Leading courageously during times of uncertainty

Dr. Bruce Hopler

Vice President of Church Strengthening

  • Church strengthening

Dear pastors and church leaders,

You have entered uncharted territory. You are expected to lead courageously, navigate wisely, answer accurately, reorganize strategically, keep afloat financially and pastor tenderly, all while walking with a calm presence. You are being asked to do the impossible, and it’s exhausting.

There is an irony to all of this, though. The book we know to be the Holy Scriptures would call leading through uncertainty its common ground. I would venture to say that over 90% of the Bible was written about God leading his people to courageously lead through uncharted territory.

God commanded Noah to build a boat in the desert. Abraham and his wife were told they would have more descendants than the stars in the sky. Moses was instructed to listen to a burning bush and to lead God’s people out of the oppression of the most powerful king in the world (and as a bonus, God’s people would complain, criticize and be cantankerous the entire time). David had to claim the throne from a king he admired and was also trying to kill David at the same time. Elijah single-handedly had to prove that the popular god Baal was a fraud and that he knew the one true God. Deborah was told to strongly serve as the first (and last) female judge in a male-dominated lawless society. Isaiah boldly claimed prophecies that would sound ludicrous for the next 700 years until the birth of Christ. Mary had to defend her virginity. The 11 remaining disciples were commanded to go to the ends of the earth in an unconvinced world to tell them about a man who rose from the grave. God instructed Paul to pick up his broken, bloody body and go back into town and say it again.

Job was certainly another, as he had to choose to trust God when he was riddled with sickness, had to stand by helplessly as his family died and lost everything financially. His wife told him to curse God and die. He was filled with doubt. Job was in uncharted territory, and he chose to trust God. 

Pastor and church leaders, you have been uniquely trained for this. We are in a season where our nation, and our world, is in an all-out panic because the human race has entered uncharted territory. Do you have the answers or magic formula? No. We do have, however, a God who specializes in leading his leaders through times of uncertainty. I could go as far as to say that he has done his best work during these times.

Proverbs 3:5-6: Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.

You have quoted, preached on and challenged God’s people on these verses a thousand times. Now, more than ever, is simply a time to just live it.

Pastor and church leaders, your head is spinning, I understand; now lead courageously. Your own trusted leaders are challenging you, I understand; now lead courageously. Your offerings are way, way, way, down, I understand; now lead courageously. All of your programming, thus your value, was built around social gatherings, not social distancing, I understand; now lead courageously. Your own family is facing internal stress at a new magnitude, I understand; now lead courageously. 

You are exhausted, emotionally worn out and spiritually depleted. Stop. Get alone with God. Take a break from the madness. Confess your fears and anxiety. Go ahead, whine a bit about what God is asking of you is impossible. All of God’s people have done it; he can handle it. Place your trust in him. Commit to his understanding over yours. Submit to him both privately and publicly. As you lead forth, don’t claim to have the answers. Simply say, “Folks, it is my first time too. For God, though, this is child’s play. Let’s start walking together, trusting that he will make our paths straight.” Then lead courageously. 

At Converge, our motto is “better together.” Don’t go at this alone; now more than ever, the community of God needs to come together. Call up your local pastors, then support and encourage one another. Call upon your pastor groups to journey together. Call your Converge district office, for they want to love and support you. Finally, if you are “stuck” at home, call it a gift from above. As a spouse and a parent, use this time to explore what being better together looks like. You have probably already discovered that being in close quarters has unveiled unresolved issues. It is an opportunity to fix the broken and make the good into something great.

We have entered uncharted territory. Before you were born, God knew about the coronavirus. Before you were called into ministry, God knew about the coronavirus. Before you were called to this church, God knew about the coronavirus. Before you made your amazing 2020 plans to change the world, God knew about the coronavirus. Lean not on your own understanding. Trust that this is a piece of cake to our God. Journey down a path knowing that we will actually be in a better place despite this pandemic. Call upon your tribe to spur one another on. Be better together. Lead courageously. Rest knowing that you don’t have to know a thing, just follow Jesus Christ, who is the same yesterday, today and forever.

Dr. Bruce Hopler, Vice President of Church Strengthening

Dr. Bruce Hopler has been coaching pastors and church planters for over 20 years. He now serves as the executive director of Church Strengthening at Converge. Bruce started a church in Maryland against all odds with no core group and no upfront funding, but it has grown for 18 years. He then moved to Las Vegas, where he was the Spiritual Formation pastor for the eighth-fastest growing church in America. During his time in Vegas Bruce completed his doctorate in spiritual formation and leadership from Fuller Theological Seminary. After four years there, he moved to Orlando to join Converge. Bruce loves planters and pastors. He has been certified in StratOps, Church Unique and SOULeader coaching. He strives to help pastors discover what healthy means, within their unique calling and context.

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