These are uncommon days when fear can wear down even the most courageous, positive and level-headed leaders.
The constant bombarding of messages with looming news is exhausting to absorb, and there is no way to escape it.
And candidly, we should not escape it. COVID-19 is a reality, and we have the opportunity to lead our families and congregations through it with grace and poise.
This isn't our time to turtle up, pull back and hunker down. It's our time to stand up, be strong and shine brightly in the darkness. Sunday, March 15, may have been the lowest physical attendance in thousands of churches and in the U.S overall in decades. However, it was also one of the greatest Sundays ever to communicate a message of faith and hope.
In fact, the stories of online services have been very encouraging!
Leaders are concerned about losing momentum for physical attendance in a culture that already attends church irregularly at best. But fear is the worst approach.
Acknowledging the reality is needed, but then asking the question, "How might God want us to use this for His glory and the good of the church?" is a better way to address the situation.
Leading from fear, even a quiet, subtle fear, drains you of energy, and discourages your soul.
Leading from fear results in:
- Leading defensively. The result of leading from a defensive position is trying to protect what remains good rather than helping solve the problem, and thereby taking new and positive territory.
It's impossible to completely avoid some defensive leadership because whatever the situation may be, it often changes rapidly. In the case of the coronavirus, it changes at lightning speed.
The goal is to do everything you can to get out in front.
- Leading reactively. Leading reactively is a sister to leading defensively.
The difference is that reactive leadership is often hasty due to pressure, lacking data and being unprepared. The result is poor decisions.
The remedy is to slow down just a little. We can't be indecisive in crisis, but sometimes an hour or two makes all the difference between a poor, average or good decision.
- Leading thoughtlessly. You can see the connectivity in all three results of leading from fear.
When insecurity gets added to the mix, reactive and defensive culminates in leading thoughtlessly. Here's what I mean by that.
You absorb so many voices, and that combined with pressure from the need to move quickly is a recipe for mistakes.
For example, this might cause you to choose a course of action because the big church down the street did it, rather than also doing the hard work of thinking your own thoughts in the matter.
The more you gain wise counsel and also think through the problem for yourself, the better and more confident leader you become.
We don't know the timeline for this difficult season of panic, fear and worry. But the church is always at its best under pressure when we focus on others.
That requires faith and fortitude.
Leading from faith is activated by:
- Recalibrating your thinking. I will admit to being worn down from all the negative news.
My perspective from the beginning has been that this is very serious, but we'll all get through it and be stronger for it. But candidly, the 24/7 bombardment of "doom and gloom" started to wear me down.
The fears are real, but I needed to recalibrate my thinking by focusing on the facts, and it helped immensely.
Fact one: God is still in control.
"When we think things are falling apart, God's plan is actually falling together" (Pastor Kevin Myers, March 15, 2020).
Remedy: Add your faith and some positive truth to the gloom and focus on what you can do.
"Some people feed your fears, and some people feed your faith. Get around people who feed your faith" (Pastor Kevin Myers, March 15, 2020).
We must remember some families are heartbroken from their loss, and that is tragic, but we must all focus on hope for the future.
- Eliminate the non-essentials and focus on the Good News of the gospel. Good news counters bad news.
The gospel is the best news we can ever have. It doesn't solve the immediate issue, that's true, but it reminds us of what is truly important and ultimately what our focus should be on.
Do all that you can to help resolve the situation, but never lose sight of the big picture. The gospel is central to how we think and live. And Jesus never panicked, even in His most difficult hour.
Let go of the non-essentials for a season in order to do your best to bring faith and hope right now.
- Raise the practice of prayer to one of prominence. Prayer may be so obvious that it doesn't need to be on the list. But my observation and experience are that under intense pressure when there is much that must be done "now," it's easy to allow prayer to slip to second place.
In all crises, including the coronavirus, prayer is our greatest tool to shut it down and heal the sick.
This is my daily prayer, and I believe that the more who pray this prayer or one like it, the faster this illness will be contained and shut down.
This point does not suggest that you are not praying enough, but that we can all pray a little more, especially in times of great need.
- Look for ways to serve and help others. Fear is always reduced when you help others rather than think primarily about yourself.
When you get stuck in your own head, your world shrinks, and your leadership becomes smaller.
It's similar to a person who becomes critically ill. All their effort and energy rightfully and understandably moves to getting better. They don't have the ability to do anything other than focus on themselves.
When you find ways to invest in and help others, you become a bigger and stronger leader. Your confidence rises, and you become more effective.
It may be nothing more complicated than an encouraging word or sincere prayer, but that may be more life-giving than any of your most sophisticated strategies.
- Trust God with the things you can't control. I've heard it said that there's nothing that we can actually control. Perhaps that's true. But leadership is influence, and there is much we can influence for good.
We can change things; that's a significant part of what leaders do.
However, there is a point where influence comes to an end, and God must take over completely.
When we reach the end of what we can do, we can either feel helpless or become dependent. Dependence on God is the better choice.
Dan Reiland is the executive pastor at 12Stone Church in Lawrenceville, Georgia. He previously partnered with John Maxwell for 20 years, first as executive pastor at Skyline Wesleyan Church in San Diego, then as vice president of leadership and church development at INJOY.
For the original article, visit danreiland.com.
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