Olu Brown says that a new paradigm of leadership is required given the challenges of the present age. Church leaders need to shift the conversation from problems to promise, shift their outlook from church to community, and shift the momentum by believing that miracles can occur.
As a leader in this present age, your world and the people you lead are constantly shifting. The paradigm has changed. As new kinds of venture leaders managing new paradigms, we have to pay attention to the following shifts:
1. Shift in conversations
This paradigm shift means we have to monitor and adjust our conversation about our current reality. Have you ever been in a tenuous life situation and each time you talked to someone, for some strange reason, you mentioned your current challenges? When you reflected on your conversations, you realized you interjected your difficulties because you were hyper-focused on your problems. The same can be said for us as leaders while helping others get through their challenges — loss of job, sadness caused by the passing of loved ones, anxiety of not being able to control the world, which seems to give more trials than victories. In these times, we may feel tempted to join in the conversations of others and interject our own challenges. We may fail to see that even in the most difficult times, there is hope. I am not saying you shouldn’t mention your problems to anyone or they shouldn’t mention their problems to you, but we have to closely monitor our conversations.
As a leader, what is the content of your current conversations? Are you constantly talking about what you don’t have and what you have lost, or are you focusing on what you have and the promises of God in your life? Those who follow us take cues from our conversations. If we are not careful in managing our conversations, others will adopt our language. Give them language of peace, hope, love, and faith. I made a conscious decision as I transitioned through the pandemic to talk less about my problems and more about my promises. Even with all that is happening and all that will happen in the world, I am blessed. I am blessed more than I deserve and realize.
2. Shift in outlook
After we shift our conversations, we have to shift our outlook. Pastors hear the very best and the very worst of life experiences in a single day. Even before the pandemic, I wondered how some individuals and families made it through their toughest moments. It was only the grace of God that allowed them to wake up every morning and press through each day. As I had conversations with people over the years who experienced loss, one of the consistent themes has been how people eventually have to move on from their place of pain and grief, even if the pace seems slow. As their outlooks shift, they can finally see the sun shining through the clouds again. When our outlook shifts, we can hear and see God’s promises again, and these promises affirm that there is more life to live and more blessings to receive. The good news is that God’s promises did not die at the place of your loss. God’s promises are alive, ready to be fulfilled in your lifetime.
I am thankful that I am wired as an optimist, even though there are still times when I don’t see the world through rose-colored lenses. When the entire world shifted in March 2020 and our team realized we could no longer meet in person in our church buildings until it was safe, I panicked. While I kept a calm demeanor on the outside, I was anxious on the inside. Through the grace of God, a fantastic team, and the support of colleagues, I slowly shifted my outlook away from potential tragedy to possibility. God was with us. Our Impactors (congregants) were generous people, and our ministry continued to focus on the positive as we did all we could to stand in the gap for those in need.
Not only did I shift my outlook towards God’s promises and presence, but our church also shifted our outlook towards more direct outreach. We began to focus less on how the church would survive to focusing more on how our community would survive. Through passionate volunteers and generous donors and partners, we began weekly food distribution to brothers and sisters in need. Our outlook can always shift when we dare to focus more on others than ourselves. I learned some hard lessons about myself and my leadership during this season. In particular, I learned I had been too focused on myself and our church and not focused enough on others. I had also become siloed in my leadership and forgotten that ministry is a team sport. No one can successfully fulfill ministry alone. I also learned that I needed a faith booster because, somewhere along the way my faith had plateaued. I was doing ministry out of muscle memory, not relying on the power of the Holy Spirit and God’s promises. I believe I am a better leader and our church is a healthier church because we had to face some hard facts. We made the necessary adjustments and changes, and our outlook shifted, allowing us to see all that God had in store for our ministry and to focus on those God is calling us to serve.
3. Shift in momentum
Once you make the conversation and outlook shifts, then you have to make the momentum shift. When God is ready to move us in a new direction, it never feels like the right time. So often in our journeys with God, this momentum shift takes place when and where we least expect it, offering the roller coaster ride of your life. Do you remember a moment in your life when it seemed as if nothing would work out right? Suddenly, you received good news, and everything quickly shifted in the right direction. A family member was struggling with a health condition, time was slipping away, but suddenly a new medical breakthrough made the difference and their health began to improve. Maybe you were approaching a large payment that the church owed and there wasn’t enough money in the bank account. Then, unexpectedly, a donation appeared from someone you had never met, and the memo line read: “God told me to give this to your church.” These sound like fiction, but I’ve experienced these types of miracles. Miracles can’t be explained, and miracles always shift the momentum.
I believe that if your leadership and your church’s momentum haven’t already shifted, they will. Are you ready for your momentum shift? Stop looking for the right time and start looking for your miracle. In this season, I am praying that God will give you and your church a momentum miracle so big and grand that no one will be able to explain it. Sometimes momentum doesn’t come with a lot of details and fine print. Sometimes, all you get is a few words before your faith has to be activated for the miracle that is at hand.
- “Normalizing Next,” a Leading Ideas Talks podcast episode featuring Olu Brown
- 7 Mindset Shifts that Can Reshape Your Church’s Future by Lia McIntosh, Jasmine Smothers, and Rodney Smothers
- 4 Shifts for More Authentic Community Engagement by Dan Pezet