A quick search this morning reveals that in the past few weeks I have received nearly 300 emails about “leading in the time of Covid-19.” That number does not include articles in my newsfeed or posts on social media. My guess is that you don’t need another five bullet points on how to lead in a crisis right now.
Instead I’d like to offer two rock solid biblical principles that transcend any circumstance and always bear fruit: Lead with courage and care.
Lead Them Out, Lead Them In
We observe people leading with courage and care all through the Scriptures. I’ll highlight two examples. The first is when Moses prayed to the Lord for a successor. In Numbers 27:15-17, Moses asked God “to appoint a man over the congregation who shall go out before them and come in before them, who shall lead them out and bring them in, that the congregation of the LORD may not be as sheep that have no shepherd.” God then instructs Moses to choose Joshua and commission him in front of everyone. God says that “at his [Joshua’s] word they shall go out, and at his word they shall come in.”
This rhythmic action, repeated three times, demonstrates balanced leadership. We lead people out into the mission, into spiritual battle, into difficult places where there is real danger and risk. Then, we lead people back into community, into rest, into healing, into safety and care. Then back out, then back in. Depending on the level of intensity, some people may need more time and care to recover from battle fatigue. They may not be able to head back out immediately with the rest of the team. That’s ok. The mistake for a leader would be to completely stop leading out in courage because someone needs care for physical needs or emotional wounds. It’s important for you, as a leader, to take the time to personally connect with anyone on the team who is hurting, injured, or in distress. Nothing can replace that personal touch. Then, while ensuring the wounded are cared for, perhaps by another team mate or someone with needed expertise, the team is summoned with courage to press on in the mission. It’s also critical that as a leader you take regular time away from the battle for self care.
A second example is Jesus’ first encounter with the disciples following his resurrection. The gospel of John recounts that “on the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’” (John 20:19-21). Major crisis. Panic. Fear. Hiding. Uncertainty about the future. What was Jesus’ first word? Peace. Then we are told “the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.” A good test for me as a leader would be: When things aren’t going well is my team glad to see me show up? Do I bring words of peace?
Finally, verse 21 models Jesus’ perfect balance as the Chief Shepherd. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” Do you see Jesus’ care, followed by the call to courage? Jesus leads them in with peace, then immediately sends them out into God’s mission. In the next verse we are told that Jesus breathed on them and commanded them to receive the Holy Spirit. Our caring God does not send us back out into battle alone!
My prayer: O Jesus, in these challenging times, enable us to lead with courage and care, to lead your people out into mission and back into healing community. Give us your strength to do that again and again. Amen.