One of my favorite “old-timey” songs sang in the church says, “Come go with me the journey is long, come go with me the journey is long.” As leaders, we must lead for the long-haul. Leadership understands that we are called to guide and prepare those who follow us, to a future destination. We cannot change the past, and the present is simply a matter of circumstance. No leader can fix the current, but a competent leader can lay the foundation that will help others overcome their past, endure their current situation, and receive the hope of prosperous future.
The wise leader assesses the present and leads not to what is, but what will be. He/she leads as if they have already received the desired outcome.
Imagine that you lead a ministry of 50 people, but the church has set its goal to double within the next three years. Leading for the long-hauls means that you are prepared for this growth. You have envisioned how the all 50 of your new congregants will fit into your building. You have updated your systems and procedures so that you can effectively minister to and track the new families that will soon grace your doors.
Imagine you are a college president and you understand that the number of racial/ethnic students in the US will increase dramatically increase between now and the year 2040. What do you do? Well, leading for the long-haul means that you begin to shape the faculty and programs of the university to meet the predicted demand. You ignore those that say, “Give me that old time religion.” Therefore honor the past by charting the path to bright future, a future that honors the contributions of that that came before, but is not held hostage by their ghosts.
As Paul was headed to Rome, he understood that the path to his destination would be wrought with danger (Acts 27-28). He, in fact, tried to warn those with him about the perils they would soon face. His ability to follow the voice of God in the midst of the tempest and lead for the long-haul allowed two hundred and seventy-six persons to have the hope of a prosperous future. In the midst of leading others, Paul was bitten by a venomous viper, which Paul quickly shook off into the fire. Many of the native people who witnessed this expected Paul to die, since that is what history dictated. What they did not understand what that God has a purpose for Paul that gave him power that far exceeded the current expectations of humankind. Paul was leading for the long-haul, and nothing was going to deter him from reaching his God ordained destination.
Here are three things (which I think sound much better in Spanish) that long-haul leaders should keep in mind:
Muevete (Move It)—Move towards your vision of the future. Don’t just stand around navel gazing and stagnant in the future, but move forward in faith and with sound practices. You don’t get from point A to point B by sitting still.
Sacudete (Shake It)—As you lead for the long-haul, you might experience a few bumps and bruises along the way. You may feel like you are in the midst of a tempest or stranded on a desert island with unfamiliar faces. You might even get bitten once or twice, but you can wallow in self-pity or get depressed and die. As a God ordained leader, you have to shake it off.
Soportate (Endure it)—Put in place policies, procedures, and systems that will enhance the vision for the long-haul.
Long haul plans need support. A long-haul trucker driving from Kalona, Iowa to Los Angeles, California will make sure that his/her truck is in tip-top shape. The truck will be filled with fuel, the route will be mapped, and tire pressure will be just right. The trucker will be well rested and understand the length of the journey ahead. Why? So both the driver and cargo arrive at the destination safely and on time.
Once we begin leading for the long haul, we can settle into roles/our work and carry out our mission with confidence, “preaching the kingdom of God and teaching the things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ,” in whatever capacity the Lord has called us. That could be in formal ministry, in business, or simply in our own homes.