Leading in Discontinuity
Of Issachar, men who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do, 200 chiefs, and all their kinsmen under their command (1 Chronicles 12:23 ESV).
In the beautiful account found in chapter 12 of the First Book of Chronicles, we see the shifting of the Israelite monarchy away from Saul and toward David. This was a sea-change in the society and the advent of something that would last forever – the Kingdom of David. Within this chapter, there is recorded a census of the tribes and leaders who were shifting their allegiance to David. Amongst those tribes were the men of Issachar, a relatively minor tribe, but one which Jewish writers consider to have had the hallmark of intelligence and education. Amid this time of dramatic change, they are pictured throwing their support behind David and his emerging regime – specifically, that 200 leaders catalyzed their tribe’s support of David. The statement that describes these leaders was that they knew the importance of the hour in which they lived and the choice that had to be made. These chiefs knew it was in Israel’s best interest that Saul be deposed and David be raised up to be king in his place. This oddly special call-out of this tribe is in the text to highlight that it is not just the brawn of Israel – indicated by the troop numbers of the other tribes – which supported David but also the brains of Israel – the intelligent and educated leaders – backed David as well. These 200 wise leaders led their people into David’s camp, and through this, into partnership with God and His kingdom work. The sons of Issachar would never know it, but they were participating in laying the historical foundation of Christ’s eternal kingdom. They were living through a time of dramatic change. They engaged in actions that were part of a larger discontinuity, causing a total break from their past. The anticipated sequence was the continuation of Saul’s reign and the eventual ascension of Jonathan to the throne. But that was not to be. The future belonged to David and his line and to the people who joined him in his cause.
I have spoken quite a bit over the past year about how we have been experiencing discontinuity in our country. Four factors have combined to create a vortex of change: a nasty, mean-spirited, and hotly contested presidential campaign, the emergence of socialist/communist social thought into the mainstream, the aggressive implementation of a progressive value system in education, business, and the civic sphere and of course, the COVID-19 pandemic, which itself has been politicized and weaponized. All of these factors coming together have damaged and fractured society, creating a discontinuity with our past. Indeed, even the past is being revised, history is being edited, with elements of the past being erased. And it cannot be undone. Pandora is out of the box, and chaos reigns. More than ever, the body of Christ needs wise, intelligent, and educated leaders, led by the Spirit of God, who can lead His people through this time of continued, rapid change. We need the sons of Issachar.
What do these leaders need to navigate the perilous waters of our day, leading the people of God in the Jesus way? Here are seven things that I think are essential:
First, simple obedience to Christ.
Just do what He says. Yes, it really is that simple. Day-to-day obedience is required to navigate discontinuity, to surf the incoherence of the time we are in. You will never figure it out, and therefore, never come up with a strategic response. It’s all tactical – real-time decisions amid disjointedness, responding by the Spirit to the rapid change around us. We may not see the big picture, but He does (ref. Isaiah 46:10), so every decision and choice of direction we make under His guidance will place us – and those we lead – smack in the center of His will.
Second, tenacious orthodoxy rooted in the Irreducible Core.
Discontinuity causes us to lose track of what we believe. Holding fast to the Scripture and what Jesus said was of utmost importance must be embraced in an uncompromising grip. Loving God, loving others, and making disciples is still the mission, regardless of the circumstances of life around us (ref. Matthew 22:34-40; 28:18-20). Again, the simplicity of the IC allows us to maintain focus in the midst of turbulence. The Great Commandments and Great Commission transcend time and culture, so hanging on tight to the enduring commands of Jesus keeps us rooted in Him and His way.
Third, genuine authenticity through living the Jesus Way.
The shaking of change exposes the reality of things – even those things in the life of a leader. Your message is authenticated by your life. When people observe you living the Jesus way amid upheaval, it resonates as being real. People will find hope when they see the consistency of your devotion to Christ, His Church, and His Mission – especially when they perceive the world to be coming down around their ears. Jeremiah spoke of hope during exile (Jeremiah 29:11), and our lives should declare the hope of Jesus in our day!
Fourth, an imaginative intuition from the Holy Spirit.
Real-time command, control, and intelligence by the Holy Spirit are essential for the crazy pace of change within which we live. Jesus only did what He saw the Father doing (ref. John 5:19). Jesus’ awareness was birthed from the place of prayerful communion with the Father. The unofficial motto of the United States Marine Corps is “Innovate. Adapt. Overcome.” and exemplifies what today’s Kingdom leader must be able to do. The “imaginative intuition” of the Spirit is required to respond in the moment to the complexities of the times and situations we find ourselves in. This Spirit-led dynamic allows us to respond to emergent situations rather than being reactionary.
Fifth, increasing compassion for people.
This takes on two forms: first, compassion for the Christian pilgrims walking through a world that is collapsing around them. Jesus saw the people of Israel as “harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36b ESV). His compassionate answer – more leaders, ones who would have His heart. The second form of compassion is for those not yet in the Kingdom who are subjected to the shearing forces of societal collapse. Make no mistake, discontinuity is Hell’s tool to steal, kill and destroy. For Jesus and His people, it’s an opportunity to bring life (ref. John 10;10). The love of Christ in us for those who don’t yet know Him is the antidote to the poisonous hate of the Enemy.
Sixth, disentanglement from what is passing away.
Remember, anything attached to the old order will be shaken and fall with it (ref. Hebrews 12:27-28). Cut your ties to anything which will entangle you when it all comes crashing down. Your lifestyle, your political views, your historic ministry practices based on culture – get free of them before they become an anchor dragging you down, holding you back. Embrace and roll with the change. Look for what the Holy Spirit is doing now in this season of cataclysm, and connect it with Him. This is where true security resides.
Seventh, embracing the mentoring model of Jesus.
As I always say, Jesus’ mission requires Jesus’ model. Ministry as you knew it is over. Ministry as Jesus intends is solid, effective, and fruitful. It transcends time and culture and works very practically in the circumstances we find ourselves in. The inherited cultural forms have passed away with the culture from which they were birthed. Still, the command to make disciples remains (ref. Matthew 28:19), as does the Jesus way of disciple-making. Invitation to an intentional relationship in Jesus is a key to the future of the Church. “Come and see,” “come and follow,” “come and be with Me” are still the things Jesus says through us to those who would follow Him (ref. John 1:35-51). Amid the crazy time we find ourselves in, a relationship with a reason is still the key.
So, dear leader, be like the chiefs of Issachar; see the times for what they are. Don’t expect what was before to come back. Be bold, be tenacious, be hopeful because our God is not shaken by the day we face. Let go of what was, surf the change, focusing on the seven keys I have shared here. Expect God to move and for His Kingdom to advance, even in our discontinuity!