Leading When the Way Forward is not Clear

A good leader has a history of making good decisions. A godly leader has a history of making godly decisions. A man who is both sees God’s hand blessing the work of his hands; his stewardship progresses toward blessing and success – and he can slip into a sense of entitlement. That is to say: As long as we are godly, diligent, and wise we can stave off the day of evil in our own strength (all credit to God, of course, for that strength).

I have been there before, and I dare say so have you. Many church planters come to the task of planting a church from a “successful” ministry. However, the common experience of almost every church planter I have worked alongside, coached, and known in whatever capacity is facing circumstances that portend disaster, and the potential unraveling of all the work invested in planting the church. There is nothing in their “successful” past that clues them in as to a way forward. Looking to the Old Testament for inspiration we find many who faced the same. One was Jehoshaphat; his experience is recorded in II Chronicles 19-21. Perhaps it will encourage you if you feel that you are facing impending disaster in your church ministry.

In II Chron. 19 we see Jehoshaphat organizing his kingdom in obedience to God’s leadership. God is pleased and blessed his work. In chapter 20, out of the blue, news of sudden impending disaster is delivered to him. One can speculate (perhaps from our own personal history) many responses to this sudden change in expectations. Jehoshaphat’s response is to turn to God with this prayer:

“O our God, will you not execute judgment on them? For we are powerless against this great horde that is coming against us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” 2 Chronicles 20:12 ESV

In chapter 21, in response to his prayer, God defeats the enemy army to the sound of Israel singing His praises.

My observations are these:
Jehoshaphat didn’t try to minimize the threat or danger. He acknowledged two key things: apart from God we are powerless to deal with all that Satan throws our way, and in times like these we actually don’t have a clue what to do. Have you ever prayed that prayer as a leader? It is uncomfortable in the extreme. It was, however, an honest expression of dependence.

Being a good and wise leader doesn’t exempt you from challenges to your faith. God is still refining us “in the furnace of affliction” (Isaiah 48:10). Let’s be clear, God wasn’t mad at Jehoshaphat and so allowed an evil army to descend. God was faithfully working to refine a good leader into a great leader; a seasoned leader who brought glory to God by the way he led.

The posture of Jehoshaphat: trust with no plan B is the best way to enter a crisis. The people’s response of following their leader into the unknown based on his understanding of God’s will, is a game-changing experience. This was a discipling moment. When you deal with a crisis in faith, you people learn what a life of faith really looks like.

When Jehoshaphat marched out with the people, they did so with praise to God on their lips. Keeping an attitude of praise and thanksgiving as God works, will help carry you through the crisis. Praise in the midst of crisis is evidence of the reality of your faith; and people take note.
God will come through, just in time, with just what we need to accomplish His will.

I have seen many planters face this kind of crisis. For the ones who stand fast and seek God’s way forward, what looks like disaster as it approaches turns into an incredible affirmation of God’s call to that place and people. Looking back, they count that crisis experience as one of the mileposts and highlights of their church plant’s history.