Attentiveness: Leadership - Gordon Conwell

Attentiveness: Leadership

There is much to be learned about leadership in difficult times from Scripture, especially the history books of the Old Testament. They have been a great comfort and guide for me recently.

Jehoshaphat, like David, “sought the God of his father and followed His commands . . . his heart was devoted to the ways of the Lord” (II Chronicles 17:3-4,6). After an unfortunate decision to ally his nation with Ahab of Israel in a losing battle, he was reminded of his failure of discernment (19:1-3), and then he settled down and returned to providing godly leadership. He appointed judges and went out to personally turn back people to the Lord (19:4-7). He gave clear instructions rooted in God’s nature (19:6-7):

Consider carefully what you do, because you are not judging for mere mortals, but for the Lord, who is with you whenever you give a verdict. Now, let the fear of the Lord be on you. Judge carefully for with the Lord our God there is no injustice or partiality or bribery.

Amid restructuring and bringing about a new religious and spiritual order to the Kingdom, there are threats: “Moabites and Ammonites with some of the Meunites came to wage war against Jehoshaphat” (20:1). And that is just the way it is. While trying to do what is right, in obedience to God, there are attacks and threats. How does a leader respond?

The purpose of this little writing is to address how a leader responds to conflict, threats, or disruptions.

  1. “Alarmed, Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the Lord, and he proclaimed a fast for all of Judah” (20:3). The first response is not to figure things out on our own, but to turn to God and to fast. Assume a position of humility and turn to God.
  2. “The people of God came together to seek help from the Lord” (20:4). The leader does not do it on her or his own. The king brought the people together. A corporate response including praying, praising, and listening is necessary.
  3. “Lord, the God of our ancestors . . . did you not drive out the inhabitants of this land before your people Israel . . .” (20:6-7). Remember and then remind the people (even in public prayer!) of the history of God’s faithfulness. History is very important, even in our prayers and our corporate gatherings. Tell the story of God’s faithfulness!
  4. “Our God, will you not judge them? For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you” (20:12). One of my favorite phrases for a leader is found here, and I think all Christian leaders need to lean into this: “We do not know what to do.” Faith is absolute trust in God. During a crisis or great battle, the leader of God’s people surrenders to God’s wisdom and care and fixes his or her eyes on God.
  5. “Then the Spirit of the Lord came on Jahaziel, son of Zechariah . . . This is what the Lord says to you, ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged . . . the battle is not yours but God’s . . . stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you . . .” (20:14-17). In response to the King’s leadership in times of crisis, God speaks. However, God does not speak through the king (the leader) but through an unknown Levite mentioned only here. God will speak, but it may not be through humanly recognized leaders or authorities. The leader must listen for God’s word, from whatever source it comes.
  6. “Jehoshaphat bowed down with his face to the ground, and all the people of Judah and Jerusalem fell down in worship before the Lord . . .” (20:18). Again, the proper response when in God’s presence and upon hearing God’s Word is humility, even physically bowing down with your face to the ground. Leaders are supposed to stand tall and tell people what to do and where to go. Here the leader is in a position of humility, even humiliation. Humility is the foundation for leadership and even power.
  7. “Jehoshaphat appointed men to sing to the Lord and to praise him for the splendor of his holiness . . . As they began to sing and praise, the Lord set ambushes against the men of Ammon . . .” (20:21-22). Praising God, even singing and playing instruments is part of winning the victory. Worship conquers evil. Enemies can not withstand worship. So, the king leads people in worship even during the battle (conflict), and then when it is over (20:28).

You will not find such leadership principles in modern, secular books on leadership, of which there are truckloads today. However, this is leadership in the pattern of Jesus, “who being in the very nature God, did not count equality with God something to be used to his own advantage, rather he made himself nothing . . . he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death . . .” (Philippians 2:6-8). Leaders as sacrifice is another way of summarizing this truth.

I pray we will model such leadership at Gordon-Conwell and will equip such leaders for God’s Church.

Dr. Scott W. Sunquist, President of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, is author of the “Attentiveness” blog. He welcomes comments, responses, and good ideas.