Start a Revolution
If you feel that 2021 has somehow been harder on you as a leader than last year, you are in good company.
Most of us assumed that by the time we reached the last quarter of 2021, we would be much closer to some sort of “new normal.” Somehow we felt that at least some of the major cultural tensions unveiled in 2020 involving political partisanship, racial injustice and tribalism would have worked themselves out — at least a little.
Instead, we are living with intensified political division, mounting tribalism and continued frustration with where we are at regarding racial injustice. Add to that, mounting tensions over vaccination “rights.” Where does this end?
And I’m not just talking about "wordly" culture. I’m speaking to what many leaders are experiencing within the confines of their congregations — virtual and in-person tensions.
Many of our congregants have drawn a definitive line in the sand resulting in mounting distrust, criticism, harsh judgement and overt rejection of all who don’t agree with me.
It’s hard for some of us to imagine that God is not a registered Independent, Democrat or Republican or that he has no place in His heart for racial, political or social supremacy ideation. On the contrary, Jesus’ earthly journey showcased His bias through His relentless compassion for the marginalized, scorned and rejected. This is where His energy and passion were spent.
In fact, God’s “final test” has already been printed and distributed. No one need flunk the test. He will welcome into His Kingdom those who were keenly attuned to the hungry, thirsty, jailed and homeless. “When He finally arrives, blazing in beauty and all His angels with Him, the Son of Man will take His place on his glorious throne. Then all the nations will be arranged before him and he will sort the people out, much as a shepherd sorts out sheep and goats, putting sheep to his right and goats to his left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Enter, you who are blessed by my Father! Take what’s coming to you in this kingdom. It’s been ready for you since the world’s foundation. And here’s why:
I was hungry and you fed me,
I was thirsty and you gave me a drink,
I was homeless and you gave me a room,
I was shivering and you gave me clothes,
I was sick and you stopped to visit,
I was in prison, and you came to me … Then the Kind will say, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to ME.’ (Matt. 25:34–40, MSG)
The final test reflects God’s impassioned priorities. He cares most about how we live out our love for Him, and how we go about loving and respecting others — especially those who disagree with us.
So, what can we do as leaders?
We can join the rank of the growing crowd who throw their arms up in dismay and disillusionment or we might consider igniting a revolution. The dictionary says a revolution is, "an insurrection that rebuilds destroyed bridges." One person at a time, like Jesus did. Here are just a few ideas:
- Consider calling your congregation to fast and pray — not only from food, but from all forms of media. It does wonders for the soul to disinfect from the viruses of political partisanship. It could be one day a week or whatever the Spirit puts on your heart.
- Consider planning to gather (virtually, in-person or both) for the purpose of praying for unity in the Spirit and genuine love for the lost. Praying for the mind and heart of Christ to remain focused on Christ’s Mission can go a long way in re-calibrating the minds and hearts of our members from distracting politics to Christ’s mission.
- Consider hosting a diverse panel of individuals who can model what it looks like to have a respectful conversation with co-panelists who disagree on issues YET agree to continue loving and serving “the least of these,” even those on the other side of the isle. You may want to plan a practice session beforehand.
- Consider regularly inviting someone to lunch or dinner who doesn’t look like you, think like you or vote like you. Listen to their stories. Then, candidly share with your church what these open-hearted fellowship experiences are doing for you. Then, invite your members to join you on this revolutionary endeavor to do something tangible (and anti-culture), to be bridge-builders who are intentional about becoming more inclusive, less critical and more loving towards those “unlike me.”
- Consider gathering (virtually, in-person or both) with fellow ministry colleagues to pray for each other, for your families and for your congregations. Begin a revolution against ministerial isolation. It’s a wonderful season to offer the gift of presence to one another as ministers. Some of the most spiritually and emotionally grounded and fulfilled pastors I know, are intentional about creating and sustaining authentic friendships with their colleagues. Praying together and playing together goes a long way to prevent ministry burnout and models to our members what genuine kingdom friendships look like.
- Consider journaling the Revolution that Spirit is inviting you to spearhead. You never know, you may be asked to share the surprises God will reveal, with others.
- Last, take time to be still ... experience the growing genuine joy and soul serenity that a Spirit-generated revolution can begin and sustain in your life. As the Spirit breaths sustainable love into your revolution, it will bleed into the lives of those you serve.