Leadership is hard. It takes time and thought. It both acts and speaks. It sacrifices and pours itself out for others and yet also at times forges ahead, leading others where they are reluctant to go for their good. But leadership can never be done from behind the frontlines, it must be embodied, fleshed out, seen, on the front line.
To that end we need to call out people when they try to lead from behind the frontline. When they try to send others where they won’t go. I’ve had a few conversations with people about working in or going to church in hard places. Invariably they have seen it as their role to play the role of the influencer, to go to, or stay in, the comfortable places rather than the hard place. To stay and influence rather than uproot and risk and go. They reason that from there they can have a greater influence, sending people, encouraging people to join churches in hard places, on estates, in the north and so on. But it doesn’t work, because our actions belie out words. We’re asking them to do something we won’t.
When we read the Bible God sends. Just think of Moses, Elijah, Elisha, Jonah, Jesus, Paul and so on. They were not called to send others to do what they would not do, they were called to go. And that going took them way outside of their comfort zone. They influenced others not from the comfort of home base but by leading and walking with them, modelling Godliness on the frontline, in the struggle.
As the church in the UK we need people to go, to get onto the frontline. To influence others yes, but to influence them to join them in the places of most need because the north, our estates, and huge swathes of the UK face a lost eternity whilst we’re sat pretending we can influence others from our comfortable places.
Leaders lead. Influencers influence by going not talking. And God calls us to go.