On April 22, 2009, I prepared myself for the unknown. I was heading to a leadership conference called Catalyst West. This was pre Paragon Church. As a matter of fact, it was actually where the idea for Paragon Church came to light.
The first speaker came and took the stage. Andy Stanley. His whole talk encouraged leaders to lead through uncertain times. I didn’t think much of it at the time. Honestly, I was a youth pastor and though uncertainty would show itself on occasion, it was nothing I worried about “getting through”.
But in the last few days, uncertainty has come my way. What I thought was, may still be, but not at this time. What am I going to do? How do I lead through the unexpected changes in our plans?
You may ask… “What are those changes?” … over the last months and weeks, we have been dreaming big about getting into Cleveland High School here in Rio Rancho. It is in a prime location to reach all of northern Rio Rancho, a state of the art facility, and more than enough room to grow. As of last Wednesday, we were just one step away from being locked in. Meetings had taken place, budgets had been set, and we were moving forward. Then the unexpected happened. The last step didn’t go as planned. So now our plans have to be changed. At first I was disappointed. I tried to figure out if this was (A) a speed bump trying to disrupt us or (B) God closing the door.
That was when I remembered back to that first talk on April 22 of 2009. Leaders lead in uncertain times. I went back to my notes that I took that day.
Here’s a recap of what Andy said… plus some quotes from that day’s teaching…
He pointed out… when leaders are uncertain they need to focus on two elements: clarity and flexibility.
Clarity means focusing on your original calling. What's the essence of your ministry? That can and should remain crystal clear even amid confusing circumstances. Andy's biblical reference was Joshua clearly telling the Israelites to pack their provisions and organize themselves to approach the Jordan River even though he was uncertain exactly what would happen when they got there.
Flexibility means knowing the difference between your vision and your plans. Don't mistake your plans for your vision. Your plans can and MUST change frequently but the vision remains the same.
Here are some of the quotes that resonated with me in the current situation I find myself…
· “Plans change. Vision remains the same.”
· “I will always be uncertain. I’m certain of it.”
· “A story without uncertainty isn’t a very interesting story.”
· “You don’t learn anything when everything is going well.”
· “As a leader, it is okay to be uncertain but it’s not okay to be unclear.”
· “Pull back to that thing that God called you to do in the beginning.”
· “Clarity will trump uncertainty.”
· “We’re going to trust God to take care of the part we don’t know about.”
· “You can be clear even when you’re uncertain.”
· “Retreat to the vision.”
· “What can you do proactively around what God called you to do?”
· “Don’t confuse the plan with the vision.”
· “In times of uncertainty, plans change a lot.”
· “No decision is ever sacred, but the vision never changes.”
· “Leadership is not about making decisions on your own. It’s about owning the decisions once they are made.”
· “You have to pray like crazy for God’s wisdom and direction.”
The challenge that sat with me the most was this… "Be confident even in uncertainty. Admit that you don't know the future, but you can confidently follow what God has told you to do."
And that is exactly what I plan to do. I WILL follow what God and do what He has called me to do. He has called me to lead a church that will reach Rio Rancho and the rest of the world with the gospel of Christ as well as lead Paragon Church into the next phases of growth as a church. God has laid it on my heart to see 10,000 people come to know Christ through the ministries of Paragon Church in the next 10 years (a 2020 vision if you will). If that is at Cleveland High School… GREAT! If it is at Sandia Vista Elementary (our current location)… GREAT! Anywhere will be fine. The question is… Can we do it… No, not on our own… but by the grace of God flowing in us and through us that number will be easily attained and probably surpassed. I love what Paul has to say in his letter to the church at Ephesus.
Ephesians 3:7-21 –
7 I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power. 8 Although I am less than the least of all the Lord’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ, 9 and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things. 10 His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, 11 according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. 12 In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. 13 I ask you, therefore, not to be discouraged because of my sufferings for you, which are your glory.
14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
This is God’s church, not mine. I am just fortunate enough to be asked to lead it. Pray like crazy for this church and that we never lose sight of the vision.