by Heidi Regier Kreider, Conference Minister

This is the final reflection in a series on leadership competencies featured in training at the Kansas Leadership Center.  WDC is partnering with South Central Conference to offer this training to congregational leaders.  Previous columns focused on “Diagnosing the Situation,” “Energizing Others,” and “Managing Self.” Today’s column is on the topic of “Intervening Skillfully.”

I celebrated Christmas and entered the New Year in the midst of events surrounding the death of my 96-year-old father-in-law, Robert S. Kreider, on Dec. 27.  This profound journey of grief and gratitude added a deeper dimension to a holiday season that is often consumed by commercialism and triviality.  Accompanying others in the time of death is an opportunity to reaffirm the gift of life offered in the coming of Christ, and to celebrate the ways that God has impacted the world through the life of our loved one.  In Robert’s memorial service and the sharing time afterwards, we recounted how his ideas, initiatives, questions and character had shaped his family, friends, the church and its institutions.  We also gave thanks to God whose faithfulness had made all this possible.

One of the scripture readings at Robert’s memorial service was a selection of verses from Isaiah 40, offering prophetic words intended to shake God’s people out of complacency and despair. Isaiah’s bold message calls us to be alert and to join the movement of God’s intervention in the world.  The leadership qualities featured in today’s column resonate with God’s transforming work, expressed by these excerpts from Isaiah 40.  To intervene skillfully we must:

Speak from the heart:  Express emotion and acknowledge reality authentically. “ ‘Comfort, O comfort my people,’ says your God.  ‘Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that she has served her term, that her penalty is paid…’ ” (vv. 1-2)

Make conscious choices: Take the initiative to create space for God’s presence and activity.   “A voice cries out: ‘In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.’”  (vv 3)

Raise the heat:  Ask provocative questions and challenge the status quo.  “Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level and the rough places a plain.”  (v. 4)

Hold to purpose: Focus on what is most important and stick to priorities.  “Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken…. (v. 5) All people are grass, their constancy is like the flower of the field…The grass withers, the flower fades; but the word of our God will stand forever.” (vv. 6, 8)

Give the work back: Engage others to claim their voice and do their part.  “Get you up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good tidings; lift up your voice with strength, O Jerusalem, herald of good tidings, lift it up, do not fear; say to the cities of Judah, ‘Here is your God!’” (v. 9)

Act experimentally.  Explore what it means to trust God and risk failure rather than playing it safe. “Have you not known? Have you not heard?  The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary, his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless.  Even youths will faint and be weary, and the young will fall exhausted; but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” (vv. 28-31)

In this New Year, may we be alert to God’s intervention and ready to join God’s transforming work in the world.  As those called by God, we each have the capacity to shape the future and make a difference in the lives of those around us.