We are just a couple of weeks away from the election of a new U.S. president. This has certainly been one of the most unusual and hotly contested races in American history. In my lifetime, I have never seen our country more polarized and never have I witnessed the kind of vitriol that we witness daily.
Frustration and anger are pervasive throughout our culture. Underlying the anger and emotion is a deep fear. These are uncertain times and people feel it.
So, it raises the question “how do we lead in the church in times of uncertainty”? Every pastor must face this question. Even if you aren’t facing uncertainty in the culture, it could be uncertainty in your church or in your personal health.
The word that comes to mind is the word disequilibrium. We are in a season of disequilibrium.
When Moses was leading Israel on the 40 year trip from Egypt to the Promised Land, there were lots of twists and turns. At times the people of Israel complained and whined and expressed frustration. And in desperate moments they even desired to go back to Egypt. It certainly wasn’t because life in Egypt was good. It was because Egypt was familiar. At least they knew what to expect in Egypt. But in this season of disequilibrium, they felt off balance and uncertain.
I believe the real test of a leader is how they lead in times of uncertainty and disequilibrium.
If you have ever been on a cruise ship, you probably know beneath the water line, extending out from the hull of the ship are stabilizer bars. These stabilizer bars look a lot like airplane wings. And when a storm comes or the waves get choppy those stabilizer bars keep the ship from being rocked.
In times like these, we are called to be the stabilizer bars for our people.
I want to share with you some practical ways that we can lead strongly during times of uncertainty.
1. Step up, lean in, take responsibility, and pray hard
If you are a leader, times of uncertainty call out the best in you. You want to help and you want to be the stabilizer bar for your congregation.
It reminds me of Nehemiah. In Nehemiah 1, he hears the report that the wall had been torn down around Jerusalem and that the people were in trouble. These were definitely uncertain times.
Nehemiah’s heart is broken and he goes to God in prayer. And not only does he pray hard, but he steps up and offers to be part of the solution.
This is not a time for us as leaders in the 21st century to shrink back in fear. This is a time for us to boldly, courageously step up and be part of the solution.
2. Acknowledge that this is a season of uncertainty
I was once on a cruise ship and even with the stabilizer bars, the ship was still tossing back and forth. I remember the captain coming over the intercom to assure us that everything was fine. He let us know that they had experienced this many time. In a very calm voice he let us know there was nothing to be concerned about.
God leaders don’t live in denial or try to pretend that everything is fine. If we don’t acknowledge the reality of the uncertainty, it will lead to one of two results. 1) People will think you are clueless to what is really going on. 2) They will think you are spinning the communication to make people think things are better than they really are.
Good leaders are not afraid to acknowledge that we are in a season of disequilibrium. We can confidently say to our people “Yes, these are uncertain times, but our God is in control. And, we don’t have to be afraid.”
3. Communicate more
In a season of uncertainty, communication should be more frequent.
We have some good friends that we have traveled with through the years. The wife in this couple has a tendency to get car sick, especially when traveling winding mountain roads. Sometimes I have had to pull the car over and let her ride in the front passenger seat.
You see, she is less apt to get sick when she can see what ‘s coming. The same is true with our congregation.
Just recently, hurricane Matthew was about to hit south Florida. There is a church there that I work with every month and so I receive all of their communication. Even when the hurricane was 3 or 4 days away, they started communicating with their people. They let them know they were responding to the situation and how they planned to help their community once the hurricane passed.
Their frequent and well-crafted communication was helpful.
4. Lead yourself well
This can feel counterintuitive. In times of disequilibrium we can be so focused on the crisis, that we can think that we don’t have time to care for ourselves.
But we know that seasons of uncertainty can be quite draining and depleting. And, so, it is even more important during times of uncertainty that we don’t skimp on our time with God.
Spending time with God not only fills your tank, it also give you an eternal perspective. Spending time with God reminds me that this world is not all there is. It reminds me that the universe is not spinning out of control. In God’s Word I remember that I have a loving Father who is working out His purposes.
So, while you lead strongly in this season of disequilibrium, don’t forget to lead yourself well.