William, Duke of Normandy, dared to invade England. The English were a formidable opponent anywhere, but next to invincible in their own land.Courage to stand in battle is essential to bring victory. The increasing pressures of our day suggest it is time for us to level up in terms of courage.
But William had something the English did not. He had invented a device which gave his army a heavy advantage in battle. He had an edge: the stirrup.
Conventional wisdom of the day was that a horse was too unstable a platform from which to fight. As a result, soldiers would ride their horses to the battlefield and then dismount before engaging in combat. But the Norman army, standing secure in their stirrups, were able to ride down the English. They were faster and they were stronger.
The stirrup led to the conquest of England. Without it, William might never have challenged such an enemy.
Because they had a way to stand in the battle, they were victorious after the battle.1
What challenges do churches face today? Let me suggest a few.
The recession officially ended in 2009, but many folks across the U.S. apparently haven’t received the word. While overall giving is up to ECFA-accredited churches, the solid increases in giving to larger churches masks the lower giving increases or even decreases for smaller churches.
The rapidly changing social climate is also impacting churches. Continued threats to reduce federal charitable giving incentives are troubling to many. You may be experiencing unexpected staff transitions. Perhaps there is a lawsuit here or there. The list goes on and on.
Yes, courage is definitely required to lead a church today!
It is easy to use courageous words. But courage takes more than words—it requires action of leaders in the context of their beliefs. There is an increasing appreciation for words backed up by courageous action—because we are seeing far too many words that are not backed up by any action, let alone courageous action.
Three things happen when courageous leaders stand in battle:
- Victory is assured. “Those people who keep their faith until the end will be saved” (Matt. 24:13);
- Accomplishment is assured. “The Good News about God’s kingdom will be preached in all the world, to every nation” (Matt. 24:14); and
- Completion is assured. “Then the end will come” (Matt. 24:14).
A courageous leader abhors the status quo, paves the way for change, and brings continuous renewal to the organization.
Courageous leaders make bold moves. “You will never take big hills without making bold moves. The alternative is incrementalism. . . Make a few bold moves, or you’ll breathe your last leadership breath far too soon.”2
A courageous leader sets the tone for integrity at the top, realizing that integrity rarely starts at lower levels of a church and works its way up.
A courageous leader bravely pours oil on troubled waters, directly communicating with those who may have been offended.
A courageous leader discerns consequences—is not blindly courageous—looks through the lens of experience and failure…the lens of the future.
A courageous leader is vulnerable, obedient, and humble. “Jesus was so vulnerable that He was perceived to be weak, He was so obedient that He opened himself to the charge of insanity, and He was so humble that He became the object of contempt.”3
A courageous leader does what Jesus did—becomes dispensable, approachable, and touchable.
A courageous leader delegates authority. When Jesus delegated authority to His disciples to heal the sick and cast out demons, He never took it back.
A courageous leader knows when his or her work is done. Jesus knew when His work was done and when it was time to leave. He let go at the peak of His power and counted on the Holy Spirit to fulfill His promises to us.4
Courageous leaders go the distance. The Brazilians have a great phrase for this. In Portuguese, a person who has the ability to hang in and not give up has garra. Garra means “claws.” What imagery! A person with garra has claws which burrow in the side of the cliff and keep him from falling.5
It’s not the gifts we have cultivated, the lessons we have learned, or the goals we have achieved as leaders. It’s about our courage to rely on God (Zech. 4:6).
1 And the Angels Were Silent, Max Lucado, Multnomah Press, 1992, p. 123–24.
2 Axiom, Bill Hybels, Zondervan, 2008, p. 33.
3 Christ-Centered Leadership, David L. McKenna, Cascade Books, 2013, p. 46.
4 Ibid, p. 47.
5 And the Angels Were Silent, Max Lucado, Multnomah Press, 1992, p. 123.