ultimate healing comes. Step after painful step; hold firm to the warm hand of the Father and know true love that conquers compassion.

This post is featured in my book, “More Than Cake” as one of the 52 team devotionals that take on issues of church, culture, and theology in a way that will engage your team in a full-orbed discussion of missional community. Get copies today for every member of your team!

First Amazon Review for #EldersLead

First Amazon Review for #EldersLead

My newest book, Elders Lead a Healthy Family,  is now out on Amazon.com and here is the first review:

Dr. J. R. Miller has written a book that directly challenges an average American evangelical status quo: the supposed office of pastor. In Elders Lead a Healthy Family, the popular “CEO” church-leadership model is directly, yet respectfully, critiqued and contrasted with a shared elder-leadership structure more faithful to New Testament ecclesiology. No more “senior pastors,” “associate pastors,” and the like, for church polity—a model that more closely resembles Western corporate business structures than the plurality of elders portrayed in Acts and Paul’s pastoral epistles. Rather, Jesus alone is the “Senior Pastor” (1 Peter 5:4), and all those serving as leaders in the church are His equal under-shepherds. With this in mind, Miller promotes a structure where the local church resembles a family fellowship rather than assuming a leadership model with one man on top followed by lower-tiered clergy (which effectively returns us to the pre-Reformation clergy / laity divide). Far from being a free-flowing, leader-less frenzy, however, the author takes us back to how the NT defines and describes the office of elder, and a plurality of elders–who serve more as “big brothers” than a special class of ordained clergy.

Because Dr. Miller actually practices what he preaches—a shared leadership model with a plurality of elders all bearing the burden (…even the weekly preaching!)—I cannot recommend this book enough. Here is a true practitioner of elder-led churches with a wealth of pastoral and academic experience that only adds undoubted credentials to the book. And, for those interested in the perspective of a real-life working “elder’s wife” (contra. “pastor’s wife”), Dr. Miller’s wife, Suzanne, adds a priceless chapter of her own which is itself worth the price of the book. Rather than merely talking about “shared leadership” or a “plurality of elders,” which are common buzz-words with today’s non-denominational pastoral teams, Dr. Miller’s Elders Lead a Healthy Family actually outline’s what it looks like–and how the church functions better by it to the glory of her Chief Shepherd.

Elders Lead A Healthy Family: My Story

Elders Lead A Healthy Family: My Story


The numbers on pastoral burnout are all too obvious. Most observers understand that even the most favorable numbers reflect a problem with the pastorate in the West. The answer to pastoral burnout is not found in  another program or another leadership conference. The answer to burnout is not more coaching or better education. The answer requires our churches change the very structures that foster isolation and burnout. If we hope to save our pastors, then we need our pastors to abandon the Pastor as CEO model of leadership. If we want to save our pastors, we need a systemic change in the way we plant, grow, and maintain our churches. Instead of putting a solo-leader at the top of Church Incorporated, we need to build teams of Elders, doing ministry together, as they lead the Family of God. Elders Lead A Healthy Family explores what the Bible teaches about shared leadership, Elders as the spiritual ‘Big Brothers’ and shepherds to the Family of God.

The book is for current and future Christian leaders; church planters, missionary-planters, bi-vocational pastors, students, and all those interested in reshaping leadership. This book will draw in readers interested in the organic church movement and young Christian readers frustrated with the celebrity-pastor culture.

Readers of Elders Lead A Healthy Family, will discover the power of shared leadership to strengthen our leaders and transform our churches into vibrant communities of Faith. Because the book will introduce them to a fresh approach to Church as a Family and the transformative power of biblical Eldership.


Dr. J.R. Miller’s Elders Lead a Healthy Family: Shared Leadership for a Vibrant Church is a refreshing alternative to the numerous familiar (and generally fruitless) attempts to baptize the pragmatic priorities of secular leadership theory into the waters of New Testament ecclesiology. For all the talk about community in our churches today, Joe reminds us that healthy relationships must begin at the top—with a community of leaders. This book is full of solid biblical teaching packaged in a winsome and appealing way, by a practitioner who has experienced the benefits of shared leadership first-hand. Elders Lead a Healthy Family ought to be required reading for vocational and non-vocational church leaders alike.

Joseph H. Hellerman, Ph.D.

Author of When the Church Was a Family

Elders Lead a Healthy Family: Shared Leadership for a Vibrant Church is a fascinating fresh look at church leadership. No one wants their sacred cows questioned, but that’s exactly what this book does. With excellent scholarship and personal stories, Dr. J.R. Miller builds a biblical case for elder-led churches. I love how Joe includes women in the discussion in a way that honors and elevates us. It’s a friendly, easy read, but one that will challenge assumptions and inspire every Christian to respond.

Lyn Smith

Bible Activist, Speaker, Author

This book by Dr. J.R. Miller is a helpful addition to books on the biblical vision of shared leadership. Not only does Miller weave in wisdom gained from his pastoral experience but he also treats sensitive topics with thoughtfulness and grace.  With so many churches defaulting to the CEO model of leadership, Elders Lead a Healthy Family: Shared Leadership for a Vibrant Church provides an alternate model to help churches, and church leaders, embrace God’s design of shared leadership.

Benjamin L. Merkle

Bible Activist, Speaker, Author

Dr. J.R. Miller is a rare combination of theorist/practitioner, except when you’re doing what you’re writing about, it stops being theory and starts becoming experience. I appreciate Joe’s well rounded approach to the subject of shared leadership; a heady piece with heart.

Peyton Jones

West Region Catalyst, SEND Network

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