We’re all called to lead. We lead in different ways and with different people – because we are each unique. But everyone leads.

Leadership is not about how old we are… or how young.  Leadership is not about how well trained or our title and job description. Leadership is about responding to the needs in our community. And yet, even in the midst of a common experience not all of us are called to lead in the same way. In order to preserve physical distancing, some of us must lead from what can seem like a great distance while others are hands-on with a wide variety of responsibilities.

In this unique moment in history, where are you leading? At home? Among your friends? Through work responsibilities? With extended family? On social media? Through live-stream? In letter writing? Who is looking to you for cues about how to respond and live into this season? Where can you step forward into the anxiety of this time and bring the peace of God with us to others?

In three of the Gospels we find the story of Jesus calming the storm. It’s carried in Matthew 8:23-27, Mark 4:35-41 and Luke 8:22-25. In reading those scriptures we find some clues about how to lead in unexpected and frightening moments.

Through these scriptures we see unexpected situations are not unique to our time.  Matthew 8:24, “Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat.” Mark 4:37, “A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped.” Luke 8: 23b, “A squall came down on the lake, so that the boat was being swamped, and they were in great danger.”

In each recounting there is an emphasis on how very quickly circumstances changed. Just like the times we live in now. Things have changed. Rapidly. Perhaps you are anxious. Perhaps others you know are anxious. Certainly the disciples were.

It’s normal human response to experience a wide variety of emotions when encountering rapid change. Especially when that change brings with it worry, grief, stress, or anxiety. A key learning from this set of scriptures is that it was not just one person in that boat who was afraid. Everyone in the same boat had concern.

If you are feeling anxious and worried, you are not alone. Others are feeling those feelings, too. As leaders we look for ways to lower anxiety for those looking to us for cues on how to navigate difficult circumstances. We look for these ways not only because good decision-making comes from a place of calm reasoning and examination of the hurdles we’re facing. We look for ways to bring a non-anxious presence because anything we can do to help another human being walk closer to peace than anxiety is a gift to them. Your non-anxious leadership is a gift to those who follow you.

Did you notice there is a lack of control over our current circumstances which mirrors the lack of control the disciples experienced as their boat was buffeted by the wind and waves? The question we must ask is: What can a leader do in these times to overcome fear and lead with a non-anxious presence?

Turning back to scripture we find the disciples turning to Jesus.

  • Matthew 8: 25 – The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!”
  • Mark 4:38b – The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”
  • Luke 8:24 – The disciples went and work him, saying, “Master, Master, we’re going to drown!”

In their anxiety, the disciples turned to Jesus.  Boldly. They woke him up. Reading these accounts it seems clear that Jesus was not lightly dozing. He was exhausted. He was out. Look again at the language and punctuation around how they woke Jesus. Notice the exclamation points. They were clear with Jesus about their need. They needed his attention RIGHT NOW!

Have you been clear?  Have you boldly gone to Jesus to ask for Jesus’ attention? Have you talked with Jesus about your concerns? Have you encouraged others to be bold?  To speak to God of our anxiety? If you have, what response have you received? What reassurance? What comfort? What certainty? How have you shared that?

As disciples ourselves, we have numerous scriptural models for going directly to God with the things which worry us.  You can undoubtedly think of many scriptural examples of people who cried out to the Lord or demanded God’s attention to their unique situation. The examples I can think of all end with God’s presence and reassurance.

To develop our own non-anxious presence, we must practice sharing openly with God our worries.

To help others find their non-anxious presence, we must encourage them to turn to God.

What can we expect when we speak boldly to God?

We can expect a reminder that our faith can grow until even the situation we are in has no power to concern us.

Mark 4: 39-40, “He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, ‘Quiet! Be still!’ Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. He said to the disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?’”

Ironically, the next sentence is, “They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”

Being reminded by God that we need not be afraid may not instantly cure our fear. We are all growing in our application of faith. The Matthew version of this story uses the word amazed instead of terrified. The Luke version uses both afraid and amazed. What we see in this story is that regardless of our fear, Jesus is encouraging us to reach deeper. To find a deeper peace. To understand the power of God with greater awareness. That is how we find our non-anxious voice. In developing a greater belief in the power and presence of God with us.

Perhaps the most important thing to focus on here is that the storm goes away. Jesus is not for a single second concerned about this storm. And it is Jesus who challenges us to look honestly at our own faith journey as a place to tackle fear.

According to Jesus, there is a correlation between the practice of our faith and the degree to which we can be overcome by fear.

In order for leaders to bring a non-anxious presence to those who are looking to us for assistance in navigating the storm of this pandemic, we must exercise the practical application of our faith. Faith is not a hypothetical idea. Faith is the real belief that God is present in our world. Faith is a fundamental understanding that God is in a personal relationship with each one of us. Faith is acknowledging the truth that God loves you. Personally.

This is a season for leaning into our faith.

May you find your non-anxious voice through the deeper faith that comes with boldly claiming Christ with us.

Shannon Stringer
Director of Leadership Development

Do you have a prayer concern you want to share? Conference leaders are committed to lifting your concerns up in prayer during this extraordinary time. We invite you to submit your prayer requests at prayer.requests@inumc.org.