Friday, July 24, 2009

Honor the Past; Embrace the Future

National Community Church is a place of constant change. With a demographic that changes approximately every 2 years, we find ourselves constantly re-thinking, re-imagining, and re-building. I believe that part of the art of leadership is honoring the past while embracing the future.

Let me put a disclaimer out right now. I'm much better at embracing the future than honoring the past. Some of you are better at honoring the past than embracing the future. The first step in navigating this particular leadership challenge is to know your tendencies.

I think we see the balance as we read the transition of leadership from Moses to Joshua in the end of Deuteronomy and beginning of Joshua. The leadership of Moses is honored-- never had there been a prophet like him, he had the privilege of seeing God face to face, no one performed the signs and wonders that he did. His accomplishments and character are acknowledged, honored, and celebrated.

As Joshua takes the helm of leadership, we see a new vision cast and new direction given. Joshua reminds the people of their story, honors the legacy of Moses, but spurs them on to the next step.

I certainly don't have it all figured out, but I think honoring the past means celebrating the people and the moments that God has used, interpreting for a new generation their importance, and holding onto the principles and heart that laid the foundation for the future. Embracing the future means communicating the vision of the future as clearly as possible, leading in the tension of confident humility and humble confidence, and having the courage to release our preferences and opinions.

A lot of problems in our churches would go away if new and younger leaders would honor the past and if older leaders would embrace the future. For those of us who lead the transition from past to future, we must learn the art of leading in the change.

Half baked thoughts on Friday afternoon.


At 11:22 PM, Anonymous Steve said...

Great thoughts Heather!!

I think it's also important to recognize that in the church the best way to honor a past where innovation allowed us to reach people all over the world is to embrace the future with that same sort of innovation.

A classic example is found in John Wesley. He innovated/embraced the future by preaching in places outside the church walls using songs with tunes that were sung in bars. By reaching this new group with the gospel he also honored the desires and concerns of Christians from the past who wanted the gospel spread throughout the world.

Somehow, I think we sometimes get confused about which parts of the past we should honor. I don't think John Wesley would feel "honored" by our singing those same songs (especially if it wasn't working) near as much as if we honored him by using his methodology to reach new groups of people with the gospel.


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