Gary Haugen is founder of International Justice Mission (IJM), an international human rights agency that rescues victims from violent forms of oppression, including slavery, sexual exploitation, trafficking, police brutality and illegal property seizure. He recently wrote a book entitled, “Just Courage: God’s Great Expedition for the Restless Christian”. The following are notes I took during his presentation at The Leadership Summit organize by the Willow Creek Association.
We want leadership that matters. We want leadership that not only matters to God, but also matters to God’s people. We want to pursue endeavors on issues that matters to God.
When we examine all that we do in this world, we need to ask ourselves, “Are Jesus and I really interested in the same things?” God has a great passion for our world. In God’s mission for this world, we are the plan. There is no Plan B. We carry out God’s mission be being salt and light in the world. This includes going to the suffering of this world. For people in the midst of suffering, when they receive meaningful help from a Christian, they are seeing the body of Christ show up on their doorstep.
What is injustice? It can be defined as an abuse of power that causes a person to take from other people what God intended for them. Namely, freedom. In the world, there are an estimated 60-85% of prisoners who are being held behind bars without any charges against them. God is a God of justice who rescues. Sometimes people will ask, “Why isn’t God doing anything? More often than not, God uses people to carry out an action plan. We are the plan.
Leaders in today’s world, especially in church settings, are far more prone to leading people to what is easy, cheerful and safe. It is during those times when things are hopeless, scary and hard that we ask, “What do I do?” And, it is during these times that a leader shines.
How do I lead when it seems hopeless?
When things seem hopeless, we need to re-center the basis of our hope. True hope does not rest on us. When God is passionate about getting something done, He is responsible for getting things done. Consider the story of Jesus’ feeding the 5,000. Disciples looked at the need and the resources available and considered it hopeless. Jesus asked, “What do you have?” There are fives loaves and two fish. Jesus takes responsibility, so he could do the miracle. The disciples offered to God their commitment and all of their resources and God did the miracle. Sometimes, God calls you to work in a hopeless situation. Give all that you have to God (even when it seems meager) and allow Him to do the miracle.
How do I lead when the task seems scary?
The people of International Justice Mission have been attacked and threatened. However, through these experiences, we have experienced God. Jesus did not come to make us safe on this world; he came to make us brave. Jesus reminds us that He is always with us and it’s not going to be easy. So, if things are smooth, easy and safe in your life, then who are you following? We can all have God on our trip of faith, but we can easily miss the adventure of faith. Take our strengths and gifts that God has given us, and challenge yourselves to go on a more demanding climb.
How do I lead when things are hard?
The first thing a leader can do is choose not to be safe. Take their gifts and passions and place them where we actually need God. Are you in a position or work where we desperately need 30 minutes of prayer life in order to carry it out? We need God’s power to get it done – not fear and cleverness to keep me safe.
The second thing a leader can do it to pursue deep spiritual health. Examine your devotional life. It is simply a checklist just so you can get them over and done with each day? Or, is your devotional life based on a desperate purpose – a panting to read the Bible. Find other like-minded people to claw through similar stuff. Our devotional life is not a matter of discipline, but a matter of desperation.
The third thing a leader can do is to realize that when the task is hard, choose to pursue excellence. We can’t have spiritualized mediocrity. There needs to be a high level of quality, exertion and effectiveness in all that we do. Quite often, there is a chasm between being loving and execution. Leaders, reset the bars of excellence for you.
Finally, when the task is hard, leaders choose to seize the joy. Laugh in seeing God employing goofy people like us to employ His way, His will and His message through us. When you think about it, that’s hilarious! Something is wrong if Jesus’ load is light and my load is heavy. Remember, the joy of the Lord is your strength. So, rejoice!
We have been given so much in our comfortable nation. Ask God to rescue us from all things petty, or causes us fear to play it safe. People will see the love of Christ in all things good through us.