Monday, September 15, 2008

Lutheran Leadership thoughts No.2 : difficulties

As leaders often we are faced with difficulties. Some leaders infact have a to do list full of them. And these are not just difficult decisions, but also difficult situations. Sometimes the decisions we are involved in will lead to difficulties or difficulties with some people, who are difficult.
The fact is that difficulties are part of a leader’s life. In fact difficulties are one of the reasons leaders are needed. To help people through the difficulties and to help people deal with the difficulties.
Reflection time: What difficulties are you or your organisation facing now? What difficult decisions do you have to make? What decisions which you and your organisation are making will lead to difficulties for yourself and others (either now or in the future)?

How we respond to difficulties often affects not only ourselves, but also the organisation we are leading.
One of the temptations when faced with difficulties is to avoid them. Moses tried this (read Exodus 3) and so did Peter (read Matthew 16:21-28). Sometimes people use the excuse that if we avoid difficulties they are being peacemakers. There maybe times where this is the case however before jumping to that conclusion ask yourself I am really being a peacemaker or only keeping one party happy? Avoiding difficulties is not helpful and often means steering away from your organisation's purpose and goals. Instead of avoiding difficulties, we often need to deal with the difficulties in a ways that keep us in line with our main goals and purposes.

Another response to difficulties is to simply give up when things are not going to well. Is this really a solution? I suspect what drives the decision to give up is the desire for an easier life and is that really being a leader? Imagine if Jesus had given up because the suffering appeared too much, or God had given up on us because we were always letting Him down, or Paul had given up on the churches because they were always getting themselves into trouble? Leaders should be very careful about making the decision to give up. Rather than give up why not look for some alternatives?

Another extreme response for some is to bulldoze their way through difficulties, as they believe they have the right answer and everyone else is wrong. Now you maybe right, however bulldozing through some difficulties may also make it difficult for you and your organisation to achieve your goals and purposes. I used to rent a house where the landlord would clear the garden and get rid of every weed insight before each new tenant moved in by saturating the whole garden in weed killer. Sure the weeds were gone, but also were the beautiful plants, lovely smelling flowers and vegetables. Sometimes when we get angry with difficulties and act as bull dozers we have the potential to cause more harm than good.

As Christian leaders the way we approach such difficulties means we hold tightly to the instructions Jesus has given us, of leading in ways that love God and love others (Christians and non-Christians) and keeping His gospel of salvation as a priority. Rather than avoid difficulties, give up or bulldoze many biblical leaders encountered difficulties and dealt with them in a different way. Take a look at the lives of Jesus (eg. Matthew 16:21-28), Paul (eg. Colossians 4) and Moses (eg. Exodus 32:19-35).

One of the first steps in dealing with difficulties that is common among many biblical leaders is to consult God about the difficulties. This means praying and searching the scriptures in ways where we seek God's guidance. Another important thing to remember is that Jesus came to save the entire world (John 3:16-17), so as you deal with difficulties remember a focus for us is helping people remain in the Christian faith. Our is about primarily dealing with the difficulties, and at the same time in caring for people. Another helpful approach is to break the difficulties down into smaller more manageable chunks, especially if the difficult appears too big. Also it is important to keep on communicating how the specific difficulties are hindering the organisation’s goals and purpose. This is important because many people don't make the association. Put an action plan into place and act on it.
Reflection time: How do you normally respond to difficulties? Why? When confronted with difficulties what is important for you? What are some of the things you need to do about some of the difficulties you are experiencing?

Often when we experience difficulties, God uses them as opportunities to highlight or create something good. In Exodus we see this with Joseph although sold as a slave by his brothers he arises to an advisor to the king and has the chance to save his brothers. Read Joseph response to his brothers in Exodus 50:20. Martin Luther took the difficulties he experienced to make sure the gospel was more clearly spoken to people in their language. Maybe some of the difficulties you are facing as a leader are actually windows for you to allow God to highlight or deliver good amongst the people you are leading.
Reflection time: Think about some of the difficulties you and your organisation face. How might God use them to bring His gospel to the people you are leading. Have you asked God to help you use these to make His love more obvious to the people you are serving?

And remember no matter what difficulties we are encountering, or how stressful they maybe God is always with us, read Psalm 139.

If you found this Luthean leadership thought helpful please let us know by making a comment below. You are free to share it, provided you acknowledge its origin with the Pastor Richard Schwedes,

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