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We’re All Clueless

By Tim Downey October 2, 2014


Recently I was talking with a few pastors about leadership. While there was much wisdom brought to the discussion, probably the most intriguing comment I heard was this: all leaders are somewhat clueless about the road ahead. If you are leading, you are likely headed somewhere you have never been. It’s difficult to describe places you have never seen or to give insight into situations you have never experienced.

How do we lead when we’re clueless about the future? That is indeed a daunting question. If we refuse to take it seriously, we do so at our own peril—and at the peril of our followers. If we take it too seriously, fear will paralyze us. Here are a few things to keep in mind when leading into the unknown.

Admit your limitations. One of the keys to godly leadership is admitting your current circumstances, failures, and needs (2 Cor. 12:19, Ps. 34:17–20). This flies in the face of current leadership philosophy, which demands an unshakable posture and an unflinching voice. But it aligns perfectly with what Paul had to say (1 Cor. 1:25) and what Jesus said to Paul (2 Cor. 12:9). Admitting our weaknesses accomplishes two important things: it reveals our humanity and admits our utter dependence upon God.

clueless_quoteLet it drive you to God. Our state of cluelessness will either drive us to depend upon God or to emancipate ourselves from him. Clearly, the former is preferable. Not only does dependency acknowledge need, but more importantly, it reorients us toward rightful lordship (Gal. 2:20, 2 Cor. 5:15).

Learn from the past. While it would be nice to learn things the easy way by taking the advice of others, much of what we know we have learned the hard way, through experience. The key is to actually apply what we learn through the circumstances we encounter (James 1:1–27). Sounds simple doesn’t it? Yet if we are not careful, we will find ourselves returning to failed patterns rather than blazing new, informed ones. We cannot anticipate everything ahead, but we can prepare for possibilities based upon lessons learned.

Keep moving forward. All of the above can be practiced with excellence, but if we fail to push forward, we fail to lead. Never let your humanity limit God’s divinity. God intends us to move forward (Phil. 3:12–16). Some may say, “Well, Moses and the Israelites roamed around the desert for 40 years.” Yes, they did . . . because of sin.

About the Author

Tim Downey

Tim Downey is an Associate Professor of Youth Ministry, specializing in the areas of discipleship and leadership at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, Illinois. For 30 years, Tim has served the Christian community as a youth pastor, missionary, college professor, and international speaker. He and his wife, Kaye, have three daughters and one granddaughter. Tim…  Read More