If you’re like me, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, you were caught totally by surprise. Though I’ve lived through a few crises within my lifetime, nothing has prepared me for what we now face. My guess if you’re reading this, you can certainly relate. You have more questions than answers. You are unsure of what the future holds. You don’t want to make a mistake and you long for things to get back to “normal.”
One of the statements I continue to hear from fellow ministry leaders is, “I feel powerless to do anything.” Many feel like they have no control and are at times paralyzed by all the uncertainty.
As I’ve been praying through all of this, I couldn’t help but think of our early church leaders like Peter and Paul. I wonder how powerless they felt under tyranny from Rome. I wonder how out of control their worlds felt when they had little to no freedoms. I wonder how they made decisions to lead the early church. They had no blue print. They had no assurances. Everything they did was built from scratch. It was new. They did, however, have the Holy Spirit to guide them. Maybe we can relate to them on some level.
As I thought about that, I believe our early church fathers were able to do three things, even under the most restrictive circumstances, through the power of the Holy Spirit. These three actions may sound simple, but you can do them today. You are never powerless to lead, learn and love!
The people who follow you are looking for you to…lead! There is nothing about this pandemic that says you have lost your ability to lead or that people have stopped looking to you for direction. Leadership is all about influence. People need to be positively influenced, especially through crisis.
People need a leader with compassion. People will follow compassionate leaders because they “get them.” People need a leader who presents a vision for a path forward.
It’s often true that seeing is believing. If people can see where you want to take them, they will believe in you and follow.
People also need a leader who makes an effort. None of us are going to get this right. We’re not always going to show the best compassion and we’re not always going to communicate the path forward well (because it will change often). But, people will appreciate the effort we put in to do something. (And this also means extending yourself grace!)
The key to all this is to focus on what you can do. It’s easy to come up with excuses for why we can’t do something or why we shouldn’t. But think about the Apostle Paul for a moment. I wonder what he would have done with a smart phone. Paul traveled much of the known world through primitive means. He wrote letters that had to be circulated by foot throughout the early church. And yet he still ministered. He still pointed people to Jesus, discipled them and led them. It probably never occurred to him that he didn’t have a podcast, webpage or live stream for his messages.
You can and should lead! Your people are waiting and in need.
My father always told me, “The day you stop learning is the day you start dying.” It’s a quote from Albert Einstein and it sounds extreme, but the point for leaders is if you’re not learning every day, you’re really not positioning yourself to lead others well. This can be catastrophic.
Here’s something I want you to stop and consider: did you know how to handle a pandemic crisis of this magnitude two months ago? Of course you didn’t. So what have you learned? Learning leads to knowledge, and we all know knowledge is power.
Further, did you know learning is part of leading? Just by reading this article or others like it, you are leading. Anytime you listen to a podcast, seek a mentor’s help, or simply seek to grow, you are in a sense, leading. You are investing in yourself. This is an investment that benefits you and those you lead. It pays huge dividends down the road, especially in today’s climate. Pay attention to the lessons learned from yesterday, because they become the wisdom to lead for tomorrow. Never stop learning.
Finally, as you lead through crisis, remember you’re not always going to get it right. I imagine Peter and Paul had much to learn and discover as they attempted to lead the early church. That was part of the journey and I can’t recall anywhere in Scripture where God beat them up for what they did NOT know. Instead, they took the lessons learned and accomplished the grand mission that God had set before them. God has you on a grand mission as well. Learn as you go and keep leading!
As simple as this sounds, I think we tend to overthink the simplicity and importance of loving others in times like this. For emphasis, may I simply help you fix your eyes on our Savior Jesus? Hebrews 12 begins, “1Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every hindrance and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, 2 keeping our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. For the joy that lay before him, he endured the cross, despising the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” In the name of love, Jesus laid down His life for us and gave us the command to love others in His name.
As believers in Christ, we are simply never powerless to love. We will lead through crisis the best we can and continue to learn as we go, because we love Jesus and we love the people we serve.
This is worth repeating: We love them. This has to be our mantra as leaders during crisis or any time! There is nothing about this pandemic that says we can’t continue to love people well.
So in the name of Jesus’ great sacrifice, let us lead confidently, let us learn diligently and let us never forsake our greatest command to love. What a model we have in Jesus and those that have gone before us! Like them, through the work of God’s Holy Spirit, we too will endure and reap a harvest if we do not give up (Galatians 6:9).
Be encouraged. Be filled with grace as you figure this out with the Lord’s help. Lead.