Tag Archive for: leaders

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.

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.  

Looking for Hope

Hope is a powerful thing. “It is the belief that the future will be better than the present, along with the belief that you have the power to make it so,” found Dr. Shane Lope. Martin Luther said, “Everything that is done in this world is done by hope.” 

When you have hope, you have a purpose in your life and a plan to live out that purpose. 

People are looking for hope-filled leaders. They want leaders who help them face the future with courage and confidence; leaders who can guide them in making the future better for themselves, their families, and the people for whom they care. 

Hope Around the World

With that said, Gallup International found that 57% of people around the world believe 2022 will be less hopeful or happy than 2021. You and I can name several reasons for the growing hopelessness we face. Our lives have been disrupted. Our routines are no longer routine. 

Too many of us feel that we have no control over our lives, that we are not taken seriously, and basically, we do not matter to the people with whom we interact. Life has become transactional. 

Whether it is as simple as customer service regarding an appliance repair or being represented by our political leaders, we no longer have the relationships that bring contentment and peace to our lives. So how do you as a leader help people see a way forward when they feel uncertain and powerless? 

Hope Filled Leaders & Relationships

Healthy Relationships

First, hope-filled leaders are people-focused and engage in healthy relationships. So, consider how you experience hope in and through the people around you. Think especially of relationships with family, relatives, acquaintances (co-workers and causal associations), neighbors, and, yes, Jesus. Who are the people you enjoy? Who brings you a sense of peace and contentment? Who offers you a reason to move forward with courage and confidence? 

This sounds silly, but relationships with people are key to hope. People, as well as relationships, come in all shapes and sizes. Some people enter our lives for a season, add value, and leave us better than human beings. Other people enter our lives for a lifetime, and we grow together, learning to live and love as God created us to live and love. Some people are work friends who add value to our daily lives, while other people are life friends, who become so much a part of us that we feel we are not complete without them. 

The people with whom you interact each day help you become more who God created you to be. So, focus on people and develop healthy relationships. Who you are is how you lead.

Characteristics of Hope-Filled Leaders

Second, hope-filled leaders share at least four characteristics in their relationships:  presence, commitment, anticipation, and celebration.

Presence

Hope-filled leaders show up, care, and notice others. They share God’s love as they have received God’s love. It is an affirmation when people say they can see and experience Jesus in you.  

Commitment

Hope-filled leaders are committed to people and have a purpose. Your purpose is to love and care for people as you help them become the people they are created to be. Your commitment to helping people live into their God-given purpose takes commitment. It also takes being focused. 

Anticipation

Hope-filled leaders offer stability. You see far enough ahead to identify needs and equip people to meet the needs. You navigate the barriers for the purpose of reaching your goals. While sometimes anticipation can be associated with being nervous. Here, anticipation is all about keeping an eye on the future. Again, with the goal of helping people become who God created them to be.

Celebrate

Hope-filled leaders celebrate the gifts and strengths of the people entrusted to your care. You honor your call by equipping and empowering people to become who God created them to be. 

You offer hope to the people with whom you interact each day. So, focus on people and develop healthy relationships. 

What Happened Here?

One of my favorite stories illustrates hope in relationships. It is about a man by the name of Tom Wiles. While he was a university chaplain at Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, he purchased a new pickup truck. While the truck was parked in his driveway, his neighbor’s basketball post fell against the truck leaving dents and scrapes on the passenger door. The scratches looked like deep white scars on the new truck’s exterior.  

A friend happened to notice the scrapes and asked, “What happened here?”  

Tom replied with a downcast voice, “My neighbor’s basketball post fell and left those dents. I asked him about it. He doesn’t feel responsible for the damage.”  

“You’re kidding! How awful! This truck is so new I can smell it.” His friend continued, “Did you contact your insurance company? How are you going to get him to pay for it?”  

Tom replied, “This has been a real spiritual journey for me. After a lot of soul-searching and discussions with my wife about hiring an attorney, it came down to this: I can either be in the right, or I can be in a relationship with my neighbor. Since my neighbor will probably be with me longer than the truck, I decided to focus on our relationship. Besides, trucks are meant to be banged up, so I got mine initiated into the real world a bit earlier than I expected.” 

Stay Focused on Relationships

The story illustrates “who you are is how you lead.”  In the story, Tom Wiles focused upon his neighbor. He sought to redeem the relationship rather than insist on his rights. He had the presence to take his neighbor seriously by responding to his neighbor with the love he had received in and through Jesus.

His purpose was to stay in a relationship with his neighbor. He decided that his neighbor was more important than his truck and that his neighbor was more important than his personal satisfaction of being right. He offered stability to the relationship by looking ahead, identifying the needs, and navigating the situation. 

He celebrated by understanding that his neighbor was more than a transaction. His response was a witness to who God had created him to be and a model to his neighbor who God had created him to be. 

Being a Hope-Filled Leader

It is tough to be a hope-filled leader when you are not feeling hopeful yourself. So, here is what I want you to do. I want you to do it now.

Take a deep breath in and let it out slowly. Say to yourself, “I am a cherished and treasured child of God.” Say it again, “I am a cherished and treasured child of God.”  Take a breath in and let it out slowly. Now, say to yourself, “God has uniquely gifted me with strengths and abilities for this time.” Say it again, “God has uniquely gifted me with strengths and abilities for this time.”

When you are true to who you are, people feel cared for and feel a sense of stability. When people sense the compassion you have for them, your leadership will instill trust. Be authentic, vulnerable, and courageous. Become a model for people to follow. Your hope-filled living shapes your hope-filled leadership. 

The People Entrusted to Your Care

Now, focus upon the people entrusted to your care. Take a deep breath and let it out slowly. Say to yourself, “God has entrusted to my care people who are uniquely gifted with strengths and abilities.” Say it again, “God has entrusted to my care people who are uniquely gifted with strengths and abilities.”

The people entrusted to your care are important. As a leader, you have the opportunity to discover and develop their potential. Remember, people need to feel a sense of stability. They want to be able to say, “I fit into that hopeful future.” Because you are helping them live into who they are created to be, they will trust your leadership and will sense the compassion you have for them. They will step up and out to move toward the hope you are holding before them. 

I am grateful for you and your leadership. Remember, hope is powerful. When you have hope, you have a purpose in your life and a plan to live out that purpose. May this next week bring a new sense of hope to you and your leadership.

Who you are is how you lead.

Leading is not easy. In addition to the responsibility of making tough decisions, there are relationships that need care, systems, and networks that need attention, and your personal health to be considered. 

Whether you know it or claim it, what you say and do as a leader leaves an impact upon the people entrusted to your care. That impact is the legacy of your leadership. 

What is your legacy?

Usually, when people talk about legacy, they are talking about making an impact at the end of their lives. They leave money, build a building, or add a wing to a building in memory of a loved one. I’m not questioning the goodness of those legacies, but I do think there is another legacy that makes a greater impact over a longer period of time. It is your legacy as a leader. 

You leave an incredible legacy through the relationships you develop and sustain on a daily basis. What you leave behind lives in the hearts and minds of the people entrusted to your care. It is measured by what you do and what you say every day. 

Begin with the End in Mind

Habit number 2 in Stephen R. Covey’s book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, is “Begin with the End in Mind.” He wrote, “To begin with the end in mind means to start with a clear understanding of your destination. It means to know where you’re going so that you better understand where you are now and so that the steps you take are always in the right direction.”

How will you be remembered?

The same is true regarding your legacy. So, how do you want to be remembered? 

People could say, “You were extremely busy and that you always seemed to work hard.” What they say might be true, but it is easy to get caught up in an activity trap, in the busy-ness of life, to work harder and harder at trying to move up the ladder of success only to discover that the ladder is leaning against the wrong wall. It is possible to be busy and to work hard without being very effective. Is that the legacy you want to leave?

Live your Life By Design

According to Covey, “to begin with the end in mind” is to live your life by design. He wrote, “Before you go on a trip, you determine your destination and plan out the best route. Before you plant a garden, you plan it out in your mind, possibly on paper. You create speeches on paper before you give them, you envision the landscaping in your yard before you landscape it, you design the clothes you make before you thread the needle.”

By Design or By Default?

The same is true regarding your legacy. So, how do you want to be remembered? Living by design or living by default? In your personal life, if you do not develop your own self-awareness and become responsible for the direction of your life, you give other people and circumstances the power and influence to shape your life by default. You reactively live by the direction of work, family, circumstances, and the agenda of others. These agendas are usually rooted in your deep vulnerabilities, dependency on others, and your need for acceptance. You allow your sense of importance and worth to be directed by default. Is that the legacy you want to leave?

Five Characteristics of a Leadership Legacy

What legacy do you want to develop and leave behind? How do you want to be remembered? Here are 5 characteristics that will help you design your leadership legacy.

Develop your character. 

Character plays a critical role in leadership. It will leave a lasting impression. Too many people are concerned with their reputation when they should be concentrating on their character. Your character is who you really are, while your reputation is what others think you are. Developing your character and your leadership legacy will take care of itself.

We live in a time where character does not seem important. Whether it be in politics, social media, or just truth-telling, the focus seems more upon what you can get for yourself rather than what part of yourself you give to others. Remember, who you are is how you lead. Your character will leave a legacy for others to follow and to emulate. 

Develop the potential in others. 

Your legacy will be seen in how you value the people around you. Bene Brown, in Dare to Lead, describes a leader as “anyone who takes responsibility for finding the potential in people and processes, and who has the courage to develop that potential.” God has gifted every person with special strengths, talents, and gifts. Your care and connection are irreplaceable in developing the strengths and gifts of the people entrusted to your care. 

Too many leaders overlook the gifts of the people with whom they work. Instead of becoming vulnerable and trusting colleagues, they begin to micromanage and become defensive. Whether it be at work, with family, or in daily relationships, your ability to help others be who they have been created to be is vital in developing happy and healthy relationships. 

Who you are is how you lead. Your leadership legacy is seen in how you recognize, value, and develop the potential in others. 

Be a person of integrity and respect. 

When what you say is what you do, and when you live up to your promises, you make a lasting impact. If your behavior is the same in unguarded moments as it is when someone is watching, you are creating the kind of legacy anyone would want.

When you act with integrity it will be remembered. If you treat others with respect it will be honored; when you are trustworthy it will be recognized; and as you live by your values, you will make a lasting impact upon the people entrusted to your care. 

Followers want leaders who they can trust, who respond with compassion, who bring stability, and who offer hope. Be authentic and vulnerable in your relationships. Be caring and clear in your communication. The way you relate to others and conduct yourself shapes your leadership legacy. People will remember how you valued and cared for them long after they forget your name. Who you are is how you lead. 

Make courageous decisions. 

Because life is made up of decisions, the decisions you make from your legacy. As you make choices and decisions every day, keep in mind you are leading by design. Your decisions help form your leadership legacy. 

You always want to make the right decisions, but do not get stuck in “paralysis of analysis.” You want to learn from your mistakes, but do not be afraid to step out and take the risks needed to move forward. In the end, your leadership legacy will reflect not only the decisions you have made but how you made those decisions. Who you are is how you lead and is reflected in your decision-making.

Be a person of compassion. 

Compassion grows out of your care for people more than your attention to processes and procedures. Leadership, at its core, is the ability to relate to people for the purpose of inspiring and empowering their lives. When they experience and trust your care, they help shape your leadership legacy. Through compassion, you leave a long-lasting impression. 

You cannot fake compassion. So be yourself. Love and care for people in the way others have loved and cared for you. It is okay to be vulnerable and to trust the people around you. You will leave a long-lasting impression through your compassion. Who you are is how you lead.

Your Leadership Legacy

So, how do you want to be remembered? Start today to design the legacy you want to leave. Step out with confidence. Develop your character, develop the potential in others, live a life of integrity, make courageous decisions, and be a person of compassion. As you do, people will learn to trust your actions and you will become more you God has created you to be. You will be remembered as a leader who helped others feel significant and empowered. 

This week, if not today, take a few moments to reflect on how you want to be remembered.

  • Compared to the way you are leading today, what behaviors need to change? 
  • What disciplines or patterns need to be established? 
  • What do you need to learn? 
  • What relationships do you need to develop? 
  • What do you need to do to create a leadership legacy that leaves something not for people, but leaves something in people? 

Who you are is how you lead. How do you want to be remembered? 

Last week, in a county board of education meeting in Tennessee, the board voted to require masks for students, staff, and visitors in elementary school buildings and on all school buses. The vote came after a contentious 4-hour meeting that was frequently interrupted by anti-mask residents who were in attendance. 

The tension of the meeting spilled out into the parking lot. Two men, who were among the anti-mask contingent, directly threatened a doctor who testified in favor of the mandate. As the doctor was getting into his car, a man yelled, “We know who you are, and we know where to find you!” 

Another man yelled, “You will never be allowed in public again!”

Leading in the Midst of Crisis

I don’t know about you, but such events are unthinkable to me. Frankly, they are disturbing and disgusting. I’m not questioning the right or opportunity to express opinions, but I am questioning the actions of threatening, blaming, and shaming.

As I read that report, I began to think of you as a leader. How do you speak up and lead when you know the people entrusted to your care are conflicted in their thinking, angry in their speaking, and threatening in their actions? Too often the reaction to mask mandates and vaccines pushes aside public health and human dignity.  When there is an opportunity to think of others and to respond with care and compassion, the reaction is self-focused and filled with rage and intimidation. So, how do you lead in the midst of a crisis?

A Good Word

I don’t know how many churches there are in the Columbus metro area, but I do know there are over 200 United Methodist congregations in the Capitol Area Districts.  I also know that the people entrusted to your care wait in anticipation for a good word from you. Although the event referenced above was in Tennessee, you lead and serve people, in your central Ohio communities, who have similar feelings and opinions regarding masks, vaccines, and personal rights.

How do you lead courageously in the midst of a crisis? 

1.      Remember who you are and why you do what you do. 

You are a child of God, and you have the opportunity to let people experience God’s love and care in and through you. Your identity is shaped by who God is and not by your preferences. So, regardless of your personal feelings about masks, vaccines, and personal rights, you are thinking of what is best for the people around you, recognizing their potential, and assisting them to live into being who God has created them to be.   

As a courageous leader, who is a Jesus follower, your leadership is characterized more in the fruit you produce than in your opinions.  So, your life is not characterized as much by whether you agree or disagree with masks and vaccinations as it is by love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23).

With that in mind, it matters where you start.  You are a Jesus follower. Start there. You are a leader within a community of Jesus followers. Help people start with Jesus. This will take courage because some people will want to start thinking of themselves as “American” or “free” or “white” or “Republican” or “Democrat.” 

Starting anywhere other than Jesus separates us from one another. Starting anywhere other than Jesus, people perceive that their sense of self is being threatened. They feel insecure, powerless, and out of control. Sometimes people feel they must defend themselves and protect their rights.  At other times, people are not thinking in terms of relationships or character. Care and forgiveness are nowhere to be found. Remember who you are and why you do what you do because who you are is how you lead!

2.      Be a peacemaker. 

As a Jesus follower, you are identified as a child of God by your peacemaking. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God” (Matthew 5:9). It is not always convenient to stand firm in faith. Courageous leaders face their fears, trusting and risking vulnerability because they know who they are.    

Too often leaders think that keeping the peace is more important than making peace.  Keeping peace often comes with keeping silent. If you don’t speak up, then you are keeping things peaceful. 

It is difficult to speak up when you know that most of the people around you are going the other way. But if you stand in fear and react out of emotion, you give power to what is not real and to what is not true. At any given time, people react out of fear.  At such times, silence is not an option.

It is easy to give in to your thoughts and feelings of uncertainty. But courageous leaders look beyond the immediate situation and circumstances. Things are not right with the world. What we are experiencing is more than differences in opinion, lack of knowledge, or poor communication.  It cannot be explained away as someone’s likes and dislikes. The struggle is real and dangerous.

At times like these, people are looking for a peacemaker, someone who leads with trust and confidence. They are looking for someone who can offer hope, not as wishful thinking, but as God’s preferred future of shalom. So, raise your voice and speak clearly.

  • Wear a mask – For your own health and out of care and compassion for others
  • Get vaccinated – For your own health and the well-being of others
  • Your right as a Jesus follower is to love others. Insisting on your own rights negates the love you have received in and through Jesus.

Be a peacemaker. Being a living child of God is not easy, but people will recognize and experience God’s love in and through you.  Who you are is how you lead!

3.      Be the leader needed for this time. 

You were created to lead at this time in history. You have been gifted with the strengths and abilities to lead courageously and effectively.  To be the leader you have been created to be, you will need to join hands, if not hearts, with people with whom you may not associate, agree, or understand. Model for your community and the world God’s design for all creation. Uncertainty and confusion can seem overpowering. Yet, God’s plan for creation is to bring order out of chaos.

It is not easy, but when you know who you are and why you do what you do, you can step up and lead with courage in troubled and uncertain times.  

Here are a few things to remember:

  • Do to others what you would have them do to you (Luke 6:31)
  • Love one another…By this everyone will know that you are my disciples. (John 13:34)
  • Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another as God in Christ has forgiven you. (Ephesians 5:32).
  • Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility regard others as more important than yourselves (Philippians 2:3)
  • Love is patient, love is kind. It is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on getting its own way. It does not dishonor others. It is not easily angered or resentful and keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not celebrate wrongdoing but rejoices in the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things (I Corinthians 13:4-7)
  • Don’t let any foul words come out of your mouth. Only say what is helpful when it is needed for building up the community so that it benefits those who hear what you say (Ephesians 4:29)
  • Be imitators of God as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us (Ephesians 5:1-2)
  • Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. . . so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm (Ephesians 6:10-12)

Difference Makers

When you come to the end of the day “having done everything” you can, stand firm, because you know that in the midst of all the confusion there is the presence of God. You have been created to lead for this moment. In whatever you face, you are standing firm on the promise, power, and victory of the Risen Christ.  Thanks be to God!

You can make a difference.  You and I know that we can’t do it alone and God is not going to do it for us. But you can be the leader needed in the midst of crisis when you open the door and invite God through Christ to enter in. To you, who has been created to lead at the time, the invitation remains, “Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come to you and eat with you, and you with me.” (Revelation 3:20).

In the midst of crisis, be the leader God has created you to be. This week, how will you model the love you have experienced in Jesus? In what situation or circumstance will you step up and lead with courage and grace? Remember, who you are is how you lead.

Final Reminders

Let me remind you that Karen Cook, Sara Thomas, and I are with you on your leadership journey. When we can be of encouragement or help, contact us at connect@transformingmission.org. We are ready to assist you with insights and resources in becoming a courageous leader.  

This week, check out LeaderCast. Sara Thomas and I have a conversation about Doing Hard Things. Listen to Episode 192 here. To become a regular LeaderCast listener, subscribe and receive a new episode each week as well as catch up on past episodes. LeaderCast is one resource you will want to have as you navigate the leadership challenges of 2021. 

Who you are is how you lead.

Let me start this blog with an obvious statement. We are living in some uncertain times. Whether it be in the politics of our government, of our employment, or our church, we are living in a time that is crying out for leaders who are trustworthy, compassionate, stable, and hope-filled. As a leader, you have the opportunity and responsibility to model the character and action needed to come through such a time as this. 

Your Words

One of the tools you have, as you step into this leadership opportunity, is your word(s). 

I know that sounds strange, but you are only as good as your word.  Your followers need a leader they can trust. They are looking for a leader who speaks with hope and compassion as well as a leader who puts words into action. This very day, you have the opportunity to model the character and action needed not only by what you say but how you say it. 

Your Words Shape Worlds

Whether you believe it or not, words create images and assumptions that shape the way people view one another, your community, and even God. You can use words to encourage and build up as well as discourage and tear down. Words feed prejudices, cultivate relationships, and set the course for decision-making. You have a powerful tool in your toolbox.

So, just as you think about your words when giving a speech or delivering a sermon, and you weigh your words when writing an article or a letter, it is important to pick your words wisely when leading a group, teaching a class, or in casual conversation. 

Do Not Use Harmful Words

In Ephesians 4:29, Paul wrote, “Do not use harmful words, but only helpful words, the kind that builds up and provides what is needed, so that what you say will do good to those who hear you.” (TEV)

The church in Ephesus was a diverse church. 

Because of its diversity, there was a conflict of values. The Jews, who had a deep ethical background, were people who lived with religious values. The Gentiles, who did not have the same background or heritage, had a different set of values. I can imagine there were times when the two sets of values clashed and created tension. 

In a time of conflict, Paul was instructing the church to say kind, supportive, encouraging words. When you open your mouth, do not let evil talk come out. Don’t diss one another. Say only what is useful for building up as there is need so that your words may give grace to those who hear. The teaching is like Jesus saying, “it is not what goes in but what comes out that defiles…”

Conflict and Words

Although she is writing about more than words, Brene Brown writes, “In times of uncertainty, it is common for leaders to leverage fear and weaponize it to their advantage…If you can keep people afraid and give them an enemy who is responsible for their fear, you can get people to do just about anything.”

Brown also says, “…when we are managing during times of scarcity or deep uncertainty, it is imperative that we embrace the uncertainty…We need to be available to fact-check the stories that team members may be making up, because in scarcity we invent worse case scenarios.”

Your words are powerful. Simply by what you say and how you say it, you can create fear and uncertainty. By what you say and how you say it, you can also reflect the love you have experienced in and through Jesus. 

God’s Word of Love

I think of this way: God’s word of love and grace was made real in Jesus.  So, Jesus is God’s encouraging word to us. As a Jesus follower, it makes sense to me that our words would reflect that same love and grace. That our words would be words of kindness, compassion, and encouragement. 

So, just as in Jesus, we find the embodiment of God’s love and grace, the people we lead should have the same love and grace in us. Remember, it is Jesus who said, “it is not what goes in but what comes out that defiles…” 

Your Next Step

This week take the time to do the following:

1. Allow God’s Word, Jesus, to take up residence in your life. 

2. Think of someone who needs a good word. A word of encouragement. A word of care and support.

3. Then, either through email, text, phone call, etc. become a word of love and grace, a word of encouragement and care through the words you speak. When you do, it will be Jesus who comes out.

You Are Only As Good as Your Word

Remember, you are only as good as your word. Who you are is how you lead. 

When you need and want assistance, remember that Sara Thomas and I are with you on your leadership journey. When we can be of encouragement or help, contact us at connect@transformingmission.org. We are ready to assist you with insights and resources in becoming a courageous leader.  

Check out LeaderCast. This week Sara Thomas and I are 71 Ways to Add Play to Your Day. We don’t discuss all 71.  We don’t even read them to you. But we do have fun discussing several of them as a way of adding play to your daily living. Tune in and listen to Episode 188: 71 Ways to Add Play to Your Day.  To become a regular LeaderCast listener, subscribe and receive a new episode each week as well as catch up on past episodes. LeaderCast is one resource you will want to have as you navigate the leadership challenges of 2021. 

We all experience times of uncertainty and anxiety. To whom do you turn when you experience those moments? Who is your go-to person? Is it a mentor, a coach, a counselor, a colleague, or a friend? To whom do you turn when you need someone to journey with you through the difficult moments of life? 

Hope for the Future

In the past two months, I have received phone calls from persons I have not seen in years. Each person needed someone to walk with them through a particular crisis.  

One confessed a long-time battle with depression and needed someone to listen. Another was facing life-changing surgery and needed assurance to step into whatever the future might be.  And still, another was experiencing grief in the unexpected death of a family member. 

In listening, I discovered that each person needed someone to come alongside them. They were looking to be lifted above the anxiety of the moment. Each one needed assistance navigating the barriers of uncertainty. They needed someone to journey with them to the place they felt they could take their next step with confidence, trusting whatever was ahead.  In my thinking, each person was seeking some hope for the future. 

Walking in Hope

I am in contact with each of them weekly. Out of love and appreciation for each of them, I continue to walk with them. I have the opportunity to ask about therapy sessions, doctor’s appointments, and a grieving process. My questions are based upon what each person has said they would do to get to a place of stability. I have the privilege of walking with them, offering what care and support I can, to assist them to reach a place of hope. 

Friends Who Carry You

In the second chapter of Mark, there is a story of a man who was paralyzed. His friends were convinced if they could get him to Jesus, he could be healed of his paralysis. When they arrived at the place where Jesus was teaching, so many people had gathered, they couldn’t even get close to Jesus. How could they carry him through the crowd? 

Did they give up? Not according to the story. Can you imagine the conversation? One of the friends says, “Let’s lower him from the ceiling.” Another says, “We would have to go up on the roof to do that.” And another says, “I like it. Let’s do it.” 

If it was like most houses in that part of the world, the roof was flat. It might have even been a place where people could sit during the day or in the evening. I can see them carrying their friend to the roof and beginning to remove the roof floor. Their goal was to get him to Jesus. So, when they made an opening large enough, they lowered their friend on his mat to the feet of Jesus. It is when Jesus saw their faith that the healing began. 

Filled with Hope

Wow! A man who could not move on his own had friends who came alongside him. The goal was to get him to Jesus who could help him move on his own again. So, they pick him up and carry him to Jesus.  On their way, they faced several obstacles. The first obstacle was the crowd was so big they could not get to Jesus. 

They did not give up and sit the man down. They found a way around the crowd. They lifted their friend above the obstacle of the crowd and carried him to the roof.  It was there they faced their second obstacle. They would have to make a hole in the roof. So, they did.   

They reached their goal by lowering their friend, on his mat, to the feet of Jesus. When Jesus saw that they lived out their faith by coming alongside and assisting the man who could not move on his own, healing and hope came to the man. He was able to move on his own again. 

Times of Uncertainty

We all experience times of uncertainty and anxiety. Times when we feel paralyzed. We don’t know what to do. At times, even afraid to make a move because we are so uncertain. My question is, “to whom do you turn when you experience those moments? Who is your go-to person? To whom do you turn when you need someone to journey with you through the difficult moments of life? 

Your One Person

To be an effective and courageous leader, you need at least one person you can trust to walk with you through the moments when you are paralyzed, and you can’t make a move on your own. Moments when you are:

  • So totally preoccupied with your own uncertainty, pain, and anxiety that you can’t see beyond what you are facing.   
  • So weary that you want to do anything other than what you are doing.
  • Feeling like there is no future and that things are not going to get any better.
  • So overwhelmed that you want someone to care but no one is there.
  • Feeling like you have lost control of your life, your work, or your family.
  • Feeling your prayers are going nowhere
  • Thinking that your experience does not match what you have been taught about God. 

Who is Your Person?

To some of you, the above sounds overly dramatic. To others of you, you have been hanging on, hoping (wishful thinking) to get through today and that tomorrow might be better. Remember, who you are is how you lead.  As a leader, you need at least one person you can trust to walk with you through these moments of uncertainty and anxiety. You might have had different persons for different stages of your life.  Today, who is your go-to person? 

Embody Grace

Several years ago, I faced a time of uncertainty so great that I could not see beyond myself or the moment of pain I was experiencing. I was uncertain about the future. I felt hurt, confused, and alone. It was at the moment of my greatest distress, a colleague and friend stepped in to help me face my future. I was not offered a lot of sympathy or unrealistic platitudes. I don’t ever remember hearing the words, “Call me if you need me.” What I do remember hearing was, “You know where to find me.” 

What I got was a person of faith, a Jesus follower, who allowed me to be me at the moment of my greatest need. She created a space for me to talk about my anxiety, disappointments, pain, and fear.  Although there were times she did not agree with my assessments, she never passed judgment. She listened compassionately and at appropriate times would ask me the questions I needed to answer for clarity and healing.  She offered Christ to me by becoming the embodiment of God’s grace.  I began to trust that I was not alone in my uncertainty. 

A New Story

The space created and the grace offered allowed me to move beyond the moments of my anxiety to see new possibilities.  I began to look beyond what I had experienced and to create a new story for myself.

I began to heal.  My friend provided several ways for me to put into practice the new possibilities that began to emerge.  Plans for reflection, prayer, and conversation.  She challenged me to look beyond myself to see what new things God might be doing in my life and in the lives of the people around me.  I was invited to put my faith into action by looking beyond myself. 

I believe it was at that point that I began to rediscover God’s desire to use me to make a difference in the places I encountered the people God wanted me to love.  It was through the engagement of this colleague and friend in my life, this Jesus follower, that helped me see the hope in the midst of my uncertainty. There were no easy answers.  In fact, there were no answers at all. 

She came alongside me at the moment of great anxiety, embodied God’s love, and journeyed with me through difficult moments. She helped me see what God might have in store for the future.  She was an instrument of God’s hope in the midst of my uncertainty. 

Who is Your Go-To Person?

So, who is your go-to person in the midst of uncertainty and anxiety? 

This week, contact that person. Have an informal conversation about how you are feeling and thinking about things. At the very least, let them know how much you appreciate them and their caring support. 

When you need and want assistance, remember that Sara Thomas and I are with you on your leadership journey. When we can be of encouragement or help, contact us at connect@transformingmission.org. We are ready to assist you with insights and resources in becoming a courageous leader.  

Check out LeaderCast. This week Sara Thomas and I have a conversation with Sam Heaton about his experience of leading, loving, and living as a follower of Jesus in the midst of seasons filled with change. Tune in and listen to Episode 187: Sabbath, Technology, and Fun in Ministry. To become a regular LeaderCast listener, subscribe and receive a new episode each week as well as catch up on past episodes. LeaderCast is one resource you will want to have as you navigate the leadership challenges of 2021. 

What are you doing to relax this week? 

I am not asking about your day off or your vacation. I am asking about what you are doing to reduce the stress and tension you experience off and on each day? Have you built in time for rest and relaxation? Have you taken time to breathe deeply and to refocus?

We all want to be the best we can be, but we cannot be our best if we do not take time to rest and relax. Research from the National Institute of Health links relaxation to healthy benefits like greater focus and concentration as well as improved problem-solving and memory. There is even evidence that relaxation leads to deeper and more meaningful relationships. As a leader, it is important to build rest and relaxation into your everyday living. 

Stress and Anxiety

You already know that being stressed out and anxious is not good for your health and that checking out of meetings is not helpful in leading people toward your ultimate goal. How many times have you heard that you should get a good night’s rest so you can face the next day? My guess is you know these things and being reminded of them is not always helpful. So, why not build in a few moments of relaxation into your day? 

As you think about whether you can or will add a little relaxation to your everyday living, here a few things to consider:

Leading effectively is hard work.

To do it well requires that you be alert, present, and thinking clearly. It requires energy and stamina. Stress and tension will not get there. Relaxation will.

You want to be the best leader you can be. The people entrusted to your care need and deserve your best leadership. Ask yourself, “I’m the best leader I can be without rest and relaxation? 

Navigating Stress and Tension

There is always going to be some stress and tension, but the right amounts at the right times can and will help you develop as a leader. You will grow and benefit more when you are relaxed, present in the moment, focused, and thinking clearly.

Find Potential

Leading effectively means you are finding the potential in people and helping them to develop that potential. Your job is to help them be who God has created them to be, so why would you put all the pressure and stress on yourself? It is not only about you. You are surrounded by people who want to learn and grow. Your stress will not help develop their potential. So, relax and enjoy the people God has put in your path. 

Your Work & Your Health

Your work is important, but not as important as your health. There are unhealthy physical conditions brought about by stress and tension. Conditions like high blood pressure (hypertension). It is a medical fact that a lack of relaxation can and does lead to heart, stomach, muscle, and emotional problems. Stress and tension have even led to dental problems. Time for rest and relaxation keeps you physically fit for the work you are created to do.

Observations of Leaders

People are watching you and how you lead. They are watching to see what they should be doing. Do they see a stressed-out overworked leader or a relaxed clear-thinking fun to be around leader? Are you stressing them out or are you leading the way to healthy and effective leadership?

I know this will sound strange and counterintuitive, but have you considered that slowing down so you can be the leader who is needed now? Who you are is how you lead. Below are five activities to help you slow down. Any one of these will help you rest and relax as well assist you in becoming the leader you are created to be. 

1. Pray and Reflect

A pattern of prayer and reflection, with a focus on stillness and breathing, creates a sense of calm, peace, and balance that impacts your emotional well-being and overall health. Even if it is five minutes a day, it is one way that leads to relaxation. 

There is no “right” time to practice prayer and reflection but taking time in the morning to center your thoughts in prayer or making time in the evening for reflection, has worked well for me over most of my ministry.

2. Get outside

Being in nature helps to clear your head and improve your outlook on specific situations and on life in general. In a study conducted by the University of Essex, it was found that adults could lower their stress levels by simply looking at pictures of nature. Imagine how helpful it can be to experience nature firsthand by simply walking outside. 

Next time you are having difficulty staying present or hit a wall with a project, get outside and take a walk. Become aware of the air. Feel the breeze. Soak in the sunshine. Take notice of the colors. Listen to the sounds. Just a few minutes outside has rejuvenating benefits and boosts your mental energy. 

3. Exercise

Exercise helps control weight, improves mental health, boosts your mood, and increases your chances of living longer, while also building the strength of your bones and muscles. You experience a more restful sleep at night and less nervous energy during the day. To say it another way, physical activity makes you healthier and helps you release stress. It helps you become the best version of yourself. 

I know some of you have gym memberships and you exercise regularly. I know others of you feel like you do not have the time to exercise. Just know, a short walk three or four times a week has significant health and attitude benefits. The more exercise you add, and the time you permit yourself to exercise, the healthier you will be.

4. Take a break

Well-planned breaks can help you relax, lower blood pressure, and assist you in becoming a more effective leader. Just a 10-minute break when you step away from your computer, set down your phone, step outside, take a walk, talk with a friend, or get a drink of water helps your brain rest, switch gears, and restore your concentration and focus. 

I know it sounds simplistic, but a short break is a form of relaxation that provides renewed focus and greater energy, especially if you are having difficulty staying awake when you need to focus and be present in the moment. 

5. Focus on what brings you joy

Joy-filled activity helps to slow down your heart rate, lower your blood pressure, and decrease your stress level. When you focus upon your joy you are giving your senses a chance to rest and recharge.

Your Health & Multitasking

Too often, without thinking about it, you engage multiple senses in multimedia formats. Sometimes multitasking is not a healthy exercise, because before you realize it, you are on visual and information overload. There is power in simply slowing down to experience and enjoy the moment, especially if you are focusing upon what brings you joy. 

Whether it be listening to music, reading a book, interacting with your children, or in conversation with your spouse or a good friend, the focus upon what brings you joy brings a sense of peace and relaxation. 

Intentionally scheduling moments of relaxation could be the very thing that frees you to become the leader you are created to be. Schedule one relaxation exercise this week and add another next week and another the next week. Try each one and discover what a difference they can make in your living and in your leadership. Remember, who you are is how you lead. 

What Will You Do to Relax This Week?

So, relax and become a more courageous and effective leader. The questions are: what are you doing to relax this week? Which of the above activities will you incorporate in your leadership? 

When you need and want assistance, remember that Sara Thomas and I are with you on your leadership journey. When we can be of encouragement or help, contact us at connect@transformingmission.org. We are ready to assist you with insights and resources in becoming a courageous leader. 

Check out LeaderCast. This week, 7 leaders are sharing their wisdom on rest, relaxation, and play. You’ll hear from 9 more next week. To become a regular LeaderCast listener, subscribe and receive a new episode each week as well as catch up on past episodes. LeaderCast is one resource you will want to have as you navigate the leadership challenges of 2021. 

We are living in a unique time filled with opportunity and promise. It is a critical time in the life of our country, our communities, and our churches. It is a time that calls for courageous leadership. This is the time for you to be the leader you were created to be. To step up and be the leader needed for this time, you must be in tune with yourself, because who you are is how you lead. 

A Few Reminders

We are in a two-part series on Leading Through Racial Unrest. In part one, you were asked to reflect upon the question, “How did I first learn about race?” You were asked that question because much of the way we view the events that take place around us and what we believe about the people with whom we interact has been shaped by the attitudes and behaviors of the people in our lives. So, to recognize your condition, or why you believe what you believe, or react the way you react is essential to leading courageously in the midst of racial and social unrest. 

In part one we explored an understanding of what racism is and what we believe as Jesus followers. What we know is the reality of racism is perpetuated in powerful ways. It comes through the clash of nations and races. It comes through the differences of cultures and politics. It comes through the assumptions we make about one another. It comes through the experiences we have and the teaching and modeling we have received from those who have gone before us. Racism is passed on when we teach our children what to believe about race. 

If you want to catch up quickly, you can read Part One or you can take a few minutes to do the following: Answer this question: “How did I first learn about race?” Write your thoughts down so that you can get a clear understanding of your first awareness and learnings. What experiences do you remember? Who was involved? What happened to leave an impact upon your memory?

Am I Willing?

Now, after you have an understanding of what racism is and how you first learned about race, you have another question to answer regarding leading courageously in and through racial and social unrest. It is the most important question regarding your leadership. The question is, “Am I willing to be transformed by the love of God?” Let me be clear, if your answer is “no”, there is no reason to continue reading this blog. If your answer is “yes”, then continue reading to become the leader needed for this time and place in history. 

With what you have learned or are learning about your condition is key to our hope in addressing the evil of racism. If you are ready and willing to be transformed by the love of God, read on. 

Biblical Foundations

My point in writing this next section is to lay a biblical foundation for courageous leadership. I am not writing to present a political point of view or to debate the meaning of certain passages of scripture. It is simply to lay a foundation for you and for me to answer the question, “Am I willing to be transformed by the love of God?”

There are several things we know beyond any doubt. Things that are not even debatable. Each statement is found in the scripture and is plain in its meaning. There are many passages throughout the bible. 

Old Testament 

Here are just three passages from the Old Testament:

  • Every person is created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27).
  • When immigrants live in your land with you, you must not cheat them. Any immigrant who lives with you must be treated as if they were one of your citizens. You must love them as yourself because you were immigrants in the land of Egypt (Leviticus 19:33-34)
  • Be careful when you pass judgment. You aren’t dispensing justice by merely human standards but for the Lord, who is with you. Therefore, respect the Lord and act accordingly, because there can be no injustice, playing favorites (II Chronicles 19:6-7).

New Testament

In the New Testament, every chance Jesus gets, he says and shows that every person matters to God and is a person of worth. Regardless of who the person is or what the person has done, he teaches and demonstrates that all people are equal in the sight of God. 

We have stories throughout the gospels of Jesus demonstrating the love of God. Do you remember the conversation he had with the woman from Samaria? She was at the well to draw water. Jesus asks her for a drink. She is the one who points out the racial divide. She says to Jesus, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink when Jews don’t associate with Samaritans?” Before the conversation is over Jesus has given her hope that will change her life. Why? Because Jesus will not let a racial divide keep anyone from hearing the good news of God’s grace. He will not allow a racial divide to get in the way of loving people. 

Jesus Bridges Racial Divide

Jesus was and still is the bridge of the great racial divide on this earth. Read the second chapter of Paul’s letter to the Ephesian church (Ephesians 2:14-20). Paul tells the people in Ephesus that Christ broke down the racial barriers on the cross. His statement came in the midst of a deep racial divide between Jews and Gentiles. The Jews hated the Gentiles. They called Gentiles dogs. They saw Gentiles as less than human. The Gentiles felt the same way about the Jews. They saw themselves as superior in culture and in language over the Jews. 

These two groups of people, who hated each other, God brought together to be the Church. It was the experience of God’s love that brought hope in the midst of hatred. Jesus taught love for all people. He demonstrated love for all people. His love was greater than human differences. The presence of God’s love in Jesus, lived out in and through the people called the church, was greater than historical, social, cultural, and racial differences. 

Our Hope is in Jesus

Where is our hope as a country? As a culture? As a Church? It is in the love of God found in Jesus. He is the bridge over the great racial divide in which you and I live today. 

I just heard one of you scoff. I just heard you say, “this is not realistic.” I want you to hear me clearly, God’s love for God’s creation is the only way we have not attempted to answer the racial divide we face today.

The Answer is NOT…

The answer to racism is not in the political workings of a nation, though politics are important to getting things done. Political leverage has never transformed a heart. It has shaped attitudes and behaviors to the extent we get what we want. It creates lots of rhetoric and even incites fear, but the political power and persuasion of groups of people is not the answer to racism. If it was the answer, we would not be living with the racial unrest we experience today. 

The answer to racism is not about our laws. Laws about equality are good, but laws don’t transform hearts. Jesus transforms hearts. Jesus can take a heart of hate and make it a heart of love. Jesus can bring enemies together to start a movement that transforms the world. Laws do not start such movements. In fact, many laws try to keep such movements from getting started. If laws were the answer to racism, we would not be living with the racial unrest we experience today. 

The answer to racism is not about training. Even though it is wonderful and each of us needs the training to respect and understand difference , to be empathetic, to not put people down or dismiss them, to understand different cultures, and to be tolerant of others, our hope is not in the training. Our hope is not even about tolerance. It is not about good behavior. Hear me, both are important and are needed. If training were the answer, we would not be living with the racial unrest we experience today. The answer is in the living and loving transforming power of Jesus Christ. 

Are you willing?

To move forward, my question is still the same, “Are you willing to be transformed by the love of God?” 

As Jesus followers, we know that the way to life is the way of love. Because love is the way, then leading through racial unrest is based upon allowing ourselves to be loved by God in and through the people around us. To love God and to love your neighbor are related to understanding yourself being loved. No matter who you are or what you think and do, you are loved. It is God’s decision to love, so if God loves you and all the people around you, then love yourself and all the people too. 

Bishop Michael Curry, in his book The Power of Love, writes that loving God and loving neighbor are based on a conviction that God knows what God “is talking about.” With that conviction he tells the following story:

I was a parish priest in Baltimore, and our youngest daughter, Elizabeth, was probably three years old. My wife went off to teach school, and I think our oldest daughter went off with her. It was up to me to take the young one to nursery school. So, I said, “Elizabeth, I need you to go and put your raincoat on.”

And she looks back at me, at three years old now. Mind you, I am the rector of St. James Church, the third oldest African American church in the Episcopal Church. A historic church, the church that gave you Thurgood Marshall and Pauli Murray. Yes, this is a serious church, and I’m the rector talking to this little three-year-old person. I said, “Elizabeth, go put your raincoat on.” And she said, “Why?”

I said, “Because it’s going to rain.” She ran to the window in the living room, and looked out the window and said, “But it’s not raining outside. I said, “I know that, but it’s gonna rain later.” She said, “Mommy didn’t say it was gonna rain.” I said, “I know Mommy didn’t say it was gonna rain, but Al Roker on the Today show said it was gonna rain.” I tried to explain to her about weather forecasting, and showed her the newspaper. And I finally said, “Why am I doing all this? Elizabeth, just go and put your raincoat on!”

She actually thought she knew better than I did. I spent more time in seminary than she’s even been on the earth. And she actually thought she knew more than I did. And it occurred to me that must be what we look like to God. 

Bishop Curry continues, “I have this fantasy of God putting his hands on his cosmic hips and just saying, ‘They are so cute! They think they know so much, but don’t they know that I was the one that called this world into being in the first place? Don’t they know that I created the vast expanse of interstellar space? Don’t they know that I told old Moses, Go down, Moses, way down in Egypt land, and you tell old Pharaoh, let my people go? Don’t they know that I’m the author of freedom? Don’t they know that I’m the creator of justice? Don’t they know that I’m the God of love? Don’t they know that I came down as Jesus to show them the way of love, to show them the way to life, to show them how to live together? Don’t they know how much I love them?’” 

God’s Transforming Love

On the day of Pentecost, God’s love was fully proclaimed and experienced. People were filled with the Holy Spirit. Another way of saying this is, people were filled with God’s presence and God’s power or by God’s transforming love. 

People from every nation under heaven were gathered. It was the greatest ethic, racial, and cultural division to ever gather. And the coming of the Holy Spirit, God’s transforming love, on that day brought unity to the greatest diversity imaginable. 

The answer to racism that day, on the day of Pentecost was the Holy Spirit. God’s holy presence and power. God’s transforming love. 

The answer to racism today is the Holy Spirit. God’s holy presence and power. God’s transforming love. 

The Same Love

We are the church, the body of Christ, the bringers of the love of God to a racially divided world. The same love that came to us in a baby, the same love that was shown to us on a cross, the same love that came in and through the Holy Spirit. 

So, are you willing to be transformed by the love of God? You were created to lead at such a time as this. As a Jesus follower filled with the love of God, you are what the love of God looks like in the 21st century. You are the answer to racism. By God’s grace, you can lead a movement of Jesus followers who will change the world. Filled with God’s love, you are a bringer of hope in the midst of racial unrest. Who you are is how you lead!

Your Next Step

This week, what is one thing you will do to show the love of God? Who will you contact? What action will you take? If you are unsure, contact me. It is the greatest joy of my life to introduce you to God’s transforming love in Jesus and get you started on the path of putting an end to racism.

When you need and want assistance, remember that Sara Thomas and I are with you on your leadership journey. When we can be of encouragement or help, contact us at connect@transformingmission.org. We are ready to assist you with insights and resources in becoming a courageous leader. 

Check out LeaderCast. On the podcast this week, Sara and I present some ways you might rest, relax, and play. Join us for Episode 182 for a fun episode about Ingredients for Joy and Meaning. To become a regular LeaderCast listener, subscribe and receive a new episode each week as well as catch up on past episodes. LeaderCast is one resource you will want to have as you navigate the leadership challenges of 2021. 

It has been a while since I checked in with you.  How are you doing? You have done well leading through a difficult time. I have said it before and I believe it today, you were created to lead in such a time as this. 

Which brings me to the question, “How have you been leading during racial unrest?” I’m curious. I am learning that each of us leads in different ways. Some believe that the less said the better. Others believe that they should call out racism when they see it. Some dismiss racism saying, “this too shall pass,” while others have difficult conversations. How have you been leading people to respond to racial and social unrest? 

We may be coming to the end of the COVID pandemic, but we are not coming to the end of racism. The day I am writing this blog is the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre. 

The Tulsa Race Massacre

My guess is that you are just learning about this event in our history. I say that based upon my own experience.  I did not read or hear about the massacre in high school. It was only after I was in college, as a Social Studies major, that I heard about it. And at that time, it was still called the Tulsa race riots.  

Just to refresh your memory, on May 31, 1921, a white mob marched into the predominantly Black Tulsa neighborhood of Greenwood, known as Black Wall Street, and set fire to businesses, homes, and churches. Over 300 black lives were lost, thousands of people were left homeless, 35 blocks of the city were burned, all within an 18-hour period. For many years there were no public ceremonies, memorials for the dead, or any efforts to remember the events of the massacre. In fact, until recent years, the event was not even taught in Oklahoma classrooms. 

How are you leading?

How do you lead in that kind of racial and social unrest and denial? I know that it takes some courage to even talk about race and the differences that have kept so many of us apart as human beings. But I think courageous leadership can be shown in another way which might bring about the deep change that is so desperately needed.  This week we will look at our condition. Next week we will look at our hope. 

Our Condition

Let’s start with our condition. An honest look at current reality will help you lead effectively with conviction and courage.  

What do we know? We know that racism is the belief that:

  1. Human beings can be divided into separate and exclusive biological entities.
  2. These exclusive biological entities possess distinct characteristics, abilities or qualities, that distinguish them as inferior or superior to one another. 
  3. These exclusive biological entities are inherited physical traits and traits of personality, intellect, morality, as well as other cultural and behavioral characteristics.
  4. The systemic oppression of a racial group to the social, economic, and political advantages of another racial group

In other words, racism is prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism, in our attitudes and actions, toward people who are different in ethnicity or race. Our attitudes and actions are usually rooted in the idea we are superior to those who are different. 

What else do we know?

We know that as Jesus followers, we believe:

  1. Racism in all its forms is sinful (James 2:1, 8-9)
  2. Racism goes against God’s design for the world. All of us belong to the family of God, we have a high calling to love other people as Christ has loved (John 13:34-35)
  3. Every person is created in the image of God and is worthy of our deep respect.
  4. When we treat anyone as lesser than anyone else, we simply are not in line with the gospel of Jesus.
  5. When we see life through the lens of God, every person we see is loved by God and equal in the sight of God.

The Reality of Racism

Even with an understanding of what racism is and what we believe as Jesus followers, the reality is racism is perpetuated in powerful ways. It comes through the clash of nations and races, the differences between cultures and politics. It also comes through the assumptions we make about one another.  Finally, it comes through the experiences we have and the teaching and modeling we have received from those who have gone before us. Racism is passed on when we teach our children what to believe about race. 

To understand our condition and to lead courageously in and through racial and social unrest, it is helpful to know how you first learned about race. What attitudes, actions, or events have shaped your life and ideas?   

South Pacific

As you think back upon your life experiences, let me tell you about the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, “South Pacific”. The issue of racial prejudice was explored through the musical. 

One song in particular created a controversy. It was sung by the character, Lieutenant Joe Cable, a United States Marine. He was in love with Liat, a young Tonkinese woman. Yes, he explored his fears of what might happen if he married her.  He struggled with his own racism. Lieutenant Joe Cable is able to overcome it sufficiently to love Liat, but not enough to take her home. He said, “Racism is not born in you, it happens after you are born.” Then he sings: 

You’ve got to be taught

To hate and fear,

You’ve got to be taught

From year to year,

It’s got to be drummed

In your dear little ear

You’ve got to be carefully taught.

You’ve got to be taught to be afraid

Of people whose eyes are oddly made,

And people whose skin is a different shade,

You’ve got to be carefully taught.

You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late,

Before you are six or seven or eight,

To hate all the people your relatives hate,

You’ve got to be carefully taught!

The production of South Pacific was almost cancelled because of this one song. Written in 1949, based upon the book, Tales of the South Pacific by James Michener, the producers were told to remove the song, or the production would not go forward. Rodgers and Hammerstein defended the song. They had a story to tell, so they built the musical around the song and its implications. Even if it meant the failure of the production, the song was going to stay in the musical.

Is the Song Correct?

Think about it.

Is the song correct?

Is racism taught?

How did you learn about race when you were growing up? Are you able to trace back to when, how, and by whom you were taught? Your understanding of yourself, attitudes, thoughts, and actions regarding race is important to you being the courageous leader needed to navigate the racial unrest of our day. 

This week, to better understand your current reality and to navigate the obstacles of racial unrest, reflect upon this question, “How did I first learn about race?” Set aside a few minutes to write your thoughts down so that you can get a clear understanding of your first awareness and learnings. What experiences do you remember? Who was involved? What happened to leave an impact upon your memory? 

Recognizing Your Condition

Recognizing your condition is essential to leading courageously in the midst of racial and social unrest. You are at a critical point in your leadership. This is a unique time filled with opportunity and promise. Who you are is how you lead. Will you step into this opportunity to explore who you are in relationship to the people around you? 

We will continue this discussion in next week’s blog. We will explore our hope in part two of “Leading Through Racial Unrest.”

When you need and want assistance, remember that Sara Thomas and I are with you on your leadership journey. When we can be of encouragement or help, contact us at connect@transformingmission.org. We are ready to assist you with insights and resources in becoming a courageous leader.   

Check out LeaderCast. On the podcast this week, Amy Burgess, Rosie Red, is our guest are we explore the theme of “Rest, Relaxation, and Play.” Join us for Episode 181. To become a regular LeaderCast listener, subscribe and receive a new episode each week as well as catch up on past episodes. LeaderCast is one resource you will want to have as you navigate the leadership challenges of 2021.