Thursday, July 1, 2010

More with the Not Panicking

I have been thinking a lot lately about leadership and how it relates to systematic discipleship. I wrote a couple weeks back about the importance of holding fast and not panicking. In my post “Don’t Panic" in reflecting on Exodus 32 I wrote:

This scripture is powerful in the area of ministry that I work in. I try to help churches develop systematic plans to make disciples of Jesus Christ. The hard part of this is that it almost always involves change and that change takes some time. Here is why most churches will fail to make the change: at some point along the line, it will seem too hard or feel like it is not going to work and the people may panic. The leader has a choice: push on or turn back.

This idea of the leader's need to remain calm and focused in the midst of the necessary change often brought about by clear vision keeps coming back to me as I journey again through the Old Testament. God teaches us so much by pointing out the failures of leaders. We see it again in 1 Samuel 13 with Saul, who is supposed to be waiting for Samuel to come and offer to the Lord. He sees the people slipping away and decides to take it upon himself to offer the burnt offering. As soon as he is done, Samuel shows up and says, "What have you done?" Saul replies,

“When I saw that the people were slipping away from me, and that you did not come within the days appointed, and that the Philistines were mustering at Michmash, I said, ‘Now the Philistines will come down upon me at Gilgal, and I have not entreated the favor of the Lord’; so I forced myself, and offered the burnt offering.” (1 Sam 13 11b-12)

Translation: "I panicked!" And it cost him. A lot.

If, as leaders, we are going to lead people through change, there will be points when it feels like they are slipping away and we have face two temptations: One, we saw in the story of Exodus 32, that is to just do what the people ask instead of what God asks. The other, as we see today, is to lose our own nerve and then our trust in God and try to take the whole thing into our hands. That doesn't work out so well either.

I am really blessed to be in a situation where most of my work focuses on implementation of systematic discipleship. I have many sub-roles within that role. One of my job titles is "junior assistant vice president of anxiety management." I knew coming in that moving a church from a program focus, where the goal was to keep everyone busy - to a discipleship focus, where the goal was to walk with people in a journey of discipleship, was going to be difficult, slow and occasionally frustrating. I knew that staff and lay people would (and they do) come to me panicking that it is not working and we better come up with a new plan (or just offer the burnt offering ourselves.) On my good days, I respond, "It is working, just not on your timetable. Be patient. Be faithful."

Be patient. Be faithful. Don't panic.



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