Leadership is hard. In my youth I aspired to positions of leadership out of ambition. I wanted to become the president of the organization or captain of the team as a way of achieving status or demonstrating success.
Fairly early on, however, I learned that being a leader was not so much a way to status as to service. Leadership meant making hard decisions, showing up early and staying late, listening to various viewpoints, caring deeply for those under your charge, and being criticized for whatever happened. In high school, college, and my early years of ministry, I was learning that leadership was merely a specialized service to others. Leadership is not about the leader … it is about the group being led.
I write this today, because leaders today are faced with many difficult choices. In this COVID-19 spring, there are very few things in any organization or church that are simply “rinse and repeat.” Every day there are new obstacles … there are things you cannot do, or that you cannot do the way you “used to do them.” Rather than just being depressed at the loss of the past or a critic of the direction some are walking, leaders (at least good leaders) have to press ahead and chart a new course. Leaders have to remember their “WHY” so they can chart a new “HOW.”
Leading a church in the midst of this season has given me a great appreciation for leaders making decisions at all levels in all organizations. Leaders in government, business, schools, and non-profits all have my respect, and my prayers. They are serving their citizens, employees/customers, students/teachers, clients/parishoners in ways that often go unnoticed. Sure some are doing this better than others … but let’s be honest – this is ALL OF OUR FIRST COVID-19. So, it is to be expected that mistakes may be made along the way.
Given all this, I was reading in 1 Kings 3 about the time when David’s son Solomon became King over Israel. It was a time of great transition in the nation. Some took to this change better than others, but all were impacted by it. Solomon had to deal with big issues like the continued growth of the nation and the construction of the Temple, but he also had to deal with smaller issues … like how to manage the leadership of his own army and household – that is a lot of mouths to feed! As a young man, no doubt, Solomon was feeling the weight of leadership for (maybe) the first time. Whatever he thought being King was going to be like, the reality was harder than he thought.
In this moment, God appears to Solomon in a dream and asks him what he wants. Solomon did not hesitate, but said this, “And now, O LORD my God, You have made Your servant king in place of David my father, although I am but a little child. I do not know how to go out or come in. And Your servant is in the midst of Your people whom You have chosen, a great people, too many to be numbered or counted for multitude. Give Your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern Your people , that I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this Your great people?” (1 Kings 3:7-9)
Solomon admitted that he was a “rookie.” He admitted that he did not know what to do. He knew that his role was to serve the people by leading them in the right way, and so he asked God for wisdom on how to lead. God was honored by Solomon’s request, and He granted it.
I say this today as a reminder to myself, and an appeal to all in leadership of any organization … especially to leaders in the Church around the world … may we follow Solomon’s example. May we all admit that we are “rookies” in this moment and do not know exactly what to do — how to re-open and restart ministries in this current climate. May we remember the importance of the task that is set before us, and what is at stake. The Gospel is the very definition of “essential” and the people in our churches and in our communities need the hope and the light of Jesus now more than ever. Knowing these realities, let us all hit our knees in prayer and ask God to give us His wisdom on the matter. Just as God answered Solomon, I believe God will give us the wisdom that we need as well (as James 1:5 so eloquently reminds us.)
Leaders of our city, state, country, businesses, churches, organizations, teams, and families … I am praying for YOU today. May God give us “rookies” His wisdom to point the way forward. I appreciate the specialized service our leaders are putting in right now.