Martin Luther King Jr. said, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” COVID-19 has exposed us all. It shows what we are made of. As always, leadership is about managing the tension for the good of the people or organization we lead.
Here are three tensions we must hold during these tough times.
Flexible, yet Consistent
In 2020, the new word we learned was “pivot.” I think I’ve heard that word more in the last ten months than in my entire lifetime, prior to March 2020. I remember almost a year ago when we were told to stay home for two weeks to flatten the curve. We thought this would be over in days, maybe weeks, but certainly not months.
What these long months have brought into focus for us is that we now know, in a way we didn’t before, what is essential and what is not. We have lived with shifting parameters. We have become accustomed to phases and standards and tiers. We have adjusted to social distancing and wearing masks and eating outdoors. But truths remain that are unchanged by our changing circumstances: God is still God; His Word is still true. We are still called to love Him and His followers and to offer our lives in service.
As leaders we must demonstrate consistency, be reliable in our character, and renew our commitment to the vision and mission of the local church. We must be both flexible and consistent.
Courageous, yet Cautious
In a more and more divided society, Christ-followers must lead with courage. Even when it’s unpopular and uncomfortable, we are called to be and do what is right. God had to remind Joshua to “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9). Courage requires resiliency to not give up even when things get difficult. However, we are not asked to be fool-hardy. Be wise. Seek the counsel of others. All courage must be tempered by discernment and compassion. It must be care-full, not careless.
Intentional, yet Relational
The Chinese word for “crisis” combines two characters meaning danger and opportunity. Effective change does not happen by accident. It’s easy to get so focused on the target that we lose sight of other equally important things. We must not be so task oriented that we fail our people. In ministry, the people we serve are not an interruption–they are the task. Don’t be the leader who pushes their ideas through at the expense of others.
There is no lasting change without collaboration. We need to work with our church family not against them. Jared Wilson writes, “I want to see them (the church) as people, not problems. I want to see them not as obstacles in the way of some vague missional purpose but as the missional purpose itself. The minute I begin seeing God’s people as problems to be solved (or avoided) is the minute I’ve denied the heart of Christ.
BEFORE YOU GO
I remember Robert Schuller preaching that “tough times never last, but tough people do.” No matter what you are facing, it is too soon to give up! These tough times will pass. God is faithful! The Bible puts it this way: “Let us not get tired of doing what is right, for after a while we will reap a harvest of blessing, if don’t give up” (Galatians 6:9).
What are some tensions you are experiencing as you lead during these uncertain times?