It’s leadership Jim, but probably not as you know it
Being a leader in uncertain times is challenging, ask any of the current leaders of our political parties during the Brexit process. Uncertainty can result in people becoming more cautious in their attitude – not taking action or not making decisions because of the lack of clarity about the future. In uncertain times there is a tendency for people to feel increased levels of anxiety and even fear, either because of the perceived loss of control or loss of a routine or perhaps because they feel threatened that they may be unable to cope with what lies ahead.
Within Christian circles I am observing a growing unhealthy expectation for ‘church leaders’ to know what to do in every situation, perhaps suggesting that we may have modelled church leadership more on Captain Kirk than anything else; after all, did he not always know what to do? Certainly, there is a growing level of uncertainty in ‘the church’ because we realise that the old ways of doing things no longer seem to bear the same fruit as before.
But I would want to argue that uncertainty isn’t all bad; the motive behind many a pioneer and explorer is that there is something to be discovered that we do not yet know. The opening lines of ‘Star Trek’, if you forgive the split infinitive, is to ‘boldly go where no man has gone before.’ The five-year mission of the USS Enterprise and her crew was to explore, discover, seek out new things - inevitably this involves uncertainty?
So, are there any lessons that those of us in Christian leadership can take from Captain Kirk, as we lead in times of uncertainty?
Listen to a wide range of opinion, not just those who think the same as you. Consider how many times the logic of Spock, the ingenuity of Scotty and the linguistics of Uhura got the Enterprise out of a scrape. Ask for the input of others, as consensus builds confidence in the face of uncertainty.
Communicate clearly. Andy Stanley says, “You can't always be sure, but you can be clear.” Remind everyone of the mission you are on and the eternity which is at stake in those we seek to share Jesus with.
Be positive. Keep your fears to yourself but share your courage with others. There were numerous moments when the brevity of Kirk carried the crew through uncertain times.
Don't rush a decision. How many times was Kirk et al., able to see beyond the immediate knee-jerk ‘Fire all phasers’ and instead broker a peaceful solution?
Create small wins. Identify small wins that the team can achieve quickly and easily; these quick wins need to be meaningful and celebrated, as that will help to boost confidence, increase morale and create momentum.
Finally, and I am not sure this has anything to do with Kirk, remember God has not retired, grown hard of hearing or lost interest in the church. When it seemed there was no hope, God saved a baby called Moses who would one day lead His people out of captivity. In a time of war, when there was a struggle for national identity, God called Deborah to lead a military campaign. When a ruthless, godless culture opposed to God’s people, God acted using Daniel and a faithful few to influence and change an entire nation. I could go on. God is the same God who spoke a word and galaxies were formed – there might be a supernatural solution that you haven’t even dreamt of, and you never know, it may involve you going on your own ‘five-year mission.’