Church revitalization often involves re-visioning your ministry context. However, re-visioning a context that involves real people and real situations can be daunting. It takes courage to lead people through a re-visioning process. When I think about the courage of a leader, I make a beeline to Joshua. As you know, Joshua took over the leadership responsibilities from Moses. He was responsible to help get the children of Israel safely into the Promise Land, a task that Moses was unsuccessful in accomplishing. Better than recounting his every step, let’s consider his job description for just a moment. In Joshua 1 we read:
6 Be strong and courageous, for you shall give this people possession of the land which I swore to their fathers to give them. 7 Only be strong and very courageous; be careful to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go. 8 This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success. 9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
Joshua’s responsibilities were really three-fold. First, he was to lead the people to inherit the land (verse 6). As noted, one could easily contend that this task was not that difficult, yet Moses was unable to accomplish it. Joshua’s ability to fulfill task one was predicated upon his success in task two; obeying God’s law (verse 7). In fact, we can assert from our vantage point in history, if you want God’s blessing on your life, you must come to a point in which you care about those things that God cares about. He cares about your obedience! Finally, Joshua’s ability to obey God’s laws would likely be determined by his faithfulness to meditate on God’s law. Those were his marching orders: 1) lead the people into the Promise Land, 2) obey the law of God, and 3) meditate on the law of God.
Indeed the entire job that Joshua had been given did not seem overly difficult. He needed to lead people into a land flowing with milk and honey. He would take a people who had experienced life at the bottom and raise them to an arguably better situation than anyone else, since the time of Adam and Eve. Surely this was the easiest leadership task that anyone in the course of human history has ever received. Yet notice that as God prepares Joshua for this new task, he tells him to be courageous not once, not twice, but three times.
In order for Joshua to move the people from a status-quo mentality to experience God’s very best, he was going to have to be strong and courageous. His responsibilities would not be as easy as what it might seem on the outset. It would have only been a strong and courageous leader who was willing to convince the people that the best battle plan for Jericho was to walk around the walls for seven days and let out a loud shout. It would have only been a strong and courageous leader who encouraged the people to get into the waters, trusting the water would part. Joshua’s need to for strength and courage manifested itself time and time again. So it will be for you! You will not lead the people out of the land of mediocrity to the land of vitality, without exhibiting strength and courage!
Courageous leaders envision God’s plan
Though we will explore the role of vision in revitalization in a later chapter, it should be noted at this juncture that courageous leaders diligently seek God’s plan and will stop at nothing to accomplish all that He desires. That is a bold statement when you acknowledge that God’s plans often transcends the boundaries of what we would say is reasonable. God does not operate according to our definition of common sense. Using prostitutes to hide the spies, using a whale to get one’s attention, using an engaged couple to birth the Messiah, and using a murderer as possibly the world’s greatest missionary all seem to defy common sense. Yet each of these people understood and eventually surrendered to God’s plan. Because of their submission and surrender, God was able to use them in dynamic ways.
Let me say this another way for clarity sake. The church you serve and the people you lead are unbelievably tired of a new leader coming into the fold every three to five years with a new sense of optimism surrounding their own ideas and plans. They need a leader who is willing to diligently and daily seek the God of the universe, to receive His plan and then work every day to see that vision accomplished.
Courageous leaders embrace God’s strange strategies
God has used strange strategies throughout Scripture. He ministered in ways that the religious elites did not accept, but no one can debate His effectiveness. Consider the woman at the well, Zacchaeus, or the little children gathered all around Him. But, not only that, Jesus blessed strange strategies as well. Think about the four friends who cut a hole in the roof so that they could get their friend to Jesus. When was the last time you were willing to go to such great lengths to see God move? Please understand, if revitalization is going to come to your context, it is likely going to come through the mechanism of changed, and often strange, strategies. It may be a relocation, a restart, a merger, or a wholesale re-envisioning of the ministry. When God gives you the strategy, proceed with courage!
Courageous leaders expect God’s faithfulness
Abraham took his son and while on the foot of Mount Moriah told his servants, “stay here with the donkey, and I and the lad will go over there; and we will worship and return to you” (Genesis 22:5). Scholarship has questioned whether Abraham knew what would happen on the mountain that day. There is nothing that I can offer to help clarify the particulars of this passage. However, it does seem abundantly clear in our text that Abraham had every intention of going up that mountain with his son and coming off that mountain with his son.
Nobody is going to accuse Abraham of always obeying God’s commands. Nobody is going to accuse Abraham of always having gotten it right. Nobody is going to Abraham of being an example of leadership perfection. However, we can all likely agree that Abraham, at least as it relates to Mount Moriah, trusted God’s faithfulness. He believed that God’s sovereignty and trusted His plans.
Here is the thing, when you carry out your own plans and ideas, you may or may not experience success. Clearly there are examples of people throughout history who had no intention of honoring God’s will, wishes, or ways and yet they were still abundantly successful in the eyes of the world. As a leader, you too, can likely make some leadership advancements in your own power. However, when you receive God’s plan, embrace His methods, and trust His faithfulness, you will see greater results than you could have ever accomplished utilizing your own intelligence or charisma.
The American Church is not in need of any more complacent or marginal leaders. We need men and women who will lead with courage and conviction. As the culture continues to shift leaving an environment which is best described as chaotic, we need leaders who will dare to dream and strive to achieve a brighter future.
Posted on Tue, May 2, 2017
by Dr. Michael Atherton