During lunch the other day, I watched a continuing education presentation called,“Leadership Skills for the Next Ten Years.” I meant to catch it live on the web when it aired (all the way back in January), but something more important preempted the time slot. An old email, lingering at the bottom of my inbox, reminded me that I’d never gotten around to watching the recording.
The speaker was Bob Johansen, a distinguished fellow at the Institute for the Future. Presented by TryTank, a cooperative experiment in church growth, Bob offered a variety of interesting ideas for approaching the challenges of leadership in our ever-changing world. Of everything he presented, I was most struck by his call to focus on clarity over certainty.
Our brains are wired for certainty. We crave it in all aspects of life. We follow leaders who offer it and often demand it from those who don’t. But chasing certainty is a fool’s errand. The world is changing too much and too quickly to count on it. Instead of seeking certainty, we ought to pursue clarity.
It reminded me of Jesus speaking to his followers just before he ascended into heaven. They’d asked if that was the moment for him to initiate God’s kingdom,restoring Israel to its rightful place among the nations. They’d been following him and working with him, even trusting him with their lives. They believed his promises and they wanted to know if this, at the last moments of his time on Earth,was when his promises would come to fruition. They were seeking certainty.
Jesus wouldn’t give it to them. “It isn’t for you to know the times or seasons that the Father has set by his own authority,” he said. You will never have certainty about that. So instead, he gave them clarity: “Rather, you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
Jesus is clear: The purpose of following Jesus isn’t to know with certainty the what,where, and when of God’s activities. Our purpose is to witness to what we have experienced in Christ and to share that Good News with the world around us. The core of that Good News—the love of God we know in Christ—is constant. How it’s shared, however, looks different depending on who you are and who you’re talking to. We aren’t called to have all the answers. We’re called to share what we have seen and heard and experienced of God in Christ.
I’m no stranger to a desire for certainty. I would really like to hear from God what exactly we’re supposed to do and when to do it. I’d also like to know what exactly the outcome will be, as long as I’ve got the divine ear. But that’s not for us to know. Life isn’t arranged in a way to make that kind of certainty possible. So instead, let’s lean into the clarity we find in the love of God that’s revealed in Christ: Accept it, rest in it, share it, work for it. How exactly that happens is up to us.
Yours in Christ,