Leading Where We’ve NEVER Been

By Dennis Turner, Directory of Leadership Development

Foresight 2020

It is said that “hindsight is 20/20.” True. But with God, so is FORESIGHT! The goal for my 2019 District Advance articles is to help position us to more closely follow the Lord’s foresight. He knows where He’s going!

Leading Where We’ve NEVER Been

“Mordor, Gandalf, is it left or right?” This question is posed by Frodo, the unexpected leader of the Fellowship of the Ring (movie version), to Gandalf, the more likely choice to have headed the journey. We all want to be Gandalf, but truth be told, we are more like Frodo. And that is as it should be!

The leadership maxim, “you cannot lead people to where you’ve never been” made sense in the past. However, God is moving forward and the landscape is more different than ever. Those of us who lead today’s church must learn how to lead people to places we’ve never been. (By the way, the above maxim is true for discipleship, although I would restate it, “you cannot lead people deeper than you’ve been.”)

Where’s the bathroom?

I asked this question when I visited a church in a trendy urban area. The answer I received was, “Down the hall; make sure to use the second one.” I found that instruction puzzling. As I walked down the hall, the first bathroom was marked “trans.” Oh, I thought… OK, I get it. I went to the second door and it too said “trans.” Needless to say, I was extremely nervous to enter, but I was brave. There were a couple of other men in there and I relaxed. As it turns out, this church shares working space with various other organizations, most of which do not share the church’s biblical worldview. When the church uses the space, the first door is for “women,” and the second is for “men.” Did any of you cover this kind of situation in seminary? Yeah, me neither.

We now have to lead the church in a world categorically different than the world in which most of us were raised. We have to lead where we’ve never been. But there’s more to it than that.

What kind of wine do you prefer?

And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the new wine will burst the skins; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, new wine must be poured into new wineskins. And no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for they say, ‘The old is better.’” Luke 5:37-39 (NIV)

Jesus, in Luke’s telling of this parable, leaves a question lingering in the minds of his hearers: do you prefer new wine or old wine? I’m not a wine connoisseur, but I do know that aged wine is better than new wine. However, Jesus is not really talking about wine; He’s talking about himself. And, according to Jesus, new wine (which is better by far!) cannot be carried in old wineskins. Without new wineskins, both the wine AND the old wineskins will be ruined.

The main reason why we need new wineskins is not merely because our world now is different than the past. No, the main reason why we need new wineskins is because Jesus is making Himself known in fresh ways to this very different world. Our churches, our leadership, our systems and structures, the way we organize, and the focus of our ministry must be like new wineskins. We have to lead where we’ve never been because that’s where God is!

We can learn this new way of leading. We must learn this new way of leading. If you want to delve deeper into this, please email my assistant, Janie Hill at jhill@cdcma.org. There is a growing learning community in our district. I’d love for you to join in.