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Leading Against The Tide By Larry Gadbaugh

The Season Leading Against the Tide

Most of us find ourselves leading against the tide in this season of upheaval. Faithfulness to our convictions calls us to go against the grain even more than ever. We face this challenge at a number of levels, from HR policy, to government mandates, and even within some of our churches.

Staying on Mission

As someone who has recently completed serving 22 years as an E.D. of a group of Pregnancy Resources Centers (PRC), I’m very familiar with the challenges of navigating a mission in the context of a state and community that misunderstands and sometimes actively misrepresents our dedication to serve the common good for women and their babies who face unsupported pregnancy.

You’re certainly aware that the recent SCOTUS decision overturning Roe v. Wade has intensified this cultural division. Our local PRCs have already been physically attacked four times, including firebombing, destruction of windows, and threatening and X-rated painted graffiti. My successor as CEO, Luke Cirillo, and his staff, are models of suffering faith, compassion, and courage. Like everyone in the PRC movement, they continue to sacrificially serve women while the threats continue.

Facing Reality

This current upheaval exposes the reality that our culture has been becoming increasingly suspicious and actually threatening to those who don’t fully affirm their personal agendas. In fact, we have run the cycle of what Theo Hobson describes as the conditions for a cultural moral revolution:   

  • What was condemned must be celebrated.
  • What was celebrated must now be condemned.
  • Those who will not join in the celebration will be condemned.

We are all challenged to lead while living in this cycle. The people we steward and shepherd need us to help them navigate this moral tsunami. While certain organizations, businesses, ministries, and non-profits are particularly vulnerable during this season of divisive reactions, this and other issues (fill in the blank here ____) demand fresh wisdom and leadership from all of us who steward the welfare of others in our relationships and responsibilities.

Faithful Leadership

Jesus shows us an essential litmus test for faithfulness in our leadership: How do we treat the least important persons in our sphere of responsibility? That includes the unborn, the woman facing unsupported pregnancy, the disabled, the elderly, the person “lowest” on the organizational ladder.

How we treat the “least of these” displays the most about us. How do I view and treat the “least important, the most replaceable” persons around me? Our culture is tempted to treat certain persons as disposable sub-humans. As I serve a mission focused on loving and helping such people, my inconsistency is constantly exposed: I don’t view or treat every person I encounter as if they are created in the image of God. That they are a neighbor I am called to love as Christ has loved me. (If you could read my thoughts while I’m driving would be evidence enough).

In God’s Image

As persons created in God’s image, we are granted the dignity as God’s sons and daughters to represent our Father as his stewards. In order to do that well, we have to follow Jesus his Son, who is the Image of God,  if we are to reflect him well in our relationships and responsibilities and the stewardship of our God-given Resources. And we have to work at viewing and treating every person we encounter like they also have been given that dignity. This truth is among the most radical and transforming truths of the Bible.

Steward-Representatives

As stewards-representatives of this Good God, who is committed to reconciling everything he owns – (which is everything that exists) – to fulfill his good purpose, we take our commission from him. Our vision. Our strategic plans. Our goals. Our ethics. Our HR policies. Our personnel criteria. Our bottom lines. Our ROIs. Our funding strategies and methods. Our organizational values. Everything must be brought under the Lordship of Jesus. And every person, no matter how small, how old, how “able,” how different, is my neighbor to whom I am called to reflect Jesus. That begins with me.

This kind of sacrificial, convictional, compassionate steward-leadership will come from those of us who know Jesus. Following him strengthens us in leading against the tide.

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Larry Gadbaugh serves as the Executive Director of Guidelight and Executive Director of Oregon Pregnancy Centers Association. He and Diane have been married 45 years. They have 5 adult children and 3 grandchildren.


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