Jump Start # 2558
Joshua 7:6 “Then Joshua tore his clothes and fell to the earth on his face before the ark of the Lord until evening, both he and the elders of Israel; and they put dust on their heads.”
In this period of Coronavirus epidemic, social distancing and quarantine, there is a need for strong leadership. We are seeing this on many fronts from the government side of things. Many state governors are giving daily updates. The President has a briefing before the press just about every day. They are telling us how to be safe. They are telling us advancements they are working on. They are telling us plans to help turn things around. All of this is good. But, the same needs to be done spiritually. Not by the government, but by shepherds who are watching over their flocks.
Our passage today begins a series of great steps that Joshua took in a crisis. For Israel, it wasn’t a flu that they feared. It was a military defeat. A loss in battle. At Jericho, the walls came down. At Ai, the next battle, Israel fell down. They ran in defeat. Several were killed. How could they go onward. Would there be more defeats? Would all of this come back on Joshua? Maybe he wasn’t the right replacement for Moses.
There are a series of leadership principles that Joshua took, that elders today ought to be looking at and taking.
First, Joshua sought the Lord. Before a battle plan was drawn up, before he shouted out orders, before he jumped into action, he went to the Lord. He fell before the ark. He was seeking guidance from the Lord. Joshua did this before he addressed the nation. He did this before he addressed the problem. This needs to be done by God’s leaders. Prayer and an open Bible is how we come before the Lord. A lot of adjustments, decisions and concerns must be addressed. Before an action plan. Before words are said, approach the Lord. Many brethren are asking questions that we’ve never considered before. Is it ok to worship in our homes? Is it ok to take the Lord’s Supper when we are not together in the same place? What are the answers to these questions? Seek the Lord first. We’ve never been down these roads before, but God has. This is not the first epidemic that God went through. Plagues, famines, wars, disease, have dotted the pages of history. God’s been there.
Second, clear and concise communication is essential. A few verses later God tells Joshua, “Rise up! Consecrate the people and say…” (13). Joshua delivered a clear message, here is what we are going to do. In John 10, the picture of the good shepherd, the text tells us that the sheep know the voice of the Good Shepherd (4). How did they know his voice? He was speaking. They recognized it. Today, we need one unified voice coming from the leadership. Here is why we are going to do. Here is what we are planning. Speak often to the flock. You do this through videos, podcasts, emails, text messages and phone calls. Keep brethren in the loop. Let them know you are at the helm and all will be ok. A calm, reassuring voice is what is needed. Fear cripples faith. Believing the sky is falling will cause some to make unwise decisions. The congregation shouldn’t wonder, “what’s the elders doing?” Or, “where are the elders?” They need to hear your voice.
This is a time for the elders and preachers to be on the same page. Private communication between them can set forth plans for lessons, classes and other ways to keep the church growing and connected. Lots of things are being impacted. Meetings have been cancelled. Cancellations have disrupted the flow of classes. So, adjustments have to be talked out and discussed and planned. When everyone is on the same page, good can still be accomplished.
Cancellations have led many congregations to livestream and video tape lessons. Get the word out to the brethren about these things and how they can access them. Make it easy for folks. Thought needs to be given to the older members who may not have the technology or know how to use these tools. It may be necessary to get a few tablets and take them to folks and show them how to set these things up. Be careful about interaction and remember your social distancing, but we can’t assume that everyone is tied in through technology.
Then, there are the children’s classes. Resources, songs and lessons can be sent to parents so they can keep their children growing in the Lord. Reach out to parents, leaders. Find out how they are doing. See if what you are providing is helpful. Again, adjustments may have to be made.
This is a great time for deacons to switch their duties and serve the family in Christ. Assign various families to each deacon. See if there are physical needs or even financial needs that should be taken care of. This will allow the elders to focus upon the spiritual wellbeing of the congregation. Elders and deacons need to have open communication and discuss plans and needs as they become known.
Third, Joshua led the nation to doing the right thing. The right thing wasn’t easy. The right thing was painful. Achan, his family and his possessions were all punished. The bloodline of Achan ended. His greed cost him his life. Joshua didn’t soft soap this. He didn’t say, “Well, we all make mistakes.” That wasn’t said. He didn’t say, “I might have taken that myself.” He didn’t say that. His resolve was absolute. History has given us many great leaders. Churchill during World War II. Lincoln during the Civil War. These were men of incredible conviction, courage and leadership. They said difficult things. They were not always liked nor popular. But they led their people through a crisis. This is what is falling upon spiritual leaders today. This is where your character, courage, insight, vision and faith matters. You are in this role for a reason. You are qualified, appointed and experienced. These are tough times. We must be sure that no one falls through the cracks. This is more than merely surviving until the storm passes, it is a matter of excelling in spite of the storm.
Let the flock hear from you. Let them hear from you often. Let them know that you are praying and that you care for each one of them.
One of my favorite Churchill stories, I’m not sure if it is true or not, but I like it, is when he was speaking before the Parliament. Supplies were running low in Britain. The manufactures needed more metal to make planes, ships and tanks. There just wasn’t any. Churchill knew throughout all those Abbeys and Cathedrals of Great Britain were hundreds and thousands of metal statues of long ago saints. Churchill called upon the churches to turn those statues in to be melted and used for the war effort. “It’s time,” he said, “to put the saints back into circulation.” Leadership often means making touch calls. It’s making the right call, not the easy call. It’s making the call that may not be pleasant, even for the shepherd personally, but it’s the right call spiritually.
Leading through a crisis. Those that do this, will shine. Those that don’t, will suffer.