It seems every blog post, speech or communication starts with, “In these uncertain times…” or something similar. This is because there’s an undeniable, shared reality. I can’t remember a time in my life, so far, where the world has had a shared unpleasant experience as this. As a result, I’ve been thinking about how leaders of the early Church led through crisis. I wondered if there were lessons for today’s church from Paul on leading in uncertain times.
This isn’t a comprehensive or exhaustive study or post. It is a first post in the series though.
I know that it is not only the Church wrestling with uncertainty. And, like I’ve already intimated, the whole world is hard pressed right now. This post focuses on how to lead a church through suffering drawing ideas from Paul, of course.
Why Choose Paul?
Besides that I chose Paul because I could, I also chose him because no one wrote more letters than him in the New Testament. He’d be a rockstar of a blogger / vlogger if he was with us now. I sometimes imagine him sipping coffee in heaven wishing he had what we have.
The other reason for choosing Paul is that, as a church leader he led the early church through uncertain, even perilous times.
Paul Was In Touch With His Reality
While making other points, he sometimes describes in own reality.
Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked. Once I spent a whole night and a day adrift at sea. I have traveled on many long journeys. I have faced danger from rivers and from robbers… I have been hungry and thirsty and have often gone without food. I have shivered in the cold, without enough clothing to keep me warm.’– Paul, the apostle (2 Cor 11:24-27 NLT)
Leading in uncertain times requires church leaders to reckon with their own reality.
You cannot lead out of denialism. You lead out of all of who you are. Leadership isn’t a garment you put on. It’s a an extension of who you are as a person. This means being able to come to grips with your circumstance.
Being self-aware is the first step to identifying things that affect how well you lead at a given time.
Leaders are not immune to pain and struggle.
This is one of the reasons I believe in what Jeremy is doing with Church And Mental Health. See the website here. Even Jesus, God incarnate, lived out his humanity and because of that He can empathize with us.
Paul Was Open To And Received Support
The other lesson in leading in uncertain times is knowing how much we need other people. In uncertain times leaders, like those they’re called to serve, need support.
‘I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles. ‘ — Philippians 4:10,12,14
Paul was discouraged and needed encouragement. He was in need and was grateful for support he received. Besides serving people in the churches and community, leaders need to be vulnerable enough to admit they need help also.
While we care for others we also need others to care for us. We all need it, and, regardless of your function in your church, you aren’t immune from pain. In difficult or uncertain times I hope you have someone or somewhere to turn to. Perhaps another pastor in your community you might have never spoken to.
The Take Away
Uncertain times need leaders to be more self-aware. They need to be keep in mind that their immediate and internal environment affects how they serve. They need to make sure they have support in place.
Know a leader who needs your support? Are you a leader needing support?