Over the next several weeks I will be looking at the leadership lessons that can be learned from some of the Bible’s great stories. This week, I will be looking at Jonah…
Jonah chapter one, Bad Leaders Run When God Asks Them to Engage…
I mentioned in my last post that often leaders trade the satisfaction of longevity for the greener grass somewhere else. Many times this exodus happens because of pressure of the issues facing the church or the leader. It is hard to learn from situations when you don’t hang around for the situation.
Jonah was asked by God to address some major moral issues in the City of Ninevah, but instead of dealing with it head on, Jonah chooses to run from God’s plan for Ninevah and for him. Jonah gets on a boat and starts looking for another ministry. The grass must be greener on the other side, right? Needless to say, Jonah’s new ministry as the chaplain of a cargo ship wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. Haven’t we all had a ministry where we had people who wanted to throw us overboard? Jonah was part of an exclusive club who actually had it done to them. And you thought your ministry was going to swallow you whole!
I personally learned this lesson early on. My very first full-time church taught me this. I was the associate pastor of a small rural church that had split from an established church (hey, cut me some slack, I was right out of Bible college and dumb as a rock!). I found myself standing alone defending Biblical truth. What do I do? Do I continue to stand alone and run the risk of getting fired or do I duck out quietly and let this church implode? I chose the latter. This church was a hard nut to crack. I don’t really believe that I could have done much good there, but I did learn this lesson, don’t run when God calls you to engage. Don’t get me wrong, I firmly believe God has used that even though I may have bolted early. I also believe that I made a poor decision to go to that church to begin with. BUT…I will always wonder if I might have learned a few leadership lessons earlier on in my ministry rather than having to learn them later. Did I make some dumb mistakes that I could have avoided if I would have stuck it out to learn them there earlier? As we will find later, Jonah was one of God’s targets for lessons learned in this story.
Running doesn’t always mean loading up a truck and moving to a new city and a new church. Running sometimes means withdrawing from situations to avoid leaving your comfort zone. After talking to other leaders across the country, there are so many pastors out there who are leading from withdrawn postures. What I mean is this, some of us would rather hide in the status quo instead of innovating and taking risks to follow God’s prompting through the Holy Spirit because we are comfortable for whatever reason.
Either way it shakes out, running is not healthy for a church. Staying in a ministry in a withdrawn state is as dangerous to a church as walking away. What is our fear? Is it failure? The fear of being fired? I think, like Jonah, “runners” worry that God might actually do what He says he will do. We would rather run away and punish those who oppose us rather than letting God use us to actually initate change.