Being a leader is a great and honorable responsibility. It demands a certain character and behavior which requires your full attention. Although there is personal and professional satisfaction, being a leader is never easy. 

Even when things are going well, you still need to keep yourself, and the people entrusted to your care, focused on the mission and moving toward the goal. In the midst of political and social divisions, economic insecurity, inflation, and growing theological and religious bickering, leading people to focus on the mission is as difficult as it has ever been in recent history. 

So, how are you coping as a leader? 

What Do They Think?

Do you think that you have to act a certain way around the people with whom you work? Do you feel you have to say certain things to your colleagues, so you will be accepted? Instead of being yourself, are you playing a role to fit in, or to impress others?

Most of us have gone through times like this. Instead of behaving in a genuine way, we tell people what we think they want to hear and act in ways that go against our true nature. Living and working this way is confining, tiring, and depressing. It holds you back from reaching your true potential. 

Lead Realistically

On the other hand, to be a courageous and effective leader is to live and work realistically. Knowing and understanding your context, developing healthy relationships, and giving yourself permission to be yourself, provide you the freedom to choose your path for living and leading. 

Three Shifts for Leaders

Below are three shifts in becoming the leader needed for the time in which we are living. 

1. From Charisma to Character

The first shift is from charisma (personality) to character. 

Leaders want people to like them. Often, leaders think if they are liked they are trusted. With that perception, they depend heavily on their personalities. It is a fact that people are drawn to charismatic personalities, but likable personalities do not translate to trust. 

Leaders with charisma have a charming and magnetic quality about them. Whether it’s personality or appearance, they have powerful communication and persuasiveness skills. In other words, charismatic leaders have the ability to charm or influence people. 

Charisma is a great quality to have as a leader. People are drawn to charismatic personalities, but people and systems thrive where they are led by character and integrity.

The word character comes from the Greek word “charassein,” which means to “to sharpen, cut in furrows, or engrave.” The literal sense of the word is to engrave or to imprint a mark. 

Followers look for trust, compassion, stability, and hope from their leaders. I’m not saying that leaders with charismatic personalities cannot be trusted. But I am saying that if trust is not engraved or imprinted on the heart of the leader, personality does not carry the leadership needed.

To be the leader needed today, have the image of Christ imprinted on your heart so that your personality reflects the depth of character needed to navigate the complexities of the day. 

Who you are is how you lead.

2. From Aspiration to Authenticity

The second shift is from aspiration to authenticity. 

Good leaders aspire to be good leaders. They have ambition and dreams for the future as well as a strong desire to achieve something high and great. Good leaders find fulfillment in making their aspirations reality. They know how to cast a vision for the future and how to engage the people around them to live into that future. Because they are so focused on their aspirations, they sometimes depend more upon wishful thinking than upon the strengths and skills needed to lead effectively. 

Aspiration is a great quality to have as a leader. People are drawn to leaders who can cast a vision. But people and systems thrive when the leader is a person of authenticity. 

To be a person of authenticity means you are true to yourself. You might hold a position of authority, but your identity is not rooted in the power of authority. Regardless of the pressure that you are under to please others, comply with expectations, and to conform to social norms, you know who you are and hold to your values. When you are honest with yourself you can be and will be generous with others. When you are vulnerable in your relationships, you come across as being a leader people can trust. 

To be the leader needed today takes courage and demands mental, emotional, and spiritual energy. It requires stepping away from being who you think people want you to be and being who God created you to be. Your authenticity will inspire others to make the hope of the future a reality. 

Who you are is how you lead. 

3. From Arbitrary to Adaptable

The third shift is from being arbitrary to being adaptable. 

Every leader has to make decisions that affect not only themselves but the people entrusted to their care. Leaders who are trusted have developed relationships that give them the responsibility to make the decisions that work for the good of others. With the image of Christ imprinted on your heart and being the person God has gifted you to be, you are engaging the people around you to live into their potential as leaders. 

Often, leaders think that they make decisions based on what they believe or upon what they have always known. They become arbitrary in their decision-making because they feel they know what is best. Without identifying the current reality or contexts, and without checking out why they make the decisions they make, they insist on their way of moving forward. When leaders are not aware of who they are or why they think and feel the way they do, they begin to micromanage others and manipulate people and situations to get the result they want. They might know what to do, but they alienate people by demanding their own way. 

Decision-making is an important work of leaders. People are drawn to leaders who are decisive. But people and systems thrive when leaders can adapt to changing situations and cultures. 

Adaptive Leaders

Even though they might know a way to achieve a certain goal, adaptive leaders are flexible and have the ability to adjust to different situations and circumstances. They are curious. Adaptive leaders are not afraid to ask questions and are eager to explore solutions. They see every obstacle as an opportunity of hope. 

Being team players, adaptive leaders do not insist on their own way, but find ways to engage the gifts and strengths of others. And being proactive, they are creative, imaginative, and find alternative ways to make things happen. They have a capacity to care, and a tenacity for tolerance. They are encouraging, empathic, and respectful. Adaptive leaders are mission-focused, are generous with the people who think and feel differently than they think and feel. They are grateful for the opportunity to lead. 

To be the leader needed today, you must learn to adapt to changing situations and cultures. And in every situation and circumstance, you will have the opportunity to reflect upon the depth of character needed to navigate the changes, and at the same time, inspire others to make the hope of the future a reality. 

Being a leader is a great and honorable responsibility. It demands a certain character and behavior which requires your full attention. This week, take a moment to reflect upon these questions:

What am I doing to develop the character of Christ in my life?

How am I becoming more the person and leader God created me to be?

How am I working to adapt to the changes in my life, my church, and my community? 

Remember, who you are is how you lead.

The single most important factor that distinguishes a good leader from a great leader is love. I am not talking about warm and fuzzy feelings that lead to being nice and not wanting to offend others. I am talking about the kind of love that comes from a conscious decision to work for the good of others. It is the kind of love that allows people to be imperfectly human and at the same time inspires them and empowers them to become who God created them to be. 

Who You Are

Sometimes leaders seek out “what feels good” or “what feels right.” I don’t want to discount feelings. There is a place for feelings. But as a leader, who is a follower of Jesus, you lead by who you are and not by the way others make you feel. 

Other times leaders fall back upon what they think they know. Without asking why they think or feel the way they do; leaders often default to what they have always done in their decision-making and how they relate to people. Again, I don’t want to discount the experience. There is a place to honor and build upon experience. But as a leader, who is a follower of Jesus, you lead by who you are and not by what you think you know or what has worked in the past. 

When Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth,’ he was helping people to look beyond their feelings, and what they had experienced, to a new way (which was the old way) to relating to people.

What does that mean for you as a leader?

Read Matthew 5:38-39, 5:43-44

You have heard that it was said, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” But I say to you: Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also, (Matthew 5:38-39)

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, (Matthew 5:43-44)

Reflect

Jesus’ understanding of the love of God was the fulfillment of the Law of Moses. Just as the fruit of a tree fulfills the blossom, his teaching brought the Law to its highest conclusion. In his sermon on the mount, he points out the expectation of the fulfillment of God’s love. 

It is important to understand what is meant by the love of God and how that love is lived out in your leadership. Based upon the context of the scripture, there is a distinct progression. Let us take a little journey to understand the progression. 

Unlimited Retaliation

The first way of relating to people was the way of Unlimited Retaliation. According to this principle, if someone knocked out one of your eyes, you were justified in knocking out both of their eyes. If someone knocked out one of your teeth, you could knock out their complete set of teeth. There was no limit placed on revenge. It was the law of every person for him or herself. 

A recent example of unlimited retaliation can be seen when a patient did not like the outcome of his surgery. In the midst of his pain, he bought a handgun and an AK-15, went back to the hospital, and killed the doctor as well as several people who got in his way. His actions are an example of unlimited retaliation. 

Limited Retaliation

A second way of relating to people was Limited Retaliation. It became evident that the result of unlimited retaliation would be mutual self-destruction. A better way was sought, so the law of limited retaliation arose. This principle declared that if anyone harmed you, “then you shall give life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe” (Exodus 21:23-25). 

It is the law of getting even. Someone knocks out one of your eyes, you must not knock out both of his, just one. Or if someone knocks out one of your teeth, you must not retaliate by knocking out all his teeth, just one. In other words, limit your retaliation to the exact amount of the injury. Get even. But no more. It is a twist on the “golden rule.” Do unto others as they do unto you. The books must balance. 

It is easy to see that limited retaliation is a little better than unlimited retaliation. But Jesus taught us we should go further. He said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you: Do not resist an evildoer,” or never respond with evil.

An example of limited retaliation is capital punishment. Some people have limited retaliation in mind when they speak of “justice,” citing that it is biblical. True, it is found in the bible. But it is only biblical in the sense that it is found within the pages of the bible. Out of context, limited retaliation is not biblical. 

Limited Love

A third way of relating to people was Limited Love. This method is found in Leviticus. It is the law Jesus referred to when he said, “All of you have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’” (Leviticus 19:18). Some deeply religious people, devout people, agreed with loving your neighbor if their neighbor was a person of their ethnicity. If your neighbor, one of your people, knocked out your eye or your tooth, you might forgive them, but if the person was not part of your group, then you could get your revenge. 

Limited love is certainly better than limited retaliation. But it is interesting that there had to be some limit to love and goodwill. So, the proper place to draw the line was with your own race or nationality. In this way, a person could have two standards of righteousness: one in dealing with relatives and another in dealing with strangers. 

I know my examples might be offensive. My intent is to provide context. An example of limited love is nationalism. It is a form of prejudice and is heard in slogans like “American is for Americans,” which, of course, does not refer to true original Americans. Another example is the backlash to “Black Lives Matter.”  It is another form of prejudice and is heard in slogans like “Make America Great Again” which has come to mean, not a presidential campaign slogan but, a slogan for “white supremacy.” Even though loving your neighbor is in the bible, taken out of context, limited love is not biblical. 

Unlimited Love

A fourth way of relating to people was Unlimited Love. Love, even when limited to one’s own group, was far superior to retaliation, whether it be limited or unlimited. But Jesus didn’t feel that even this brought the law to its final goal or fulfillment. God’s love is not complete until it becomes unlimited love. Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” 

I have always asked “why” at this point. Why love outsiders, strangers, people who are different, people from Central America, people from Africa, Asia, or even Russia? Especially Russia. Aren’t the Russians our enemies? Aren’t they trying to overtake us and defeat us? Why love people who don’t like me or try to hurt me? Why? 

Jesus’ Answer to Why

In his sermon on the mount, Jesus answered my question “why?” He said so you and I could become daughters and sons of God. To love unconditionally is to be who God created us to be. Now, what I understand that to mean is what I understand Jesus saying when he says that God lets the sun rise and the rain fall on both good and bad people, both saints and sinners. Which I understand as God does not give anyone an advantage based upon our goodness. 

I understand that my life does not change if I only interact with my friends or love only the people who love me. As I think about it, I would be no different than non-Christians, even if they do that. Then I understand Jesus telling me to grow up. He doesn’t say it that way. He says, “Be mature…be holy.” “Love one another as I have loved you.” 

Unlimited Love is  Lived Out In Relationship

If I take what I understand to be the way of unlimited love, Jesus followers apply God’s love to all relationships. Whether it be to my race and to the United States of America or to another race or people from another country. In God’s way of loving, there is no double-dealing, no two-facedness, no partiality. Unlimited love, God’s love, does not stop at artificial borders and is not affected by differences. 

Reasons Unlimited Love is Practical and Impractical

Allow me to continue to provide context for reasons we do not engage in unlimited love. Some people say that unlimited love is not practical. The idea of turning the other check is good, but it just won’t work in the real world. Sometimes they go on to say, force is the only language some people can understand so we have to be realistic. 

There are other people who say that unlimited love is very practical and will work if given a chance. They believe that even the cruelest person has a tender spot that will respond to a continuous barrage of love and goodwill. They can cite examples from history and present a strong case for the effectiveness of non-retaliation and active love. Many of them are willing to back up their belief in this idea with their lives, which within itself is a compelling argument. 

We Love Because We are Loved

Then there are still others who say, we don’t love one another or strangers or enemies because it is practical or because it works. We love because we are the sons and daughters of God. We love because it is who we are. It is not easy. People who love unconditionally usually wind up on a cross. Remember that crucifixions have a way of being followed by resurrections. The end of love is its beginning. Only those who are foolish enough to lose their lives will find them. It is the grain of wheat that falls into the ground and dies that lives. 

Jesus did not tell his followers to love because it would work. It never occurred to him whether it was practical or not. As followers, we love because that is who we are. 

God does not limit God’s love to those who love him or obey him. As daughters and sons of God, the same love flows naturally from us. Being who God is, God cannot help but love all people. Being children of God, you and I have the same nature. Our nature is not determined by the action or reaction of the people around us, whether friends or foes. Our nature is determined by our relationship to God in and through Jesus. 

Of course, you don’t have to be a follower of Jesus. But if you are, one of the conditions is that you love outsiders, people who are different, whether they be your friends or not, and that you pray for people you consider to be enemies, those who hurt you and take advantage of you. Because it is God’s nature to love, you love who God loves. There are no limits to God’s love. 

The single most important factor that distinguishes a good leader from a great leader is love. Who you are is how you lead. 

Respond

God, I confess that I find it difficult to love others as you have loved me. I know that it is only by your grace that I will ever be able to love. So, I ask, by your grace, fill me with your love so that I may become more who you have created me to be by loving the people you have given me to love. By your grace, help me see you in the people I meet today. I offer myself to you in Jesus’ name. Amen 

Return

At the end of the day, return to these questions: In whom did I experience God’s love today? To whom did I extend God’s love today? With whom did I need God’s grace to love? Give God thanks for the people you experienced today. 

Loss is built into the fabric of our culture. Every one of us knows what it is like to lose something precious to us. Whether it be the loss of opportunities, loss of possibilities, or feelings we can never get back again, it is part of what it means to be alive.

Over the past several weeks, months, and years, people have been suffering from some form of loss. Whether it be the loss of a loved one, a job, or the simple pleasure of dining out with family and friends. Add to the individual loss the deep grief of war, mass shootings, and violence, it is almost overwhelming. 

Leading Through Grief and Loss

It is unbelievable how quickly and suddenly grief and loss affect people through television, social media, and internet outlets. Even though it might be tempting to ignore grief and keep a semblance of normalcy, it is up to you to set the stage for how grief is accepted, managed, and transformed.  As a leader, you play a critical role in modeling care and compassion for the people entrusted to you and for your community. As you listen to the needs and seek to understand the emotions, you identify and develop a way forward into and through the grief. 

Keep in mind that grief, while painful, ultimately leads to a deeper appreciation for life and relationships. This strengthens you as a leader. We only grieve the people or things we deeply love. Whether it be a beloved family member, a significant relationship, or a special and meaningful time in our lives, deep grief comes from the experience of deep love. 

3 Reminders for Leading Through Grief

Here are a couple of things to keep in mind as you enter into and lead through periods of grief and loss. 

1. Be yourself and lead with authenticity. 

Courageous leaders lead with compassion. Vulnerability is at the core of their leadership. Too often we feel we need to hide our grief, pain, or sadness. The reality is grief, and the feelings of grief are opportunities to be authentic and vulnerable as you respond with compassion.  

Being a vulnerable leader means asking for help with your own grief. It means showing up and saying, “I’m going to do my best, but I need to lean on you for support.” 

When you are less than authentic, you risk detachment. At that point, you take away your ability to experience love and happiness. Be yourself, experience love, acknowledge the loss, and lead with compassion. 

2. Mourn and create a culture of hope. 

Courageous leaders model hope. This is more than wishful thinking. This is living into the grief and coming through it with a new love and appreciation of life. Too often grief becomes indulgent. Even though it is painful, we want to stay in it because it requires nothing of us. But remember that Jesus said, “Blessed are those who mourn…” He did not say, “…those who grieve.” Grief is passive. Those who mourn are those who are moved to the point of action. 

3. Transform Grief Into Action

A hope-filled leader not only acknowledges the grief but discovers ways to transform the grief into meaningful action. Grief sometimes is like a specific location, a place on a map of time. When you are there, you can’t imagine getting to a better place. But when someone assures you that they have stood in that same place and have moved one, it brings hope for the future. Draw upon the loss and develop a pathway for moving forward. Your action creates and models the hope needed to get through the difficult times and into a new day of love and appreciation. 

Saying Goodbye

Charles Dickens, in his classic novel Great Expectations, used the kind and simple blacksmith, Joe, to deliver his message regarding loss. As he parts ways with Pip, Joe remarks that it is merely the nature of life to have to say goodbye to the people, places, and experiences we have loved. It is never easy. But we find comfort knowing that in the end of each parting is a brand-new beginning. 

When you, as the leader, acknowledge your grief, you create a sense of vulnerability for others. You create a space for people to support and care for others who are grieving. You model community and begin to develop and deepen relationships. You are a catalyst to a new beginning. 

While the loss is painful, you use it for good. You share your story to inspire others to not give up, to connect with one another and the community, and you move forward with the hope of loving and appreciating the people you encounter each day. 

Outlets

Over the years I have heard a sermon illustration comparing the Dead Sea to the Sea of Galilee. The Sea of Galilee is a freshwater lake, full of fish, and a source of food. The Dead Sea is a salty lake in which nothing can live. The usual point is that the Jordan River flows into and through the Sea of Galilee, but it only flows into the Dead Sea. The Dead Sea has no outlet. 

But I heard a different observation by Dr. George Buttrick regarding the Dead Sea. He said the Dead Sea has an outlet. An upward outlet. An outlet toward the sky. Across the centuries as it has surrendered itself to the sun, a residue of potash has built up and remains along its shores. Potash, a different form of life than water. It is a main ingredient of fertilizer. Engineers have estimated that if the potash around the Dead Sea could be mixed and distributed, there would be enough fertilizer for the whole surface of the earth for at least five years. 

Surrender to the Son

Life never comes to a complete dead end. Even when the only outlet is to surrender to the sky in helplessness, there is positive residue. 

Elisabeth Kubler-Ross wrote, “You will heal, and you will rebuild yourself around the loss you have suffered. You will be whole again, but you will never be the same. Nor should you be the same nor would you want to.” 

Out of the helplessness of grief and loss comes the miracle of new love and appreciation for life. So, let’s try it. Let us surrender ourselves, as leaders, to the Son. As sure as you are reading this blog, there will be something good to show for it. 

Remember, who you are is how you lead.

Before You Go…

Take a simple (and dare we say, fun) five question quiz to help you identify your season of following Jesus and what steps to take next.

What kind of leadership is needed to address the mass shootings in our country? Are our thoughts and prayers enough? Is saying someone needs to do something making a difference? 

Since Sandy Hook, ten years ago when 20 children and 6 adults were murdered in their classrooms, mass shootings in schools have become part of who we are. It should not be a surprise that 214 mass shootings have taken place since January 1 of this year. With that said, what kind of leadership is needed to be effective? 

What Kind of Leadership is Needed?

In recent years, even when someone stepped forward to do something, a group of people grew indignant. “We have our rights.”  “You can’t take away our rights.”  And nothing changed. The outrage faded until another act of horrible violence, like the shooting on Tuesday, shocked us back into the reality of our inactivity. The truth is, we do have our rights. But to address the public health crisis of mass shootings does not take away anyone’s rights. In fact, it takes seriously the rights of others, particularly children. 

So, let me ask again, are our words enough to be effective? Are our broken hearts, whether rooted in compassion or outrage enough? Has standing in the pulpit and declaring, “In the name of Jesus, someone do something” been sufficient? Oh, there have been some changes. I want to applaud what changes have been made. But it is obvious, the changes that have been made are not enough. So again, what kind of leadership is needed to make the difference?

Who Pays the Price?

There is a story of a monk, Telemachus, from southern France, who went to Rome to take in the splendors of the Holy City. When he arrived, he was caught up in the crowd going to the Coliseum. He wasn’t aware of all that was involved in the entertainment of the day. Soon, however, he realized what was going to happen when the gladiators took their places on the field. They drew their weapons, waved them at Caesar, then called out, “We who are about to die salute thee!” 

At that moment, the young monk realized that the gladiators were about to fight each other to their death. He called out in the middle of the roaring crowd, “Stop! Stop! In the name of Jesus, stop!”

His voice could not be heard above the roar of the crowd. He rushed down the aisle to the barrier that separated the cheering crowd from the strutting gladiators. Again, he yelled, “In the name of Jesus, stop!” Still, no one noticed him nor heard his pleas.

He jumped over the barrier and ran out into the middle of the Coliseum floor. He stood between two of the gladiators and yelled at each of them, “In the name of Jesus, stop!” 

The two gladiators ignored his words. The spectators of the gladiator fighting grew indignant with the monk for interrupting their sport. So, they stoned him to death. 

Caesar was informed of the death of Telemachus. When he learned that Telemachus was now numbered among the victorious martyrs, Caesar put an end to the sport. ¹ 

From that day on, there would be no more gladiator fights in Rome’s Coliseum. An end to the brutality and the death all took place because one person was willing to pay the price and give his life.

There is a price to be paid if we are to stop the mass shootings and the violence. 

We Can No Longer Live Our Lives This Way

Let’s face it, no one wants the violence that has taken place at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, or at Sandy Hook Elementary School, in Newtown, Connecticut, or at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, or Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado or the hundreds of other mass shootings over the years. Yet, we have gotten to a point where we can no longer live our lives without the fear that every time we say goodbye to our children, spouses, and friends, it could be the last. The question is, what kind of leadership will it take to stop it from happening again? 

Courageous Leadership

As I think about it, it will take several courageous leaders to step out and risk who they are and the positions they hold to make the difference. It will take courageous United States Senators and Congresswomen/men to risk re-election. The time has come to stop politicizing such acts of violence and to step up and advocate for the rights of children, teenagers, and adults who have become vulnerable in places assumed to be safe. Whether it be schools, concerts, or grocery stores, courageous leaders need to protect the rights of all of us regarding public safety. These leaders must shift from thoughts and prayers to policy and change. 

Courageous Leaders in our States It will take courageous governors and state legislatures to do the same. As our country moves more to state rights, it is imperative that state and local leaders think first of the people they serve before thinking of position or prestige. Courageous leaders are vulnerable leaders. They take the risk of being authentic and trustworthy. These leaders too must shift from aspirational rhetoric to real action. 

Courageous Spiritual Leaders

It will take courageous spiritual leaders to risk popularity and acceptance. Your leadership helps to shape the thinking and the action of the policymakers. You have the opportunity to model responsibility and accountability, not only for governmental leaders but for people who vote. Through your word and action, you will find a way to assist people to contact their United States senators and congresswomen/men to address mass shootings. You will find a way to contact the governor, state representatives, and local authorities to address the violence. You have the opportunity to step up and lead in an effort to hold the sanctity of life before policymakers as well as those who vote. 

Courageous Leaders who Vote

It will take courageous voters to risk voting for candidates who might not be members of their own political party. If there is to be any positive change, you, as a leader, must take advantage of the opportunity to assist people to vote and elect the leaders who will step up to make the changes needed. Help people be an educated electorate so that they will understand who they are electing and what each person stands for. Help people elect leaders who will have the courage to develop and deliver the policies needed to put an end to children being killed in our schools, racial hatred, and the availability of guns without appropriate laws and guidelines. 

Jesus taught, “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God.” In leading through this crisis, you will be living as a true peacemaker. 

Leading at this time is not easy. But you were created to lead at this time. You have everything you need to step up and provide the leadership to change our accepted culture of violence. 

Remember, who you are is how you lead. 

Resources to Respond to Violence

Below are several resources to help respond to violence.

Even though these resources were produced several years ago, the need remains the same:

A Response to Violence, A Response to Violence – Part 2, A Response to Violence – Part 3, A Response to Violence – Part 4, A Response to Violence – Part 5 

Other resources on the blog are: Prayer in Response to Acts of Violence, Responding to Violence as People of Faith, What is Our Response? 

Finally, here is podcast resource: Episode 201: The Intersection of Immigration, Faith and the Future Church with Scott Hicks 

What kind of leadership is needed to address the mass shootings in our country? Courageous, grace-filled, and action-packed leadership. Your leadership will make the difference. 

Know of my prayers as you become the leader needed for this time. Remember, who you are is how you lead.

  1. Story adapted from Let Me Tell You A Story: Life Lessons from Unexpected Places and Unlikely People, by Tony Campolo and Favorite Monks: Telemachus: The Monk Who Ended The Coliseum Games, by Monk Preston.

Hey, before you go…

Will you answer ONE question for us?

We do a lot of talking about mission, especially the mission of the church, “To make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.” My perception is that you, as a leader, keep that mission in mind in most of what you do. My question is, do you feel connected to the mission? Do you feel what you are doing really makes much of a difference? 

You might be doing all the right things. You love the people entrusted to your care. But you just don’t feel the spark any longer. What’s happening? What’s going on? 

Bring Meaning to the Mission

What I am learning is a sense of fulfillment is needed to bring meaning to the mission. The question is, what brings that sense of fulfillment? 

You might think of it this way: goals are good and necessary. You can define and track your goals and you can show how you have reached your goals. Yet, you can feel disconnected from a larger sense of purpose. Chasing goals day after day, week after week does not bring the engagement needed to bring a sense of fulfillment. 

Interrelated Leadership Models

Over the years, I have identified and defined at least three models of leadership. Each model is needed to be an effective and courageous leader, but it is only when the models are intertwined and focused upon the mission that they are effective. Refining your leadership skills in each area will help you become the missional leader needed today. 

Qualities of the Leader

One model of leadership is defined by the qualities of the leader. Are you a person of integrity, transparency, and empathy? Do you inspire loyalty, communicate clearly, and develop relationships? These qualities are necessary and vital to effective leadership. But you can learn all the right qualities and do all the right things and still feel disconnected and unfulfilled. 

Servant Leadership

A second model of leadership is servant leadership. It is best seen in how you care for the needs and interests of those entrusted to your care. Have you developed an environment of support in which people can flourish? Are you providing what followers want from their leader: trust, compassion, stability, and hope? These qualities of servant leadership are necessary and vital to effective leadership. But you can care for the needs and interests of people and still feel less than fulfilled as a leader. 

Missional Leadership

A third model of leadership is missional leadership. When grounded in a mission, people become both leaders and followers. They lead by living into their strengths and by offering their expertise. People follow by learning how to work in partnership with others. They share the values of the group and share a mutual sense of purpose. Missional leadership is an integration of servant leadership and the qualities of the leader. The three together provide what is needed for leading in the times in which we live. 

Many of us do well in leading by the criteria of models one and two. We offer clear direction and guidance, stay connected with people, and care for their needs. Yet, in midst of all the good work, we do not feel fulfilled. We can articulate the mission with little connection to it. 

More to Explore

You will find these blogs to be helpful in becoming a missional leader.

 Leadership Challenges for the Missional Church

Leadership Challenges for the Missional Church-Part 3

Mobilize for Ministry

So, what do we do? Below are seven questions that will assist you and the leaders of your church to brainstorm, reflect, and mobilize for ministry. They will require prayerful reflection, dialogue, and discernment. Some of the questions will require you to move beyond the walls of the church building and to talk with people in the community. Others will require you to explore the areas of overlap between the mission and the responses to the questions. 

These questions are simple and challenging. I can promise that, when you take these questions seriously, you will find meaning and purpose in your leadership. For a more detailed explanation and direction click here.

The 7 Missional Questions 

1.      God’s Presence: Where have you witnessed God’s presence in your community? Neighborhood? 

This is a good question to ask at the beginning of every meeting, with small groups, and at the end of each day. It is one of two foundational questions that contribute to congregational health. People who follow Jesus should be able to articulate God’s movement in their lives and identify God’s presence in their communities. 

2.      The Church’s Mission: What is the mission of the church? 

This question is not about mission projects or service opportunities. The question is about purpose. What is the purpose of the church? Does everyone know the mission? Do they not only repeat it but embody it? 

This is the partner question to naming God’s presence. Recognizing God’s presence and embodying the mission of the church are essential for healthy disciple-making movements. 

3.      The Mission Field: What is your mission field? 

Your mission field is the geographic region in which your church is located. Once you have decided your geographic region, define who lives within the mission field. After you know who lives there, define their habits and interests. Listen to their stories. Pay attention to their symbols. What do you need to learn about the people in your mission field, the people entrusted to your care? 

4.      Assets: What are the assets of your community? 

Make a list of the assets of the people who live in your mission field You are identifying skills, resources, and relationships. Other assets to explore include property, service, businesses, a community focus or physical attributes like a beach, a park, etc., and financial assets. 

To identify assets, take a walk through our community and meet the people in your mission field. Ask people this question: “What do you love about our community?” Neighborhood? City? 

5.      Needs: What are the needs in your community? Neighborhood? 

Make a list of the needs of people in your community. Remember that food, water, and shelter are the most basic needs. These are followed by safety, love, belonging, self-esteem, and respect. Recognizing and realizing your potential, learning, faith, and service round out your list.

To identify needs, when you take your walk through your community and meet the people in your mission field, ask this question, “What do you love about your community?” This question follows the question you asked in #4. 

6.      Relationships: What relationships exist with leaders in your community? 

Who are you and other church leaders in relationship within the following areas of your community: education, business, government, social agencies, first responders, faith/religion, arts and entertainment, health (hospitals, doctors, nurses, clinics)? What relationships need to be nurtured, reconciled, and re-established? 

A good place to start building relationships beyond the walls of the church building is with the principal of your local elementary school. 

7.      Collaboration: What is one way you can collaborate with another church? 

Develop relationships with other church leaders. Listen to their stories and how they express their mission, and what disciple-making loos like in their faith communities. Even though theology and practices might differ, you are on the same team. How do you join together to cover the community with God’s love? 

What Overlap Exists?

Now, here is where your missional leadership is most needed. What is the overlap between the mission and the responses to the other six questions? 

Your overlap might be where you see God at work in the lives of children, or in community leaders of in service organizations. Begin to tell the stories of God being at work in your community and invite people to participate in what God is doing. 

You can also go to the LeaderCast podcast for helpful information. Here are episodes that will help in becoming a missional leader. Purpose and Presence  Set the foundation for missional leadership with these two questions. Needs and Assets Bridge the needs and assets of your community with these questions. Relationships and Partnerships Leverage the people and connections of your community for kingdom impact.

It is time to move from talking about the mission to becoming the missional leader needed to have influence in the world today. I can promise you and the people entrusted to your care that once you are focused on the mission of the church, you will find the meaning and purpose that has been missing in your life and in your church. 

It is my hope that you can and will begin to build a file of resources that assists you in becoming the leader that makes a difference. 

Remember, who is are is how you lead.

In the world today, whether it be in Europe, Asia, Africa, your community, or your church, opportunities for conflict are multiplying. We view this conflict as a clash of different values, opinions, or cultures. From that perspective, whether it is ethnic, religious, political, or personal differences, the conflict has the potential for harmful consequences. 

As leaders, we are focused mostly on transforming conflict into positive action so that everyone can move forward together. That work is good and needed. But have you considered the conflict of everyone agreeing without question or challenge?

Conflict of Agreement

I remember meetings when project decisions moved forward without question to only be confronted after the meeting by persons who were disappointed and upset. When I asked why there were no questions for clarity or challenges to the decisions, I received answers like, “I didn’t want people to think that I was disagreeing with them,” or “I didn’t want to rock the boat.” As a leader, have you considered the conflict created when people say they agree but do not want what has been agreed upon?”  

Abilene Paradox

This kind of conflict is called the Abilene Paradox. The paradox arises when a group of people collectively decide on a course of action that is opposite to the information or research they have in front of them. It involves a common breakdown of trust and communication in which each member mistakenly believes that his or her own thoughts, feelings, or knowledge is counter to the group’s thoughts, feelings, and knowledge. People even give support for an outcome they do not want. They don’t want to “rock the boat.” They don’t want to go against group decisions. 

Leading into and through conflict means not only assisting people through disagreements but recognizing that agreements might also be a problem in unhealthy group dynamics. 

Are You Going to Abilene?

The Paradox was named by Dr. Jerry B. Harvey, professor emeritus of management science at The George Washington University in Washington, D.C. Dr. Harvey tells the story of visiting his in-laws in Coleman, Texas on a hot summer afternoon in the late 1950s. The family had gathered on the porch, staying cool by sitting in front of a fan and sipping lemonade. While playing dominoes, Harvey’s father-in-law suggested that they take a trip to Abilene for dinner. Abilene was fifty-three miles away. 

Harvey’s wife said, “Sounds like a great idea.” 

And Harvey, despite having reservations about the drive because of its length and the heat, thinking that his preferences must be out-of-step with the group said, “Sounds good to me. I just hope your mother wants to go.” 

His mother-in-law then said, “Of course I want to go. I haven’t been to Abilene in a long time.”

Going Along for the Ride

Harvey said the drive was hot, dusty, and long in an unairconditioned car. When they arrived at the cafeteria, the food was as bad as the drive. When they finally got back home four hours later, exhausted from the 106-mile round trip, Harvey dishonestly said, “It was a great trip, wasn’t it?” 

His mother-in-law said that she would have rather stayed home but went along since the other three were so enthusiastic. 

Harvey said, “I really didn’t want to go either. I only went to satisfy the rest of you.” 

His wife said, “I just went along to keep you happy. It was crazy to want to go out in the heat like that.” 

Then Harvey’s father-in-law said, “I only suggested it because I thought all of you were bored.” 

They all sit back perplexed that they together decided to take a trip that no one wanted to take. They each preferred to sit comfortably on the porch, being cooled by a fan, and eating leftovers. But not one of them said so when they thought the others wanted to go to Abilene. 

Hesitant and Reluctant

The Abilene Paradox reveals that people are often hesitant and reluctant to act contrary to their friends or the direction of the group to which they place value. In other words, we create our own stress, based on stories we tell ourselves because we are concerned that we might be rejected by the group if we don’t go along. So, being motivated by the fear of exclusion, we set aside honesty and truth and “travel to Abilene.”  

Real and Phony Conflict

As a leader, you navigate and help transform different forms of conflict. What the Abilene Paradox opens is the possibility of two kinds of conflict, real and phony. On the surface, they look alike. But, like headaches, they have different causes and therefore require different treatment. 

Real conflict occurs when people have real differences. Individuals come to different conclusions based on the information presented. Conflict is often experienced in the struggle between groups who have differing opinions on social issues, different theological viewpoints, or groups seeking support for their projects when funds are limited. 

Learn More 

LeaderCast Episode 208: Peace Is A Big Deal

Leadership and Conflict

Conflict of Agreement

Phony conflict occurs when people agree on the actions they want to take and then do the opposite. The anger, frustration, and blaming behavior that follows is not based on real differences. The conflict arises when a decision that no one believed in or was committed to create anxiety and tension. 

It is a conflict of agreement, not because everyone agrees based on true data, but because they do not want to be contrary to the group. You might find this kind of agreement to avoid the struggle of differing opinions on social issues or different theological viewpoints. People tend to agree to follow the group decision, not because they agree but because they don’t want to lose friends or be perceived as being troublemakers for the group. 

It is often more difficult to lead through the conflict of agreement than the real conflict. As the leader, you can create an atmosphere in which people feel trusted and empowered to speak up with courage and integrity. 

Leading Through a Conflict of Agreement

To lead through the conflict of agreement:

1. Be yourself

God created you and gifted you to lead at a time like this. With humility and without insisting on your own way, trust your instincts. Model integrity and authenticity. 

2. Be truthful about the current reality

Where you start makes a difference. Being truthful about your context helps in creating a solid starting place. Often people will agree to travel to Abilene to avoid facing reality.

3. Keep your mission clearly in focus

Your mission is your purpose. One sure way not to detour to Abilene is to keep your destination clearly in front of the people entrusted to your care. 

4. Be curious

Ask questions. Your curiosity creates an atmosphere of openness. By asking questions you set an example for others. One question to always ask is, “What questions do you have concerning the direction we are going?” 

5. Take others seriously

It is helpful to imagine what people are thinking and feeling. Don’t assume you understand all the facts. Set aside your assumptions. What questions will you ask to understand others’ perspectives? 

6. Listen carefully

Practice active listening. Give your full attention and reflect thoughtfully. Use empathy to connect. Rephrase, restate, and summarize so people know you have heard them. When you don’t understand, ask for examples to clarify the issue. 

7. Communicate Clearly

Remember that clear is kind. Be clear in your statements and be aware of how you are perceived in what you say and do. If appropriate, tell Jerry Harvey’s story of traveling to Abilene then ask, “Who feels like you are traveling to Abilene?” What do you think we should consider? 

8. Be Generous

Provide useful and genuine feedback. Give people the benefit of your best thoughts and responses. Be open to receiving feedback. 

Your Next Step

You have what it takes to lead through the conflict of agreement. This week, contact a trusted colleague or friend and discuss the Abilene Paradox. Share examples of times you have seen it at work. As you share your examples, using the list above, discuss what you might have done to avoid the trip to Abilene.

Your discussion and interaction will help you become more the leader needed for navigating the conflict of these days in which you are leading. 

Please know how grateful I am for you and your leadership. May you be blessed through your relationships and interactions this week.

Remember, who you are is how you lead.

The past two years have offered each of us, as leaders, numerous learning opportunities. A variety of situations and circumstances have required changes in how we work and how we communicate with those entrusted to our care. The shifts are subtle but are necessary for becoming the leaders needed for this time. Whether it is back in the office, in the coffee shop, at the kitchen table, or in person in the meeting room, these shifts will help you navigate the leadership challenges of today.  

Three of these shifts are: 

  • Rhetoric to Relationships  
  • Self-Awareness to Self-Direction  
  • Time Management to Time Value  

Rhetoric to Relationships

Courageous leaders are effective communicators, but leadership is deeper than words. Courageous leadership transforms rhetoric into relationships. When people say, “we need to improve our communication” or “you are not communicating with us,” they are saying “we feel disconnected and not a part of things.” When they say, “You don’t know who we are” or “we don’t know who you are,” they are saying, “we are not connected, and we don’t trust you.” 

The number one characteristic people want in their leader is trust… People want more than rhetoric. They want a relationship. 

To continue this conversation of Rhetoric to Relationships, explore the following:

Self-Awareness to Self-Direction 

Courageous leaders have the understanding and ability to manage their own thoughts and emotions when responding to individuals and to unwanted situations. There is a difference between reacting emotionally and responding neutrally. Self-awareness is the ability to be aware of and control your own emotions. We might call it emotional intelligence. 

The shift is from being only aware of your thoughts and emotions to directing your behavior willingly with curiosity and kindness. Your response does not invalidate or deny your emotions but trusts them as a way of learning about yourself and how to use them in positive and productive ways. 

So, as you become more aware of your feelings, you know more how to navigate through them. How do we do this? For more on shifting from self-awareness to self-direction go to www.transformingmission.org click Blog and search 3 Leadership Shifts for Today.

Explore the following: 

Time Management to Time Value

Courageous leaders not only manage their own time and value the time of others, but they know the significance of the time they have been given to relate to and lead others. 

Your workdays have changed. Your context for leading is changing. So, it is necessary to shift from managing your time to designing your time around how you work, based on what you are working on and with whom you are working.  

For more on Shifting from Time Management to Time Value go to www.transformingmission.org click Blog and search 3 Leadership Shifts for Today. You will also want to check out Deep Change or Slow Death 

Shifting to Relationships

There is never enough time in the day. But, since we all get the same 24 hours, why is it that some people achieve so much more with their time than others? The answer lies in shifting from activities to relationships. Being busy is different from being effective. It isn’t even working smarter instead of harder. It is in using your time to develop relationships with care and compassion. People want a leader who they can trust, a leader who has time for them, a leader of integrity and authenticity. Remember, who you are is how you lead. 

Other resources which are helpful in assisting you in becoming a more effective leader can be found on LeaderCast. Learn more here on the theme of Courageous Leadership. 

Take time to listen to the LeaderCast episodes and read the blogs listed above. You can only improve your leadership skills as you learn to adapt to the changing landscape and lead through challenging times 

5 Things to Keep in Mind

As you explore these resources, keep in mind the relational skills that grow from these characteristics. As you listen and reflect upon the resources above, here are five things to keep in mind. 

  1. Listen Carefully – Give your full attention and reflect thoughtfully. Use empathy to connect more authentically with others.
  2. Ask Questions – Model the behavior of being curious and encourage others to do the same.
  3. Stay True to Your Values – Model integrity and authenticity.
  4. Communicate Clearly – Remember that clear is kind. Be clear in your statements and be aware of how you are perceived in what you say and do.
  5. Be Generous – Provide useful and genuine feedback to those entrusted to your care. Give them the benefit of your best thoughts and responses and be open to receiving feedback.  

This week, what one shift will you make in becoming the leader needed for this time in which you lead? 

Who you are is how you lead. 

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 are specific characteristics that people want from you as their leader.

A recent Gallup survey of 10,000 followers, revealed that people want trust, compassion, stability, and hope from their leaders. People want and need leaders who will help navigate the challenges of today’s world. Below are resources to assist you in meeting those challenges as a Christ-centered leader. These resources will assist you in becoming the leader God has created you to be. 

There is a brief statement of each characteristic and then resources to take you deeper. Please know of my prayers for you and for your church as you continue to lead in these difficult days.

Trust

People want leaders who they can trust. In that Gallup survey, what surfaced as the top characteristics people need from their leaders are honesty, integrity, and respect. These words describe the outcomes of strong relationships built on trust.

People look for role models whose behavior they feel is worth emulating. Whether it be coaches, professors, co-workers, bosses, or pastors, people look for leaders who can be trusted to lead through ordinary situations as well as times of learning, adventure, and uncertainty. People want leaders who take them seriously and who can adapt when everything is not ideal.

As a leader, you earn trust when you follow through on commitments. Then as trust grows, people feel more at ease with you with bigger commitments in other areas of leadership. As you live out your trustworthiness, people learn that they can rely upon you.

Learn More:

Compassion

In the Gallup survey, words like caring, friendship, happiness, and love are used to describe what people need and want from their leaders. In a word, people are looking for leaders with compassion. They are looking for leaders, whether spiritual, political, corporate, or educational, to listen to them, affirm their worth, and 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 the leader, you develop authentic relationships for the purpose of helping people become who they were created to be. 

Explore More About Compassion here:

Stability

We are living in a time of enormous change. 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.

During times like this, one of the qualities people want in a leader is stability. According to the Gallup survey, words like strength, support, and peace are used to describe what people need and want from their leaders. The survey reveals that people are looking for leaders who provide stability.

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

Explore More about Stability:

Hope

As our world changes, our churches struggle, and we face uncertainty and fear, people are looking for leaders who can make a positive impact upon their lives and in the community. They are looking for inspiration that speaks to their needs. They want and need a leader who instills hope for the future. 

What has surfaced in the Gallup survey, is people want and need direction, faith, and guidance from their leaders. These words describe the outcomes of hope.

At this point and time in history, people are tired of false promises, disillusioned with artificial relationships, and disheartened with the sensationalism of political positions and conflicting opinions. They are looking for authenticity and integrity. In a word, they want and need hope. And they are looking to you, as their leader, to provide it.

Explore more about Hope: 

To learn even more about becoming the Christ-centered leader needed to navigate the challenges people are facing today, we’re exploring hope throughout 2022. The Blog and Podcast page for our most recent resources.

Healthy Relationships

Just one more thing before you go. The four characteristics of trust, compassion, stability, and hope are fundamental to developing and maintaining healthy relationships. Relationships are necessary if you as a leader are going to have influence in the places you live, work, and play.

Take time to listen to the LeaderCast episodes and read the blogs listed above. You can only improve your leadership skills as you learn to adapt to the changing landscape and lead through challenging times.

As you explore these resources, keep in mind the relational skills that grow from these characteristics. As you listen and reflect upon the resources above, here are five things to keep in mind.

  • Listen Carefully – Give your full attention and reflect thoughtfully. Use empathy to connect more authentically with others.
  • Ask Questions – Model the behavior of being curious and encourage others to do the same.
  • Stay True to Your Values – Model integrity and authenticity.
  • Communicate Clearly – Remember that clear is kind. Be clear in your statements and be aware of how you are perceived in what you say and do.
  • Be Generous – Provide useful and genuine feedback to those entrusted to your care. Give them the benefit of your best thoughts and responses and be open to receiving feedback. 

Leadership is about inspiring and empowering people to become who they were created to be. It is my hope that you can and will begin to build a file of resources that assists you in becoming the leader that makes a difference.

Remember, who you are is how you lead.

Note: Explore the podcast and blog for more resources to guide you on your leadership journey.  

How was your Easter celebration? Although you have been back to “in person” worship for several months, celebrating Easter in person for the first time in two years must have felt extraordinary. I know it sounds silly, but you must have felt good getting back to some form of normal. 

The desire to get back to normal has been part of our thinking for months. The pandemic not only interrupted worship and church activities, but it also interrupted all of life as we were living it. So, I’m sure it felt good to celebrate Easter for several reasons, not the least of all the feeling of normalcy. 

Unexpected Interruptions

Unexpected interruptions have been part of human life from the very beginning. You can think of all the natural disasters, wars, deaths, births, and accidents that created a new normal for you. And when you look at the scripture, whether it was talking to a serpent in the garden, discovering a ram in the thicket, noticing a baby in a basket floating in the river, finding manna in the morning, getting water from a rock, human life has been interrupted with events that changed what was considered normal. 

Follow Me

Consider the lives of the first followers of Jesus. Fishing all night without catching anything was normal. Not fun or productive, but normal. Jesus comes along and tells them to do something that was not normal, “Cast your nets on the other side of the boat.” 

They were fishermen. They knew it was too late in the morning to catch any fish. Yet, they dropped their nets in the water and they caught more fish than they could handle. They had to call for help. Jesus came along and interrupted their lives. He said, “Follow me and I will teach you to catch people.” For the next three years, interacting with people became their new normal. 

Interrupted by the Resurrection

They gave themselves to the teaching and ministry of their new leader. Their new normal was living with Jesus. Although he was a little unorthodox in his dealing with people, life was good because it had become normal again. Then their lives were interrupted, not by a pandemic but by the resurrection. 

Although Jesus was arrested, convicted, and put to death by crucifixion, it was the resurrection that interrupted their lives. John tells us that Simon Peter and six other disciples wanted to get back to normal. After their experience of the resurrection, they went fishing. As far as their experience, life with Jesus was over. It was good while it lasted, but it was over. So, they were longing for life to get back to normal. Simon Peter said, “I’m going fishing.” 

Do You Love Me?

It was while he and the others were going back to what they considered to be normal that Jesus appeared to them. Jesus serves them breakfast. It was in the normal experience of eating that Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Simon, do you love me?” In the normal experience of eating a meal, like a stranger on the road to Emmaus, or the dinner parties Jesus attended, Jesus shows up and asks, “Simon, do you love me?” 

Even though Simon Peter responds with, “Yes, Lord, you know I love you,” Jesus asks repeatedly because the desire to go back to what we consider normal blinds us to the new normal. So, with Peter’s confession, Jesus then gives him the words of the new normal, “Feed my lambs.” “Care for my sheep.” 

Resurrection Gives You a New Normal

Simon Peter wants to get back to normal. But Jesus shows up as his new normal. This is a wonderful, frightening thing. Jesus, the risen Christ, is on the loose and is at work, where you live, with the people whom you lead. Notice that Sunday is the first day of the Jewish work week. It is interesting that Jesus wasn’t raised on a Saturday, a holy day, but was raised on the day when everything was going back to normal. Everyone was going back to work. 

The resurrection interrupts our normal and says that you demonstrate your faith in the places you live, work, and play. That is because the resurrection puts today and every day into a new perspective. Every day is sanctified and all of creation, even your community, is the Holy Land. Every person is sanctified and every person you meet is one of God’s children in whom you can see Jesus. You might long to go back to normal, but as a follower of Jesus, the resurrection gives you a new normal. 

Resurrection Interruptions

We are the people whose lives have been interrupted by the resurrection. We have had something happen to us that the world is yet to experience. The risen Christ has come back to us. In one way or another, you are here because Jesus, the risen Christ, has sought you, met you, caught you, and commissioned you for God’s purposes at this point and time in history. 

When you walk through the valley of the shadow of death, look up. You are not walking alone. When you come to some dead end in life and you look over the edge into the dark abyss, look up. He is there waiting for you as a light in the darkness. When you listen to the news, skim social media, read reports on the internet, and you feel overwhelmed, remember that Jesus confronts the powers and principalities of the day. He comes in the midst of the normal, no matter how bleak the normal might seem, and when you want to give up in despair, don’t be surprised to find him nearby. 

As you lead, you will find yourself stepping into unexpected interruptions. As a Jesus follower, living in a new normal, you might consider summarizing your leadership in light of the gospel. In an overall sense, in the Bible, it gets dark. Then it gets very, very dark. Then Jesus shows up. But Jesus doesn’t just show up; he shows up for you and for the people entrusted to your care. 

Experiencing the Resurrection

Several years ago, I visited a man in the hospital. He was a leader in the church and well known in the community. He was near death. We talked for a few minutes then I asked what I could do for him.

He responded, “I’m glad you came to see me. I want you to know something that you can tell the people at the church. I have had several people ask me if I was afraid. I want you to tell them at the church that I am not afraid. My faith is in Jesus.” 

I responded, “I can do that. We all have hope that our future is in God’s hands.” 

I’m sure I sounded too pious because he said, “Well, I’m not hopeful because of what I believe about the future. I’m hopeful because of what I have experienced in the past.” 

He captured my interest. I said, “Tell me more about what you mean. I want to represent you well.” 

He said, “I look back over my life, all the mistakes I’ve made, all the times I’ve turned away from Jesus, gone my own way, strayed, and got lost. And time after time, he found a way to get to me. He would show up and get me. He was looking for me when I wasn’t looking for him. I don’t think he will let something like my dying defeat his love for me. So, tell them I’m not afraid. Whether I live or die, Jesus is with me. 

I experienced the resurrection again that day. 

A New Normal

Simon Peter and his friends decide to go fishing. They want to get back to normal. Jesus shows up and gives them a new normal. He says, “What I have been doing, I want you to keep doing. As the Father sent me so I send you.” Or in other words, “Feed my lambs. Care for my sheep.” 

So here is a question for this week and throughout the Easter season. What if you are called to be the resurrection, to live a new normal? What if the presence of Jesus could be witnessed in who you are and what you say and do? 

Think about it and then decide what one thing you might say or do to reveal the new normal. It’s a tough assignment. To “care for my lambs” is to face the fact that some are going to stay lambs for forty years and never become sheep. “Feed my sheep” is not simple at all. Some of them refuse to eat. How will you lead into that unexpected interruption? 

You Are Never Alone

There will be moments of exasperation when you might be more of a nursery school teacher than you are their leader. But just as God sent Jesus, you are now being sent. Once your life has been interrupted by the resurrection, in whatever leadership situation you find yourself, look closely. The One who has called and equipped you for this ministry is nearby. You are never alone. 

That is the new normal. Leading into unexpected interruptions changes what is normal, especially when the interruption is the resurrection of Jesus. 

Who you are is how you lead.

Who you are is how you lead. As Jesus followers, Holy Week, and especially Good Friday, offer you an opportunity to Read, Reflect upon, and Respond to the events that give meaning and focus to your leadership. At this time in history, the courage you need for leading is found in Jesus and his response to the accusations and abuse he faced. 

Courage is not the absence of fear but is grace under pressure. Take a few minutes to read this scripture, reflect upon its truth and meaning, and respond to the grace being offered to you. You will become more the person and more the leader, God has created you to be. 

Read Luke 23:22-24 

“They also led two other criminals to be executed with Jesus. When they arrived at the place called The Skull, they crucified him, along with the criminals, one on his right and the other on his lift. Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.”  

Reflect

Jesus Prays

Luke has Jesus praying at particularly important points in his ministry. His pattern has been to go to a solitary or deserted place to pray. Jesus did this to keep his focus on what God had called and commissioned him to do. 

He prays seeking direction when he is tempted to follow the crowd, “Do I go with the crowd, or do I go to the cross?” He prays when Simon Peter and the other disciples misunderstood his suffering and dying as a contradiction of who and what they understood the Messiah to be and do. And he prays when his identity and purpose as suffering Messiah did not match the images of the people who loved him and followed him. 

Now, in Luke 24, while he is on the cross, Jesus prays. The Roman government considered him an insurrectionist. The Jewish leaders considered him a blasphemer. Both wanted him out of the way. So, they conspired to have him crucified. The religious leaders, using their influence with the government leaders, helped to find him disloyal to Rome, so he was sentenced to be crucified. 

Crucifixion

Crucifixion was a public execution. There is evidence that as many as 800 crosses would line the road like power poles. Persons, mostly men, who attempted to overthrow Rome, were impaled on stakes, or nailed to crosses. It created fear in the people who passed by. It was a scene like this that Jesus was crucified publicly between two criminals. 

Nailed to one of those stakes, Jesus prays, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.” This prayer was in keeping with the character and life of Jesus. He was praying for forgiveness for those who were violating him. In this story, the primary problem is ignorance. “Father, forgive them, they do not know what they are doing.” They killed Jesus in ignorance. 

Forgiven for Ignorance

I know it seems strange that anyone would have to be forgiven for ignorance. We usually don’t put forgiveness and ignorance together. But when you think of the various kinds of ignorance that move and motivate people, the ignorance that closes eyes when there is an opportunity to see the truth, our only hope is forgiveness. The forgiveness rooted in the love of God is greater than our self-protection, fear, and anxiety. 

When I think about it, evil could be called intentional ignorance. When we refuse to listen or to understand, when we remain silent and do nothing, and when we turn our backs and say, “Well, it is terrible, but it is not my problem,” we are participating in intentional ignorance. 

As he hung on the cross, crowds of people walked by Jesus, hurling insults, “He saved others; let him save himself.” “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us.” And Jesus responded, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” 

It sounds like Jesus forgave them for their ignorance. 

Intentional Ignorance

Think about it. Can you and I be forgiven for our ignorance to the sin and evil of the world? Can you and I be forgiven for intentionally turning our backs and remaining silent when we have the power and authority to know the truth and do nothing about it? 

I confess that this has bothered me for years. Below is not an exhaustive list, but it is part of my intentional ignorance list. I offer it to you for your reflection. 

Father, Forgive Us…

When we are filled with prejudice and let innocent people be targeted and killed because of the color of their skin, when we consider people of color less capable to achieve, and when we dismiss people of other cultures because they are different…Don’t we have the power to vote, legislate, and, more importantly, love? “Father, forgive us, we are being intentionally ignorant.” 

When we don’t use our position and power to work for equality for all people, especially when you know that women are paid less for the same work, not promoted with the same skills, and overlooked for being less than men…Don’t we have the power to initiate change in the places we work and more importantly, love? “Father, forgive us, we are being intentionally ignorant. 

When children and adults are not important enough to protect. When guns are used in schools, in parks, in clubs, in churches to murder innocent people yet we demand our rights…Don’t we have the power to initiate change in the places we live by our right to work for the rights of all people regardless of age or power. “Father, forgive us, we are being intentionally ignorant.” 

When medications are used make more of a profit than to care for the health of others. Whatever happened to loving others as we have been loved? Don’t we have the responsibility to work for the good of others? “Father, forgive us, we are being intentionally ignorant.” 

Oh, there is more. Keep in mind if you can think of more situations and circumstances, it might indicate you are not as ignorant as your actions reveal. Can you and I be forgiven for our ignorance? 

“Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” 

These words of forgiveness were spoken by a person whose only weapon was the love of God, whose only crime was being different, and who raised suspicion because he challenged the systems of hatred, prejudice, and bigotry. 

Yet, in the midst of being put to death for extending love, even to his enemies, Jesus called upon God to forgive the ignorance of his abusers and accusers. 

One of the meanings of the Cross is that God will not take our ignorance, intentional or not, as an excuse. God is not waiting for you to stop, recognize your ignorance, turn around, and do something about it. God has already acted. Listen to the prayer of Jesus, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.”  

Can you and I be forgiven for our ignorance? The truth is, we have already been forgiven. 

Respond

Where will you see Jesus today? How will you hear his words of forgiveness for you and for the people around you? In what situations or circumstances will you have the opportunity to work on behalf of another person? Who needs your help because you have the position and authority to help them? 

Return

Where did you experience God’s love today? How did you experience forgiveness? Where did you offer forgiveness? What could you have done differently regarding your interactions with people? Give God thanks for the day and for the people who are helping you become more who God created you to be. 

O Jesus, forgive us, our only hope is you. 

Remember, who you are is how you lead.