the shape of leadership

Persevering Through Pain

A Q&A With Griffin McGrath

Influence Magazine on March 6, 2019

Griffin McGrath is the youth and young adults director for the Arizona Ministry Network, a role he stepped into at age 23. Despite their youthfulness, McGrath and his wife, Bethany, are well acquainted with suffering, illness and grief. Yet through every dark valley they have walked, God has given them the grace to persevere. 

INFLUENCE: What have been the challenges and opportunities of leading young?
I understood my district superintendent’s appointment as more of an investment in the next generation than his belief in me personally. I was humbled, but it felt too far beyond me for it to have been about me. My wife and I sensed God’s peace and that it was the Holy Spirit’s leading, so we trusted his and the board’s decision. To say all of a sudden that God qualified us would discount all that He had been doing in us in preparation for that appointment.

Leading young gave us an advantage to see things with fresh eyes and energy; however, we lacked the context and experience, so we positioned ourselves under great leadership who would mentor and pour into us. People initially asked what our vision was, and we told them honestly, “We don’t have one.”

We had nothing to prove, but we made an effort to travel the state, asking questions, and getting a burden in our hearts for the people. We asked God to give us His vision for Arizona, and He made it clear to us that by His Spirit, Arizona would disciple nations.

When you were a teenager, you unexpectedly lost your father, who was involved in district and national youth ministry. In what ways are you carrying on his legacy?
My last conversation with my dad was after a youth camp where God spoke to me at an altar. Over the phone, my dad said he loved me and was proud of me. I had just spent Father’s Day with him the weekend before and hugged him goodbye, not knowing it would be for the last time. God could have spoken anything to me at that altar. He could have warned me about my dad’s death, but He gave me something greater: purpose.

God doesn’t call people to something; He calls people to Someone (himself). My dad never intended for his four boys to follow in his footsteps — that would undermine his legacy. I believe he wanted us to seek who he sought and move the ball forward in the same direction. Every person he impacted has the opportunity to live out his legacy, paving new ways for others to follow the same Jesus.

“When you can’t find your footing, you have to keep your head and trust His heart.”
— Griffin McGrath

You have experienced major health challenges that you’ve chronicled on social media. What has kept you going through all of these physical challenges?
During my first year in this role, I came down with an undiagnosed illness that hospitalized me for a week and nearly took my life. Years later, I developed an aggressive autoimmune disorder, causing severe fatigue, nerve pain and depression. Specialists advised me to quit my job because the stress would trigger long-term brain damage. I still battle this today, but I have experienced the sufficiency of God’s grace and daily portion of strength.

There are times when I feel like I’m climbing a mountain with no summit. I have a list of questions to ask when I finally get to the top, but those questions become irrelevant when matched to the wonder of the gospel message. Religion says, “Climb this mountain,” but grace says, “I’ll carry you.” It’s in these challenging times that our true Source of strength is revealed, and a life-giving community is vital. When you can’t find your footing, you have to keep your head and trust His heart. God may loosen His grip, but He will never let us go.

Your wife’s seventh pregnancy came miraculously full-term, and today you have a healthy boy. What have you learned about God’s faithfulness?
My wife, Bethany, is the strongest person I know, but she never sought to be strong. After six physically and emotionally painful miscarriages, we were wounded and confused. We suffered silently. We knew that God was good, but we couldn’t see it. Bethany chose the path of vulnerability, blogging about our journey. Breaking the silence was not only healing for us, but we found purpose in our pain through a community of people who identified with us.

It’s in the driest seasons that we find our greatest thirst for God, and it’s in the desert where He proves His faithfulness. Our son, Myler, is a daily reminder that we have seen the faithfulness of God. Myler’s name means, “The best things are in heaven.” It’s a tribute to our six babies we’ll meet one day. And as if God wasn’t faithful enough, He’s proven to be faithful again as we just welcomed our second-born son.

How do you stay motivated in leadership, even in the tough times?
My great-aunt, Vivian Piper, was one of the first women to become an ordained minister with the Assemblies of God, living until she was 100 years old. Vivian is remembered saying, “Lean on Jesus, and just when you feel like you can’t lean any more, lean a little harder.”

She was mentored by Aimee Semple McPherson in challenging times for women in ministry. I am inspired by trailblazers like Vivian who paved a way for future generations.

I am leveraging the influence God has entrusted me to pave new roads for all people to get to Jesus. Leadership the way God intended was never about the leader; it’s about preparing the way for who’s following. Jesus paved the only way to reconcile us to God, and our best response is to give our everything so that people everywhere may know this truth.

This article originally appeared in the March/April 2019 edition of Influence magazine.


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