Call for commitment of faith
When leading people into major transition don’t leave things open-ended; lead them into full participation. Give clear steps which they can take to demonstrate concrete ownership so that the church feels it is moving on together. You cannot advance on endless negotiation. At some point there must be public, corporate acceptance of a plan. Without well-defined goals and clear-cut steps which show people how they can be committed, you can run ahead unsure if they are fully following you.
Don’t be like the pacesetter that runs so far ahead of the runners that they don’t bother to keep up. They need to be able to keep up with you so that you are genuinely running together.
Handling negative responses
In times of transition negative responses often rise to the surface. At such times you must beware bravado. It is not smart to take the stance, ‘We told them. They didn’t like it, but we sure told them!’ I have sometimes heard leaders speak in this way and I am unimpressed – and so, I think, are their followers. Look at it through their eyes; you could be making them feel that change is their enemy, or even worse, you are!
Leaders need to demonstrate a level of vulnerability that attracts rather than repels. In such a setting fearful and uncertain followers begin to gain confidence. Bullying does not produce life. You can force cloning, but you cannot force genuine life in all its phases of experiment, mistakes, courage and discovery. Jesus was a magnificent leader, making space for failure while also urging to ever-greater success.
Change can bring fear, which can erupt in criticism. People can fear that the leaders have not thought through all that is involved. They may not have access to all the information available and have not themselves experienced the thrill of being in the leaders’ meetings when God spoke and made His will known.
Good leaders will take time to repeat the vision and the process in order to win the faint-hearted and reluctant, showing how other possibilities have been considered and why this decision was made. Don’t forget that change without some continuity leads to chaos.
Don’t be discouraged
Discouragement is a powerful, satanic weapon and one that must be overcome by leaders. Opposition can lead to serious discouragement. Don’t change course to avoid criticism or you will lose your way. Beware the danger of responding to the so-called ‘ground swell’ of opinion that is running against you.
Find out if opposition really exists and try to answer it honestly. Do not allow a ‘them and us’ mentality to develop. Always bring things to the light. If you discover a ‘leader of the opposition party’ try to bring light to him or her. Don’t regard them as your personal enemy nor try to discredit them. If someone is adopting a genuinely divisive stance, and is actively involved in seeking a following in the church, this must be addressed as such and resolved.
If you are truly guilty of error, don’t blame-shift or dodge the issue but take responsibility and apologise privately or publicly depending on the degree of seriousness. When in Brighton we discovered that the cost of our new building had suddenly escalated, I took a Sunday morning sermon to express my personal sense of vulnerability and responsibility in the matter. I brought the whole thing into the light and gave explanation for the changes and reasons for our still going forward. We were then able to proceed in peace.
Vision has been described as ‘a compelling picture of a preferable future that inspires us to perform’. Always be obedient to the vision that God has given you and with godly integrity lead the people that God has given you into His purposes.