All leaders experience moments of frustration. Whether it is from not knowing how to handle a certain crisis or from unreasonable expectations, we all experience frustration from time to time. When perspectives clash, conversations grow tense, and people become annoyed, frustration levels rise. 

As a leader, you don’t want to be the source of frustration, but the political climate, differing opinions, and general weariness can lead you to wish you could lash out and say exactly what you are thinking.

Frustrations are a Part of Life

As you know, frustration is a part of life.  There are simple frustrations. I can get frustrated when I go to the grocery store, pull into the parking lot, and several spaces have grocery carts in them. I immediately say to myself, “How tough is it to return a grocery cart to the place it belongs? How rude to push the cart into an empty parking space and drive off.” Through my frustration I have learned that I do not like to be inconvenienced.

There are more complicated frustrations. I get frustrated when, during a pandemic, people want to politicize wearing a mask, or during a time for learning and conversation about racism, people get defensive and dismissive. How difficult is it to “love your neighbor as yourself?” It is frustrating to think that people who call themselves followers of Jesus have difficulty showing their love and care for the people around them. Through my frustration I have learned I have little tolerance for those who have little tolerance.

What Frustrates You? 

You might think my examples are silly, but it is important as a leader to know what frustrates you and what you do to frustrate others. When you experience frustration, it is a time to stop and ask yourself “why am I frustrated?”. Once you understand your frustrations, you can gain a greater understanding of your frustrating behavior. It is only in facing your frustrations that you can begin to change your behavior.

I’m sure you don’t frustrate people intentionally, but here are several behaviors that frustrate the people you love and serve:

Lack of integrity 

It can be as simple as not following through on what you say you will do. You are only as good as your word. There is nothing more frustrating than someone saying one thing and doing another. A sure path to frustration, mistrust, and disrespect is not backing up your promises with action.

Indecisive decision making

People thrive on action and progress. They are frustrated when they can’t move forward because you can’t make a decision. Trust your judgement. You have the education and experience to make the necessary decisions. You frustrate people when you can’t make up your mind.

Lack of vulnerability

You frustrate people when you have the attitude that you know more than anyone else. When you have to be right by making other people wrong, you shut down conversations and damage relationships. The people avoid discussing anything important with you. It’s okay to be vulnerable. Keep an open mind and heart. Take the ideas, thoughts and perspective of others as seriously as you want them to take yours. 

Blaming others for your mistakes

You are also frustrating when you refuse to be accountable or responsible for your mistakes. You damage relationships, undermine trust, and make people angry. People become fearful of being blamed. They stay in the background and often refuse to participate. Learn to take the blame and give the credit.

Self-preservation

When you are looking out only for yourself, you are not only a source of frustration, but you are perceived as self-centered and untrustworthy. You are in leadership to love and serve the people entrusted to your care.

Constant complaining

It is frustrating to work with people who are always complaining. Things do go wrong, and everyone complains occasionally, but non stop griping sucks all the energy and enthusiasm out of any group. Keep in mind that people follow your lead. Your attitude is contagious.

Now that you know how you might frustrate others, let’s look at how you can lead with courage and confidence. All leaders experience frustration, but you can lead by being a calm presence and by responding with care and kindness. Below are five characteristics of effective leaders in regard to controlling frustration. I am sure you already use some of these ideas and techniques.

Attributes of Effective Leaders

As an effective leader, you control your frustration, because you are:

Self-aware

You pause and reflect. You are aware of your emotions as well as the emotions of others. Instead of saying the first thing that comes to mind, you think through what needs to be said. Then, even if you need to express anger, you can do so calmly and reasonably. Controlling your emotions is a part of effective leadership, especially in the midst of change.

Aware of others

Things never happen in a vacuum. When you know the context of a frustrating behavior or a frustrating situation, you can resolve it. The more closely you observe the people around you and their intentions, the more you understand them and the bigger picture.

Curious

You ask questions for clarity and dig deeper for understanding. You know that you can find a solution to any frustration by tracing it back to its source. You don’t settle for superficial explanations but keep digging to find the underlying cause.

Listening

You know how to let people speak without letting your emotions get in the way. You give the other person the opportunity to say what they need to say. It can be hard to do when you want to interrupt, to defend yourself or just walk away. You stop and listen. You let them vent and get it out of their system so, together, you can start working toward a solution.

Responding and not reacting

It is easy to make a “mountain out of a molehill.” You control your own frustrations so that you don’t add to an already rising frustration level. Once you have responded with calm and coolness, it is easier to keep frustrations under control. You are vulnerable and transparent. You focus on the parts of the frustration that are in your control or influence. You don’t make false promises of change. 

Managing Frustration

Controlling frustration is a demanding skill. We admire the people who can keep their cool in tense situations. It takes practice. And sometimes it feels more like on the job training.

So, this week, try an experiment. 

Connect with a trusted friend and talk about what frustrates you. Then ask this question, “What do I do that is annoying or frustrating to others?” Practice listening. Don’t be defensive. This is not an easy exercise. Even if you get frustrated you will become a better person and a more effective leader.

Remember, Sara Thomas and I (Tom Bias) are available to assist you and your congregation in the midst of your frustration. Don’t hesitate to call upon us as we seek to assist you in deepening your relationship with Christ, the church, and your community.

I’ll be frustrated if you don’t!

How are you doing this week? As you know, I have asked that question several times regarding your focus on leadership, your personal health, and your overall attitude. I have asked because I am interested in you, your community, your church, and your impact upon the people entrusted to your care. As I have said several times in different ways, you were created to lead at this time in history. I am grateful for you and your ministry.

How Am I Doing?

As we have had conversations, several of you have asked how I am doing. Thanks for asking. 

Most of you have heard me say, “I miss seeing you face to face”, or “I miss our lunches together,” or “I miss our general interaction of just being in the presence of each other.”  Again, thanks for asking. I truly value our relationships and look forward to the time we are face to face again. So, today, I am ready to tell you how I really feel.  

How am I doing, you ask? This week I am weary. There is a heaviness in my heart and spirit like I have felt only a few times in my life. Another black man, Jacob Blake, was shot in the back seven times by a police officer in front of his three sons this week. He is paralyzed from the waist down and unable to move. Yet, for a little over 24 hours, he was handcuffed to his hospital bed. Even as he fought to stay alive, he was considered to be a threat. 

Why Am I Weary?

I know that not all of you feel as I do. I’m not trying to make you feel differently, but I do what you know how I feel. I am weary of all the racial hatred. I am weary of human beings, my brothers and sisters, being treated as prey just because of the color of their skin. I am weary of people of good character being quiet, unwilling to name the sin of racism, not acknowledging their participation in it, and then pleading ignorance instead of stepping up and out to resist it and eradicate it.   

Please hear me.  I am weary because I am hurting. My heart and spirit are broken. So, I know you will understand when I say that I don’t want to hear there were circumstances the media didn’t report and we don’t know all the facts. A 29-year-old father of three small boys was shot in the back. In what world is it okay for a human being to be shot seven times at point blank range because of the color of his skin? 

How many more people?

I know you will understand when I say I don’t want to hear about black on black crime.  To me, that is a naive distraction. How many more unarmed black men and women will be murdered before we face reality?

Listen, another unarmed black man was shot by a police officer, a person in power. Don’t tell me that the police officer felt threatened and he reacted as he was taught to react. If that is true, then we have been wrong in how we have been training our law enforcement officers.

Don’t tell me that most police officers are good, and we just need to get rid of a “few bad apples.” I know most law enforcement officers are good people and that their work is hard and dangerous, but police officers are required to respect and protect human lives, all human lives, regardless of skin color. Please don’t tell me about protecting property, every human being is infinitely more valuable than property.

Please hear me. I am not saying we need to “defund” the police.  But is it too much to expect police officers to be taught and trained that every human being, regardless of color, is a person of infinite worth and is worthy of ultimate respect, care, and grace? 

What I Don’t Want to Hear About

I know you will understand when I say I don’t want to hear that talking about this only perpetuates the problem.  It is precisely because we have not talked about racism that the sin persists to overtake us.

Racism is woven and embedded into the fabric of each of our lives.  Whether we like it or not or do so intentionally or not, each of us participates in and perpetuates racism. Just the simple idea that black people are more violent than white people is a racist idea that perpetuates an unrealistic fear and suspicion.

Just the simple idea that black people are inferior to white people is a racist idea perpetuated by centuries of laws and policies based upon black people being less than human. Is it too much to ask that we learn our history, face it honestly, and take the responsibility to put an end to racism? 

If we are to face it, name it, and put an end to it, we will have to talk about it. 

Why I Am Weary

I am weary because I am afraid. I’m not afraid of men and women of darker skin color.

I am afraid because my wife and I, along with my children and my granddaughters live in a country where a 17-year-old radicalized white supremacist, an agent of racial terror, can travel across state lines, carry an assault rifle, shoot and kill two people during a protest march.

A 17-year-old.

Now it is illegal for someone under 18 years-of-age to carry a gun in Wisconsin, but because of the color of his skin, he is privileged. He carries the gun, an assault rifle, down the middle of the street, in the presence of law enforcement officers, but because of the color of skin, he is not considered a threat.  In fact, by some people, he is considered a hero. 

Will You Understand?

I know you will understand when I say that I do not want to hear about our Second Amendment Right to bear arms.  I am not questioning your right or any one’s right to bear arms. But, in what civilized culture is it acceptable for a teenager to carry an assault rifle down the middle of the street? In fact, in what Christian environment of care and compassion is it acceptable to carry loaded weapons in public? 

I know you will understand when I say, “Black Lives Matter.” I am not making a political statement. So, I don’t want to hear how it is a Marxist movement or it is designed to undermine our American culture. When I say, “Black Lives Matter,” I am making a statement of Christian love, hospitality, and hope. I know that all lives matter and blue lives matter, but until you and I take Black lives seriously, we will not face, name, and overcome the evil of racism. 

A Word of Hope

When I decided to write this blog, I was not only weary, I was sad. If you are still reading, thank you. Because you have taken my feelings seriously, I want to offer a word of hope. There are several places to start to address the evil of racism.  I want to offer four, based upon the love and acceptance each of us have experienced and received in and through Jesus Christ. 

As a leader of Jesus followers, who seeks to deepen your relationship with Christ, your church, and your community, here is what I want you to do: 

Reach out and receive the people around you.

You might feel uncomfortable developing relationships with strangers and people who think and feel differently than you, but “welcome one another just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God” (Romans 15:7). Welcoming people into your life is who you are as a follower of Jesus. Every person you meet is a gift from God. To reach out and receive others is to be who God created you to be. Anything less than being open and receptive to all people is to miss the point of God’s purpose and desire for your living. Because this is true, you take each human life seriously, regardless of skin color.

Offer love and acceptance to all people.

As a follower of Jesus, you “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39). Loving your neighbor is so important, Jesus taught, “Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35). As a follower of Jesus, you love people as you have been loved by God in and through Jesus. It is by the way you love people that you reveal your true character. Your love is an invitation to others to love. Your greatest witness is to love each human being as God has loved you, regardless of skin color.

Practice loving others.

John, in his letter, tells us, “We know love by this, that he (Christ) laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for one another” (1 John 3:16).

It might seem simplistic, but this is where you learn to lay down your life by having conversations about race and racial injustice. This is where you learn to be empathetic. Try to understand what it is like to live each day aware of your race, to always be on guard, and to feel like you must give up and keep the peace.

Then, try to imagine what it is like to live with trauma in your bones. Where you must remind your children to get home safely by following certain unwritten rules when stopped by the police. Try to imagine the anxiety in your heart when your son or daughter does not come home on time and you worry whether he or she is still alive. This is where you lay aside your agenda and have serious conversations about Black Lives Matter.

This is not a political conversation about an organization.  This is a conversation about putting the love of God into action in everyday situations. If you do a good job here, you will be modeling the values that our law enforcement officers need to respect and protect all people, regardless of skin color.

Invite others to engage in loving people.

As a follower of Jesus, this is where you put your love into action and invite others to join you in loving as they, too, have been loved. Jesus said, “You study the scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life.

These are the very scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life” (John 5:40). In other words, the study of scripture leads you to Jesus. In the love you have received in and through him, you stand up, speak out, and work for justice.

It is important that you do not miss this action. The whole purpose and point of the scripture are to lead you to Jesus and to follow him into the world so that the world might be who and what God created it to be. Truly, this is not up for debate or negotiation.

The Bible can give you truth, wisdom, guidance, hope, encouragement, inspiration, warning, correction, and so on, but it does not give you life. Only Jesus gives you life.  And Jesus says, “Love one another as I have loved you. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35).

This is the place for action. This where you and your church can make a public statement against racism and for anti-racism.  This is where you can boldly proclaim “Black Lives Matter” because you are loved, regardless of skin color. 

What’s Your Next Step?

Lesslie Newbigin wrote, “It is a terrible misunderstanding of the Gospel to think that it offers us salvation while relieving us of responsibility for the life of the world, for the sin and sorrow and pain with which our human life and that of our fellow men and women are so deeply interwoven.” 

With that in mind, what one step will you take to address racism. I know it can be confusing, but you must start somewhere. So, as a Jesus follower, seeking to grow in your relationship with Christ, with your church, and with the community, what one step will you take to address racism? 

There are books to read, conversations to have, and relationships to develop. There are lessons to learn, habits to unlearn, and people to encounter. Not everyone is in the same place in their understanding and participation in racism. But it is past time to begin. What one step will you take to address racism in your life, your church, and your community? 

Please know that you are not alone. Sara Thomas and I (Tim Bias) are available to assist you and your congregation to deepen your relationships as you face the evil of racism.  

If you are reading this sentence, know that I am praying for you and your ministry.  Now, pray for me that I will become more the person God has created me to be for this time in history. I may be weary, but I have not lost hope.   

How are you feeling today? How are you caring for yourself and for the people entrusted to your care? You don’t need me to say that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought a variety of unprecedented health-related, financial, and emotional difficulties. There were enough stressors and anxiety before the pandemic, but fear and anxiety about the virus and what might happen are being multiplied several times over. 

As a leader, amid the stress, you are expected to assist people to find some normalcy. 

Lead with Courage & Compassion

Here are some things to keep in mind as you lead with courage and compassion:

  • Personal stress is created by feeling disconnected and isolated, as well as by a fear of getting sick during the pandemic.
  • Financial stress is driven from a loss of income due to reduced hours or being laid off from work, as well as from not receiving offerings on Sunday mornings.
  • Family stress is generated by the need to balance learning how to work at home while caring for children 24 hours a day, assisting with educational needs and household responsibilities, as well as trying to go back to work while the children are at home.
  • Cultural stress is fueled by a concern over the changes occurring in local communities and as well as in the church. Will our favorite restaurants survive the pandemic? Will I be able to return to my gym? Will my church bounce back from the financial hardships created by the pandemic?
  • Cumulative stress encompasses all the above as well as social media and other media experiences. 

Acknowledge Current Reality

Keep in mind, whether real or perceived, these stressors can make living through the time of a pandemic a traumatic event. Your awareness of these stressors will help you respond appropriately to the actions and reactions of the people around you.         

As a leader, as well as for yourself personally, it’s important that you keep yourself healthy. When you are healthy, you are more self-aware and better able to respond with care and compassion. During these uncertain times, you have the opportunity to model for others as you care for yourself. Here are some things to keep in mind for your own health. 

Focus on What You Can Control

During times of uncertainty, you might feel you have no control over what is happening. Keep focused upon the things you can control. Things like:

  • Having a positive attitude.
  • Following CDC health recommendations.
  • Washing your hands
  • Wearing a mask
  • Maintaining social distancing practices in your daily life.
  • Turning off the news before it increases your level of stress and anxiety.
  • Limiting your social media consumption.
  • Acting with kindness and grace (be Christian)
  • Having fun and experiencing joy
  • Focusing your energy on these items instead of factors that are out of your control will help you regain a sense of empowerment. 

Encourage the People Entrusted to Your Care

As a leader, your to-do list is already long. Consider how you might incorporate one of the following in your daily or weekly rhythm as a way to encourage the people entrusted to your care. These things will help people shift their focus from themselves to the people they love and care for.

Practice Gratitude

  • Start each day with a reflection of thankfulness. It will help you stay aware of the good things that are happening in your life during the pandemic. Use the Read, Reflect, Respond, Return pattern.

Establish a Routine

  • The pandemic has disrupted most daily routines and has made it harder to remain productive. Setting a routine is important. It is not too late to set one. It will take some initiative, but once you have started, stick with it as much as you can. Allow yourself flexibility to adjust as needed based on things that come up during your day. This will help you stay productive, even if your productivity level doesn’t remain consistent with pre-pandemic levels.

Give Yourself A Break

  • Literally, breaks are a way to help be more productive. Active breaks continue to stimulate your brain. They also help you stay focused when you are tired or losing interest in what you are doing.

Exercise

  •  Times of high stress and anxiety can negatively impact your motivation to be active. Brief physical exercise can boost your energy, stimulate your thinking, and lower your emotional stress levels.

Stay Connected

  • Social distancing can make you feel more disconnected to the people in your life. Look for ways to stay connected to friends and family. It is just as important to Zoom with people who bring you joy as it is to Zoom those important meetings. 

What’s Your Next Step?

As you read through that list, was there one action that you found yourself saying, “I can do that.” or “I want to do that.” Start with one small step. Along the way, remember that you’re modeling for others what it means to be a healthy leader. An all or nothing approach will lead to failure. Take one step.

So, to get started, what one activity or practice will you start this week? If you are already doing some of these things, which one will you continue and invite others to join? As you continue to nurture your body and soul, you’re becoming the leader God has created you to be for this time and place in history.

If you need and want help, contact us at connect@transformingmission.org, Sara Thomas and I (Tim Bias) are ready to assist you in deepening your relationship with Christ, strengthening your relationships within your congregation, increasing your connections to the surrounding community as you lead a movement of Jesus followers.

How are you doing this week? As you have navigated a pandemic, balanced family and work responsibilities, and continued to lead prophetically through recurring acts of racism, how are you feeling? How are you doing? 

If you are weary of the false promises, disillusioned with artificial relationships, and disheartened with the political bantering and conflicting opinions, you are ready for an encouraging word. As a leader, created to lead for such as time as this, a word of hope would be good. 

The Meaning of Hope

As you know, hope means different things to different people. To some, it has religious connotations. To others, it’s a strong feeling that motivates them to do great things. Some people think of hope as wishful thinking where they wish for something but have no control over the outcome. Still, others see hope as a genuine possibility of making dreams reality by reaching goals. 

So, what will lift your spirits and keep you looking beyond the obstacles you are facing at the moment? What will keep you believing and expecting that out of today’s darkness, God’s light will shine brightly? 

Hope Keeps You Focused

What we know is this, when there is a clear vision and a defined direction, hope is more than wishful thinking. It is the driving force of being able to evaluate the current situation, navigate discouragement, adapt to new realities, and renew the vision of what can and will be. Hope keeps you focused on the direction you are moving in the midst of the challenges. 

So, slow down for a moment and get some fresh air. Even hope-filled leaders need a word of hope. I know it will sound strange, but you already know what is needed to move forward. Even though you might feel weary, anxious, and exhausted, you have it within you to lead others through the days we are living. 

Hope Abounds

Even with that in mind, I know that when you are weary, you are more open to doing anything other than what you are doing to get out of the weariness. So, here is what I want you to do: 

Keep your eyes on Jesus 

  • Jesus said, “If you believe in God, you believe in me.” God created you to lead through this time. As much as you want to please people, keep Jesus at the center of your life. Feeling anxious is normal. Following Jesus is transformational.

Trust your instincts

God has put within you the desire to trust God’s leading. You are who you are for a reason. There will be times that you will doubt yourself. Trust who God has created you to be and lead out of who we are.

Be generous with the people you are leading.

Love people the way God, in Jesus, has loved you. People are only trying to live into what they know. You are the leader and you know the mission and goal that is to be accomplished. People trust who and what they know. Give them the benefit of your doubt and love them into the future.

Don’t give up. 

The writer of Hebrews reminds us, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses.” Continue to hold before those entrusted to your care the picture of what’s next. Empower them to look beyond today’s challenges to tomorrow’s answers. 

Remember that you are surrounded by those who have gone before you. They are cheering you on. Listen closely when you are weary. You will hear family members, mentors, saints throughout the ages saying, “Don’t give up. Keep going. We are with you! Hang in there! Don’t give up.”

Don’t be afraid to move forward.

You are a leader.  You know there will be times of disapproval and pressure to conform. But you also know how to evaluate the current situation, navigate discouragement, adapt to new realities, and renew the vision of what can and will be.

Be the hope-filled leader you feel you need to face the challenges of today. 

I know it is easier said than done. But the bottom line, in the midst of your weariness, is not to be afraid. When you are weary it is easier to be motivated by fear and by hope.  

Fear prompts you to stay with the status quo. It is easier to stay with what you know rather than what you don’t know. There is a level of fear that is reasonable. But, when you let your fears take control, you often become paralyzed and do nothing.

Hope, on the other hand, gently steers you toward making a difference. By keeping your eyes upon your goal, hope helps you manage your fears. You move from weariness to expectation. 

Slow Down for Hope

Jon Meacham, Pulitzer Prize winning historian, writes, 

“The opposite of fear is hope, defined as the expectation of good fortune not only for ourselves but for a group to which we belong. Fear feeds anxiety and produces anger; hope breeds optimism and feelings of well-being. Fear is about limits; hope is about growth. Fear casts its eyes warily, even shiftily, across the landscape; hope looks forward, toward the horizon. Fear points at others, assigning blame; hope points ahead, working for a common good. Fear pushes away; hope pulls others closer. Fear divides; hope unifies.” 

When you move forward with hope, you:

  • Let trust be the basis for your relationships,
  • Offer opportunities for improvement,
  • Test your assumptions with those entrusted to your care,
  • Think more about what you stand for and less about what you oppose,
  • Are curious about possibilities.
  • Step outside your comfort zone, embrace the risks, and move forward.

Move Forward with Hope

So, slow down for a moment and get some fresh air. Stop what you are doing and read your favorite verse of scripture. Let the God who created you for this time give you a different perspective. Call, text, email a friend or colleague, and let them give you a fresh perspective on your leadership.

Remember, in the midst of weariness, hope is a gift. Don’t throw it away. 

“The Lord’s unfailing love and mercy still continue, fresh as the morning and as sure as the sunrise. The Lord is all I have, in him I will place my hope” (Lamentations 3:22-24). 

When you need and want encouragement, Sara Thomas and I (Tim Bias) are available to assist you in the ways you might need it the most. Know how much you are appreciated. 

Don’t give up! Move forward with hope. We need you and want you! Don’t give up!

Over the past several months, you have learned new ways to stay healthy physically, spiritually, and emotionally. You have learned different ways to communicate with and stay connected to the people entrusted to your care. You have discovered innovative ways to be and do church. Each of these experiences has helped to shape you into the leader needed for this point and time in history. My question is, how have you kept yourself relationally healthy? 

We know that relationships create the conditions that lead to trust, hope, and satisfaction. So, how are you doing in caring for and cultivating the relationships needed to navigate the uncertainty and confusion of a pandemic and of anti-racism?   

A Person and a Story

G. K. Chesterton wrote, “The only two things that can satisfy the soul are a person and a story; and even a story must be about a person.” How are you keeping yourself focused and healthy regarding your relationship to Jesus, the people with whom you live, work, and associate, and the community in which you live?  

Let’s focus upon two relationships that are necessary for leading today. These relationships are with God’s story and with God’s people. 

Your Relationship with God

Let’s start with your relationship to God’s story. 

1. Listen to God’s story.

Listening keeps your relationship alive. As you listen:

  • Put yourself in the story.  Ask yourself, “What voices of truth do I hear in the story?”
  • Reestablish your relationship with stories that have grown too familiar.
  • Give God thanks and express your gratitude for others.

2. Learn God’s story

The Christian life is a story of relationships. It is your RELATIONSHIP(S)…

  • with others and a peace regarding those relationships that is the number one ingredient in a quality life.
  • to God and to the people God has entrusted to your care that has you in your leadership role at this time. 
  • that help make you who you are. God is Love, and love is impossible outside of relationships. In relationship to God and to one another, you have no choice but to live with, listen to, and learn from the people around you.

3. Live the story

Christians live the story of Jesus.

  • God gives you a new heart and puts a new spirit within you. The word dwells within you. You become a living container for God’s word.
  •  When you tell the story of Jesus forgiving his enemies, you become someone who forgives his or her enemies.  When you tell the story of Jesus’s crossing the street to help an outcast, you cross the street to help the nearest outcast.
  •  Remember your relationship with God’s story is hazardous to your status quo. God’s story has the power to change the world. Be grateful for the ways your life is transformed. 

Your Relationship with God’s People

Another relationship necessary for leadership today is the relationship with God’s people. 

Whether you like it or not, as a leader, you are in the people business. Loving and caring for people has become a way of life. It is never easy but greatly rewarding. It is in and through the people God has put into your life that God shapes you into the person and leader you were created to be. With that in mind, here is a little exercise to assist you in becoming a healthier and more effective leader: 

  • Think of one person for whom you are grateful. A person who helps keep you healthy by reminding you of God’s love and acceptance.  A person who encourages you.
  • Get a face in your mind and a name on your lips. Keep that person in mind as you read the following:

Was It Just Two Pieces of Paper?

Sister Helen P. Mrosla, an assistant professor in the School of Education at Seattle University in Washington, tells the story of Mark and his classmates in a ninth grade math class she taught in Minnesota. One Friday, things just didn’t feel right. The class had worked hard on a new concept all week, and she sensed that the students were frowning, frustrated with themselves, and edgy with one another.

Two Pieces of Paper

To stop the crankiness, she asked the students to put their books away and to take out two sheets of notebook paper. She then asked them to list the names of the other students in the room on their paper, leaving a space between each name. Then she asked them to think of the nicest thing they could say about each of their classmates and to write it down. It took the remainder of the class period to finish their assignment. As the students left the room, each one handed her their papers. One of the students, Charlie, smiled.  Another student, Mark said, “Thank you for teaching me today, Teacher. Have a good weekend.”  

On Saturday, she wrote down the name of each student on a separate sheet of paper and she listed what everyone had said about that individual. On Monday, at the beginning of the class, she gave each student his or her list. Before long, the entire class was smiling. She listened as the students said things like, “Really? I never knew that meant anything to anyone!”  “I didn’t know others liked me so much.” After a few minutes, the class went back to studying math. There was no mention of those papers in class again.

A Common Experience from an Uncommon Moment

It was several years later that Sister Helen learned that Mark had been killed in Vietnam. She had gotten word that Mark’s family wanted her to attend his funeral. At the funeral she watched and listened. One of the soldiers who acted as pallbearer came up to her and asked, “Were you Mark’s math teacher?” She nodded “yes”. He said, “Mark talked a lot about you.”

After the funeral, most of Mark’s classmates headed to Chuck’s farmhouse for lunch. Sister Helen was invited to come by the house. When she arrived, Mark’s mother and father met her at her car. “We want to show you something,” Mark’s father said, taking a wallet out of his pocket. “They found this on Mark when he was killed. We thought you might recognize it.” Opening the billfold, he carefully removed two worn pieces of notebook paper that had obviously been taped, folded, and refolded many times. Sister Helen knew what it was without looking at the paper.

A Folded Treasure

Mark’s mother said, “Thank you so much for doing that. As you can see, Mark treasured it.”

Mark’s classmates started to gather around. Charlie smiled rather sheepishly and said, “I still have my list. I keep it in the top drawer of my desk at home.”

Chuck’s wife said, “Chuck asked me to put his in our wedding album.”

“I have mine too,” Marilyn said.  “It’s in my diary.”

Then Vicki reached into her pocketbook, took out her wallet and showed her worn and frazzled list to the group. “I always carry this with me. I take it out and look at it every time I need encouragement. I think we all saved our lists.” 

Your Turn

  •  Do you still have a person in mind? Sometime today, tomorrow or this week, practice addition. Add a word of gratitude to their lists.
  • Make a phone call. Send a Text. Write an Email. Write a note and let them know how much you appreciate them and care for them. It can be as simple as “Giving God thanks for you today. Know how much you are loved and appreciated.” 

Relationships create the conditions that lead to trust, hope, and satisfaction. There are two relationships necessary for leading today: relationships with God’s story and with God’s people.

So, how are you doing in keeping your relationships healthy? Remember, Sara Thomas and I (Tim Bias) are available to assist you along your journey. Please do not be afraid or hesitate to ask for help. Let us know what questions you have or what you might need as you develop the relationships that help make you the leader needed for this time in history.

God became flesh and moved into the neighborhood. “Love one another as I have loved you.” You and I are a part of that story. May your relationships always reveal the blessing!

How are you doing this week? Over the past several months we have talked about navigating a pandemic, addressing the evils of racism, and becoming the leader God has created you to be.  We have not focused as much upon our mission. So, my question today is related to our mission, “How are you doing with leading and nourishing Jesus followers to make a difference in their communities and the world?” 

Our Responsibilities

Maybe a better way to ask the question is, “How are you leading the people entrusted to your care in responding to the pandemic and to racism?”  One of the misunderstandings of Christians today is to think that the Gospel offers us salvation while relieving us of responsibility for the life and well-being of the people in our communities, neighborhoods, and cities.

The pain and sorrow we have experienced over the past several months is interwoven into the fabric of our culture and deeply influence the thoughts and actions of all of us. Our mission, as Jesus followers, is to invite and equip people to not only address the pain and sorrow but to address the evil, the root causes, of the pain and sorrow. 

How are you doing in leading your congregation in reaching out and receiving people, introducing them to God’s love in Jesus, practicing the teachings of Jesus, and engaging them in God’s love as they navigate the pandemic and respond to racism? 

It’s NOT About a Political Position

To make disciples of Jesus is to call and equip people to be signs and agents of God’s justice in all human affairs. An invitation to accept the name of Jesus but fail to call people to be engaged in God’s love in everyday life is not Christian and must be rejected as false. 

How are you leading the people entrusted to your care in responding to the pandemic and to racism? Another misunderstanding of many Christians in our culture today is to think that the Christian faith is a particular political position.  People tend to politicize everything from “wearing a mask” to “Black Lives Matter.”

Our mission is not a political mission, it is a Gospel mission. A mission of love. Another way of saying it is, “Jesus didn’t call it ‘social justice.’ He simply called it love.  If we would only love our neighbors beyond comfort, borders, race, religion, and other differences that we have allowed to be barriers, ‘social justice’ would be a given.  Love makes justice happen.” (Bernice King in response to the death of John R. Lewis). 

Jesus Moves Us Beyond Self-Interest

Now let’s be clear, the uncomfortable and unsettling conversations we are having about racism, white privilege, and white supremacy are not on the same scale as what many in our marginalized communities have experienced.  Yet, the conversations are necessary.

The mandates to wear masks for the health and well-being of the people around us are not on the same scale of Constitutional rights. Yet, the wearing of masks is necessary. Our mission moves us beyond self-interest to moral conversations and actions. As uncomfortable as any conversation or action might be, loving our neighbors is enough to motivate us to change our behavior for the sake of God’s love and care for all people.  

To make disciples of Jesus is more than inviting people to the church.  It is to equip them to be signs and agents of God’s justice in all aspects of human life. To invite people to accept the name of Jesus is not an invitation to a particular political platform but is to immerse people in God’s love and to engage them in developing life changing relationships in their communities and the world.   

Reminders

So, as you are leading the people entrusted to your care, remember:

  1. We are all created by God.  No one is created to be superior or inferior. Each of us, as human beings, regardless of color, race, nationality, or gender is created by God.
  2. As Jesus followers, we know that to love God is to love our neighbor and to love our neighbor is to love God.  Regardless of political persuasion, to love God is to love neighbor.  Regardless of color, race, or gender, to love God is to love neighbor, to love others, and to love one another.
  3. Each human being, regardless of race or color, is created in God’s image and is called to faith.
  4. To love one another is one-way people will know that we are Jesus followers and that we love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength.
  5. The way we treat one another we treat Jesus.

Your Next Step

How are you leading the people entrusted to your care in responding to the pandemic and to racism? Take a moment to think of the people entrusted to your care. With the people God has given to you to love in mind, I want you to do the following: 

  • Give God thanks for the opportunity to live and work in this time of chaos and confusion.
  • Confess your need for a relationship with God and with the people entrusted to your care.
  • Place the people, situations, and circumstances into God’s hands.
  • Ask God to use you as an instrument of peace and love.  

O God, thank you for the opportunity to live and work at this time in history. I confess that I do not know what to do, but I do know I need you and I need the people you have given me to love and to serve. As I place my relationships, the church, and the people around me into your hands, I pray that you will use me as an instrument of your peace and love. By your grace, I offer myself to you in the name of Jesus.  Amen.  

If you need and want help, contact us, Sara Thomas and I (Tim Bias) are ready to assist you in leading the mission of making disciples for the transformation of the world.    

How are you doing this week? Has anyone told you that you are doing a great job? Even though I can imagine that you don’t feel that you are, I want to assure you that God has not abandoned you.

The people entrusted to your love and care are looking to you for connection. Those with whom you live, work, and see from a distance on Zoom, or some other form of social media, are looking to you, as their leader, to keep them connected to one another and to God.  

Please understand, I’m not trying to put more on you.  I am stating a fact.  You were created to lead through an unprecedented worldwide health crisis. 

Navigating Uncharted Territory

With no warning, you have altered the way you do just about everything. You have watched more than one black man be murdered in the street. You have learned of levels of racism that you never dreamed afflicted your family, your friendships, or your leadership. As you have tried to make sense of it all, you have done it without a single hug or needed affirmation.  

Although you hear me say that you were created to lead in such a time as this, you don’t feel equipped for this. You feel overmatched and overwhelmed. And at best, you feel disconnected from the community that has shaped, formed, and affirmed your identity. 

From where I stand, I think you have done a fantastic job navigating uncharted territories. As you have met the challenge, you have become who God created you to be. I want to affirm your leadership by reminding you, that as a follower of Jesus, your leadership is rooted in your relationship to God and to the people entrusted to your care. 

Jesus’ Teaching

From the perspective of Matthew, the first followers of Jesus were to teach others to obey everything Jesus had taught them (Matthew 28:20) with the assurance that Jesus would be with them. The question is “What had they been taught?” 

From Matthew’s perspective, God sent Jesus to teach us how to live before God or how to live a holy life.  For Matthew, at the heart of holy or righteous living was relationship. The words “teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” is what Matthew wants us to know about living in relationship with all the people around us. Being in relationship with God and with one another is what it means to be a Jesus follower.  Being in relationship with God and with the people entrusted to your care is the foundation of effective leadership. 

5 Reminders about Effective Leadership

Let’s think of it this way. Effective leadership is rooted in: 

1. Healthy relationships

Whether with family, friends, strangers, or enemies, you have been taught to be proactive in how you treat others.  You act on behalf of others not because they have acted on your behalf but because loving others is who we are as a Jesus follower.

2. Self-respect

Having respect for yourself in such a way that you are a person of your word.  It means that you are integrated in your living, that what you are living on the outside in your relationships grows from the convictions of your inner life. 

3. Seeking first the kingdom of God.

Being self-aware and keeping all aspects of life in a healthy perspective.  

4. Caring for others in such a way that you are caring for Jesus himself. 

You are growing to the point that caring for others becomes so natural that you don’t even know that you are caring for Jesus.  You lead with care, not to become holy, but because you are holy. 

5. Being proactive in forgiveness. 

Relationships are so important; your leadership is about investing your life in the people around to the point that broken relationships are restored and become productive.    

Being the Leader You Were Created to Be

Jesus says “to obey” the things you have been taught. In other words, it is easy to talk about effective leadership, but it is not easy to be the leader you were created to be. There are times that you are vulnerable and you step out in faith to live out your purpose. You become who God created you to be as you practice your faith.  

Fred Craddock tells the story of a missionary, Oswald Goulter, who served in China in the 1940’s. An agricultural missionary, he taught people to raise their own food as he loved and cared for their families. When the Communists came to China, they forced him to leave. So, his supporters in the United States wired him money for a ticket home.  

His journey home took him to India. While he was there, he discovered there were Jews living in barn lofts, attics, and sheds throughout the city. They were there because India was one of the few countries that welcomed Jews after Hitler expelled them from Europe.

Goulter was glad to see them. It was Christmas time and he visited them in the barn lofts, attics, and sheds saying, “Merry Christmas!” They said, “But we are Jews.”

“Oh, I know, but Merry Christmas anyway. What would you like for Christmas?” They said, “But we are Jews.”

He said, “Oh, I know. But is there anything you want for Christmas?” 

Several of them thought about it and said, “It has been years since we have had German pastries.”

Goulter went all over the city and found a shop that sold German pastries. He cashed in his ticket to the United States and bought boxes of pastries. Then he delivered them to the Jews in the barn lofts, attics and sheds. Handing them out, he said, “Merry Christmas! Merry Christmas!”

Years later, that story was told in a gathering where Goulter was present. After the story was told, one young preacher in the back of the room stood and asked, “Dr. Goulter, did you really do that?” 

Goulter, a little taken back said, “Yes. Yes, I did.”  

The young preacher said, “I can’t believe you did that.”

Dr. Goulter asked, “Did I do something wrong?” 

The young preacher said, “Those people aren’t Christians. They don’t even believe in Jesus!” 

Dr. Goulter responded, “But I do!” 

The effectiveness of your leadership is seen in your faithfulness to your relationship with God and with the people entrusted to your love and care. 

You might not feel equipped. Maybe you feel overmatched and overwhelmed. You might even feel disconnected from the community that has shaped, formed, and affirmed your identity. But the good news is, you are not alone.  Jesus is with you as you lead into and through the chaos, confusion, and uncertainty. 

Your Next Step

So, here is what I want you do:

  • Give God thanks for the opportunity to live and work in this time of chaos and confusion.
  • Confess your need for relationship with God and with the people entrusted to your care.
  • Place the people, situations, and circumstances into God’s hands.
  • Ask God to use you as an instrument of peace and love. 

O God, thank you for the opportunity to live and work at this time in history. I confess that I do not know what to do. But, I do know I need you and I need the people you have given me to love and to serve. I place my relationships, the church, and the people around me into your hands. I pray that you will use me as an instrument of your peace and love. By your grace, I offer myself to you in the name of Jesus.  Amen. 

Let me say it again, from where I stand, you are doing a fantastic job navigating uncharted territories. You are growing into the person and leader God has created you to be. Remember, you are not alone. As a follower of Jesus, lead on.  We need you to lead us now more than ever before. 

We are living in a time of enormous change. Almost daily we experience the anxiety of the ground moving under our feet. When the foundation upon which we have been living begins to shift, our anxiety levels intensify.  

When you are driven by anxiety, you see the world differently.  You begin to make your decisions based upon the fear of scarcity and to focus on problems and shortages rather than possibilities and abundance. As a leader, it is during such anxiety you need the courage to stay focused and to lead the people entrusted to your care.    

Stability

During times like this, one of the qualities people want in a leader is stability. According to a recent Gallup survey of 10,000 followers, words like strength, support, and peace were used to describe what people needed and wanted from their leaders. The survey revealed that people are looking for leaders who provide stability.   

It is during times of uncertainty, that you can be the leader that makes the world better. People want and need leaders of stable influence to navigate the unknowns of our changing communities and churches. Whether you believe it or not, your leadership makes the world a better place.   

7 Characteristics of Leaders Who Provide Stability

Trusted

You model integrity and consistency. You are capable and competent while leading with confidence and humility.  Further, you are focused and leave no doubt in the minds of followers as to what matters, and what will and will not be tolerated.

Relational

You are truthful about who you are, which makes you vulnerable. You are honest about your ability, which makes you authentic. Because you are both vulnerable and authentic you are able to develop healthy relationships. It is through your relationships that you are able to encourage, support, and inspire the people entrusted to your care.

Balanced

You are rational in your thinking and decision making. During uncertainty, you carefully listen to the people around you and take what is said into consideration. You lead because of who you are and not because of the anxiety of the moment or the opinions of the people filled with anxiety. Because your authenticity and trustworthiness grow out of your inner life, people have no doubt what motivates your decision-making. They trust you and the direction in which you are leading.

Compassionate and Caring

You understand your effectiveness is rooted in the well-being of the people you lead. Further, you listen to understand. You are empathetic and compassionate in your behavior. When people know you care, you help create a sense of trust and stability.

Mission-Focused

With the mission in mind, you lead with conviction. Because your leadership is grounded in the mission, you are clear regarding the direction you are leading. Because you are clear regarding your direction, you can focus upon the people entrusted to your care. Remember, especially in times of uncertainty, being “focused to a fault” is a good thing.  It is your focus that helps bring stability.   

Value-Driven

Clarity of values is fundamental in being a leader of stabilizing influence. Your values drive your actions. As a leader who is mission-focused and value-driven, you are decisive and clear when it comes to navigating the unknown and leading through confusion and chaos. Living your values in all aspects of your life, whether it be at home, at church, at work, or in the community, brings the stability people need from you as their leader.

Embracing the Future

The more you know and understand about the challenges of the future, the less there is to fear. Because you are looking toward a “new day” you are able to imagine and articulate exciting possibilities. You are not afraid to talk about the future. Being well grounded, you are able to gain wisdom and insight from past experiences and events.  Being trusted, you are able to inspire the people to see a better tomorrow. Because you have a compelling sense of what lies ahead, you are able to show people how they can and will be part of the future. 

Robert F Kennedy once said, “Few will have the greatness to bend history itself, but each of us can commit to a series of actions to make the world better, and the sum total of all those actions will write the history of our generation.” It is during times of uncertainty, that you have the opportunity to be the leader that makes the world better.

Being a Leader with a Stabilizing Influence

Are you ready to be the leader you have been created to be? Do you want people to trust you to lead them into the future? Do you want to make the world a better place? Of course, you do. So, below is one way you can check yourself regarding being a leader of stabilizing influence. This is similar to becoming a leader people can trust. Just know upfront, this will not be easy.

  1. Choose five people with whom you live, work, or play. These five people need to be people who will give you honest feedback.
  2. Have them answer these questions for you:
    • Can you depend upon what I say to be true?
    • Do you…
      • experience me as being authentic?
      • perceive that I listen for understanding?  
      • experience me as being caring and compassionate when under pressure?
    • Knowing what you know about me, are you able to honest with me?
  1. Make time to have a conversation with each of the five persons using #2 as your subject.
  2. After your initial feedback conversation, ask each person to give you feedback over the next 6 weeks as you focus upon becoming the leader with stability.   

During a time of rapid change, people need the assurance of stability. They are looking for leaders to be a stabilizing influence. As a leader, you can lead like never before. Now is the time to be the leader people need and want. Become the leader you want to follow.

Leadership is about inspiring and empowering people to become who they were created to be.  It is about relating and connecting in such a way that the world is impacted and changed for good. Although there will always be opinions about the characteristics of effective leadership, there is a specific characteristic that people want from you as their leader.  

In a recent Gallup survey of 10,000 followers, words like caring, friendship, happiness, and love were used to describe what people needed and wanted from their leaders. In a word, people were looking for leaders with compassion.  They are looking for leaders, whether spiritual, political, corporate, or educational, to listen to them, to care for them, and to love them.  To lead with compassion means contributing to the happiness and well-being of the people entrusted to your care. It is more than “being nice.” It is an intentional action to nurture people to their full potential. As their leader, you develop authentic relationships for the purpose of helping people become who they were created to be. 

Effective, Compassionate Leadership Characteristics

With that in mind, you become a compassionate leader by practicing compassion. The most effective leaders are those who are: 

1. Focused on Others

They shift the focus off themselves and onto the people entrusted to their care. Compassionate leaders have a healthy self-awareness and don’t have to be the center of all attention or activities.  They understand that shifting from self to others is essential in developing leaders.

2. Developing Relationships

They have care and concern for all people and build upon that care and concern to develop relationships. They are genuinely interested in the people around them. Besides being aware of their own gifts and strengths, they know the gifts and strengths of the people they lead. Through the development of relationships, they create healthy environments of trust where everyone is supported, encouraged, and celebrated.   

3. Listening

The amount of time they listen to the people entrusted to their care is a sign of how important people are to them. They invite comments and encourage discussion. Listening helps develop an environment where people feel good about their work and contributions. When people feel good about themselves, they are more fully committed to participating and offering their best.  

4. Positive

The best way to empower and motivate others is by being a genuinely positive person. When leaders develop a positive attitude, have something positive to say, and create a positive atmosphere, then people feel comfortable, safe, and secure in communicating what needs to be communicated.

Investing their time. Time is one of the most precious and protected resources people have. Leaders know that time invested in the people around them will produce good fruit. When people feel they have a strong relationship with their leader because their leader is deeply invested in who they are, they are willing to offer their best.

5. People of Integrity

They walk their talk. They lead from within and inspire others through encouragement and empowerment. People don’t forget being treated with respect and dignity. Leaders who lead out of who they are making a greater impact on the world. They cultivate leaders by modeling the leadership needed.  

6. Grateful

There are lots of ways for leaders to show they care. They mentor, support, guide, and encourage. But when a leader expresses gratitude and recognition, people feel appreciated and are willing to offer more of themselves to impact the community and the world.

Your Turn

Leading with compassion is foundational to who you are as a leader. Although processes are important, compassionate leaders focus on people more than the processes.

Remember, compassionate leaders seek influence, not authority. They don’t demand, they encourage. Compassionate leaders demonstrate hope. As you lead, continue to acknowledge and support the people around you to combine your collective efforts, strengths, skills, insights, passion, enthusiasm, and commitment to work together for the greater good.

Our world, our communities, and our churches need compassionate leaders. Your greatest success is to grow and develop the people entrusted to your care so that they make a difference in their families, their jobs, their communities, and their churches. Now is the time to step up and lead with compassion. 

Take a moment to think of the people entrusted to your care. What is one thing you can do to better the lives of the people around you? How will you show compassion this week? 

If you need and want help, contact us at connect@transformingmission.org, Sara Thomas and I (Tim Bias) are ready to assist you in becoming a compassionate leader.    

How are you doing? Your body is telling you that it is summertime. It is time to relax. But your heart and mind are telling you that there is more work to be done before resting. Over the past several months you have adapted to the changes brought about by a pandemic, balanced work responsibilities at home with family members, and tried to make sense of the recurring evil of racism. You have been leading people into a world that is nothing like the world they are living behind.  

On one hand, you want things to go back to “normal” or at least like they were before the pandemic. On the other hand, like no other time in history, you have the opportunity to shape the lives of men, women, and children as they step into the future. God has gifted you to lead at this point and time in history. It is time to seize the moment. 

Navigating Pandemics 

Just as you have navigated and adapted in response to COVID-19, you have the opportunity to identify and address another pandemic. Racism is a disease that threatens the lives and dignity of so many of our sisters and brothers. It’s complicated. It’s woven into the politics of our government, the policies of our schools, the practices of our public safety systems, and the polity of our churches. The truth is racism is woven into everything we hold near and dear.  It continues to raise its head and poison all we do. The time has come when doing nothing is no longer an option. 

I am grateful that you have joined me on this journey. If you are willing, walk with me a little further. You have been created to lead in the midst of these uncertain times. 

Sankofa

Austin Channing Brown in her book, I’m Still Here: Black Dignity In A World Made For Whiteness, tells the story of when she was a student in college, going on a trip called Sankofa. It was a three-day journey exploring Black history in partnership with classmates. There were about twenty pairs of students, mostly comprising one Black and one White student. They left Chicago and traveled all night to arrive at a plantation in Louisiana. 

She writes, “We had come prepared to witness the harsh realities of slavery, but the real revelation was how ignorant and self-congratulatory our guides from the plantation could be. For the entire tour, we were told about ‘happy slaves’ who sang in the fields, who worked under better conditions than most other slaves, and whose fingers never bled despite the massive amounts of cotton they picked. The guides’ presentations were filled with misconceptions and inaccuracies, and at the conclusion of the tour, they even gave us the chance to pick some cotton ourselves. Black students. Picking cotton.” 

What’s Your Response?

Two groups of students had experienced the same tour, but each group had a different response or reaction. The Black students were angry, but the white students were confused. As they climbed onto the bus to journey to the next destination, the conversation quickly moved beyond superficial niceties. 

The students took turns speaking into a microphone at the front of the bus. The Black students were livid at the romanticism displayed at the plantation. The white students listened politely and seemed unmoved at the weight of the information they had received.  

Brown writes, “They responded with questions like ‘What about the Holocaust or the potato famine? Don’t most people groups have some trauma in their history?’ We did our best to correct the misconceptions, but the tour had driven a wedge in the group.” 

The History of Lynching

The next stop on the journey was a museum with only one exhibit: a history of lynching. Brown tells the story, “Every wall was filled with photographs of dark-skinned human beings swinging by their necks. A mother and son hanging over a bridge. Burned bodies swinging over dying fires. White children staring in wide-eyed wonder while their parents proudly point to the mutilated body behind them. 

The cruel smiles of white faces testifying to the joy of the occasion. We came across newspaper stories that advertised lynchings as community events. In another case we saw a postcard. On the front was a photo of a mutilated man still hanging from a rope. On the other side, a handwritten note: “Sorry we missed you at the barbecue.” 

Brown says that when they climbed back on the bus all that could be heard were sniffles. She says the emotion was thick. She writes, “It was as if no time had passed between the generation in the pictures and the one sitting on that bus. It was all so real.” 

What’s Your Response? – Take 2

The first students to break the silence were white. “I didn’t know this even happened.” “It’s not my fault; I wasn’t there.” They reached for anything that would distance themselves from the pain and anger of the moment; anything to ward off the guilt and shame, the shock and devastation. 

The Black students had passed beyond any need to appear polite. They shared personal stories of pain. Stories of lynchings that had happened in their own families. 

Brown writes, “A tall Black woman, a senior that year, peered at us all as she spoke evenly, almost disarmingly in the heat of the moment. ‘I just want to say that I’m having a hard time even being mad at you white people anymore. I think I’ve just been convinced that white people are innately evil. You can’t help it. You steal and kill; you enslave and lynch. You are just evil.’ 

Then she handed the microphone back to the next person and calmly took her seat. The white students didn’t appreciate her words, but the Black students on the bus could have kissed her feet. She had done what social convention and respectability politics said not to do, she had spoken her truth even if it meant hurting the feelings of every white person on that bus.” 

Doing Nothing is No Longer An Option

The tension intensified among the students. The White students defended their family histories while the Black students tried to express what it felt like to stare at their history in the photos from the museum. 

Just as the bus pulled into the parking lot for lunch, another white student stood to speak. But instead of her variation on “Please don’t make me responsible for this,” she took a deep breath and gave in to the emotion of it all. “I don’t know what to do with what I’ve learned,” she said. “I can’t fix your pain, and I can’t take it away, but I can see it. And I can work for the rest of my life to make sure your children don’t have to experience the pain of racism.” 

Brown writes, “And then she said nine words that I’ve never forgotten: ‘Doing nothing is no longer an option for me.’” 

The Fabric of Racism

This story illustrates several characteristics of the racism woven into the fabric of our culture.  Because of space and time, I want to mention only two in which I know I have been involved. 

Whitewashing

One way we continue to perpetuate racism is by romanticizing, or “whitewashing” our history. Over the past several weeks I have tried to remember what I was taught in high school regarding racial injustices like slavery, voter suppression, or gerrymandering. 

To be fair, I might have had teachers who talked about lynchings, the dignity of human beings, and civil rights for all people.  But I don’t remember ever having those conversations. It was not until I was a junior in college, when my history professor said, “You need to know the difference between the truth of history and the “whitewashed” versions we perpetuate.”

Romanticizing History

One of those “romanticized” versions of history come around Confederate monuments. Most of those moments were built in periods of racial conflict. For example, when Jim Crow laws were being introduced in the late 19th and early 20th centuries or during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s. I agree the monuments are part of our history, but let’s be honest. They were not built as memorials but as means of intimidating Black Americans and reaffirming white supremacy. 

Jane Elliot says, “Human beings created racism. Anything you create you can destroy. We can destroy racism.” Like no other time in our history, we have the opportunity to address and put an end to the evil of racism. The question is, “Will we?” The time has come when doing nothing is no longer an option.

Denying the Truth of Racism

Another way we continue to perpetuate racism is by denying the truth of racism. Too often we try to distance ourselves from the pain and anger by pleading ignorance. We try to shield ourselves from the guilt, shame, shock and devastation by telling ourselves we would never do such things.  

We can say, “I didn’t know this even happened,” or “It’s not my fault; I wasn’t there.” You truly might not know. But not knowing is not an excuse. Jane Elliott says, “People who are racist aren’t stupid, they’re ignorant. And the answer to ignorance is education.” 

When Did You Learn?

I was in college before I learned of the Tulsa Massacre (known then as the Tulsa Race Riots), the Thibodaux massacre, and the Atlanta Massacre. Three major events in the history of our country that were not in my high school history books. 

We are still living in the culture of those events. My college history professor discussed the injustice and devastation created by white supremacy which fed into the civil rights demonstrations in the days of my childhood. What I was learning from the public news media and what I was learning in my history courses did not match. 

Lynching

One of the places we plead ignorance is regarding the public killings of Black men and women.  In our history, we have called these killings, lynchings. It is a term for a punishment without a trial. 

Did you know that we have no federal laws against lynching? There were 200 anti-lynching bills introduced in Congress during the first half of the 20th century. Between 1890 and 1952, seven Presidents petitioned Congress to end lynching. 

Between 1920 and 1940, the House of Representatives passed three strong anti-lynching measures. Protection against lynching was the minimum and most basic of Federal responsibilities. Despite repeated requests by civil rights groups, Presidents, and House of Representatives, the Senate failed to enact anti-lynching legislation. 

Public Lynchings Today

I heard this mentioned in a recent conversation. The response was, “Do we need such laws today? We don’t have public lynchings today?” Yes, we do. 

We have watched the twenty-first century lynchings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Tayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Freddie Gray, Tamir Rice, LaQuan McDonald, Sandra Bland, Walter Scott, to name only a few. 

Black Lives Matter

Their deaths were not by hanging but were public killings of Black human beings. The act of lynching is rooted in the idea that Black people are less important than White people, that Black people are more violent than White people, and that Black people are not as advanced as White people. Pleading ignorance is not a response. Black Lives Matter. The time has come when doing nothing is no longer an option. 

Austin Channing Brown writes, “Our only chance at dismantling racial injustice is being more curious about its origins than we are worried about our comfort. It’s not a comfortable conversation for any of us. It is risky and messy. It is haunting work to recall the sins of our past. But is this not the work we have been called to anyway? Is this not the work of the Holy Spirit to illuminate truth and inspire transformation?” 

Step Up and Lead

We are way past the time to educate ourselves and to address the complex, emotional, and significant evil of racism. It is time to step up and lead like you have never had to lead before. 

The time is right, the opportunity is now, for open conversation, education, and transformation. As a leader, you have the responsibility to do the hard work of questioning our history of racism and to name the reality and ramifications of our sin.

You can engage people in open conversation. The very conversations that once were held behind closed doors are now public conversations.   

Tell the Truth

By God’s grace and the presence of the Holy Spirit, we can survive honest discussions about slavery, discrimination, and mass incarceration. 

By the power of the Risen Christ, we can address the harmful politics of gerrymandering, voter suppression, and policies that disproportionately affect people of color. 

As courageous leaders, we can make a difference in dismantling the systemic racism that continues to inform the decision making in our governmental institutions as well as our schools and churches. As Christians, we can lament and mourn. You and I can be livid and enraged. We can be honest. We can tell the truth. Only by being truthful about how we got here can we begin to imagine another way out of here.

An Invitation

I am grateful that you have come this far with me on this journey. Because you are still with me means you are ready to put an end to racism. There is more to come in future blogs, but here is what you can do now:

  1.  Pray – Stay connected to God and grounded in who God has created you to be and who has created the people around you to be. We are all God’s beloved children.
  2.  Read – Racists are not stupid. Racists are ignorant. Two resources that have had a powerful impact upon me are, I’m Still Here: Black Dignity In A World Made For Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown and How to be an Antiracist, Ibram X. Kendi. There are many good resources for learning about racism and for becoming an antiracist. I have posted a list of resources in two blogs: “Overcoming Racism” and “Putting An End To Racism.
  3. Commit – Engage in a conversation with a Black man or woman. Develop a relationship of trust. Listen to what is said. Be honest with yourself and with them.  Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Ask him or her to help you become an antiracist.
  4.  Join a group conversation about racism and antiracism. Here is one way you can participate. 

We have come to the time when doing nothing is no longer an option. Let’s take another step toward putting an end to racism.