In my last blog, we talked about the great opportunity we have in times of ambiguity to point ourselves, and others to Jesus. And when our focal point is Jesus, a couple other amazing things occur in times of ambiguity….
…For one, our CHARACTER is developed more fully.
Privately, we lead well by choosing to value internal progress over external progress. We begin to care more about the health of our souls than the need for clarity in our present and our future. We recognize that ambiguity is the perfect temperature for character to be developed.
I have a saying that those close to me and the Oasis Ministry Team might hear me say, one I have begun saying this past year, and has stuck with me. After a not-so-fun meeting or a die-to-self interaction… You know what I mean, someone rubs you the wrong way, says something out of line, or misunderstands you… Well, after those moments, one of the first things I say out loud to myself is, “That was good for my soul.” I need to remind myself that however frustrating or disappointing that moment was, it created a priceless opportunity to respond like Christ. What I do with that opportunity is up to me, but I am thankful to have had a shot at growing in character.
And friends, ambiguity is good for the soul. It forces us to address the weaker parts of our character. And that is a far greater gift than crystal clear direction or a crystal clear future.
As we value internal progress over external progress, we begin to care more about the internal progress of those we lead. Publicly, we lead with a focus on internal progress. And here is something I have begun to understand in the past years: when we focus on the internal progress of those in our church, external progress is a natural by-product. Brian Houston puts it this way, “Healthy things grow.” Or should we say, healthy people. Healthy people make for healthy, growing teams which make for healthy, growing churches.
But the opposite is not necessarily true. When we focus on external progress over internal progress we end up focusing on external progress at the expense of internal progress. That’s when burn-outs and moral failures and people leaving churches becomes more and more of the trend instead of the unfortunate exception.
And then there’s TRUST.
Have you ever noticed that it is a lot easier for people to trust a leader when the leader has presented a clear future than when the leader has an ambiguous future to cast vision about? We choose spouses and employers and churches and presidents based on TRUST. We rarely want to follow a leader who appears to have more questions than answers.
The same is true when it comes to our spirituality, when it comes to our individual relationships with Christ.
Privately, we must recognize that the first thing that will be challenged is our level of trust in Jesus. Will we follow Him when He hasn’t made the road to follow particularly clear?
We lead ourselves well in ambiguity when we understand the temptation to mistrust and doubt our Lord and Savior, and at all costs determine to protect and cultivate more and not less trust in Jesus.
We must also protect and cultivate trust when leading publicly. We have to understand that in the same way our own trust is tried in ambiguity, the people’s trust in us is tried in seasons or organizational or corporate ambiguity.
We need to continue to give people a reason to trust us, even when the journey from point A to point B has become a bit foggier than we’d like it to be.
Ambiguous times call for uncommon leadership that is honest and full of integrity. When the future looks clear, a leader can get away with relying on charisma and skill to evoke trust. But when things are less certain, it will take more than charisma.
It will require honesty. Honesty to address the ambiguity that exists, the elephant in the room, for those you lead. It takes honesty to say, “these things are uncertain, and I am not sure how they will play out. But regardless, here is what I do know and here’s how we will move forward.”
And integrity. Integrity convinces people that you are worth following even when the destination is unclear because at least they are following YOU. Integrity makes people want to be around you even when things are unclear.
Integrity is how we treat people, how we talk about people, how we work together as a team, how we follow-through on commitments, how we look out for others.
Integrity is how we model Christ, and people want to be led by someone more like Christ than not.
Christ, Character, Trust… these are the focal points of strong leadership in the midst of ambiguity. My prayer is that we lead well not only when things are clear, but also when they are not. More often than we’d like, the future will not be clear… at least not as clear as we’d like it to be. Joseph did everything in his power to get clarity. He told the cup bearer to remember him when he left the prison. Joseph did what was in his power to do. And so should we. But man-made clarity can only take us so far. And I suppose that’s where FAITH must fill in the gaps.
As Hebrews 11:8 puts it, “By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.”
May we move forward in FAITH even when we don’t quite know what lies ahead…