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Leading in The New Abnormal By Larry Gadbaugh

What You Need to Know About Leading in The New Abnormal

We are called to lead in abnormal times. All of us are aware of the seismic shifts that have shaken the moral, political, economic, domestic, and international landscape over the last decade. Carl Trueman’s brilliant book, Strange New World, is essential to understand how this has occurred over the last century-plus. Grasping the roots of our worldview upheaval is important for us as leaders to navigate the challenge as we continue as stewards of the movements, missions, and people we shepherd as we seek Christ’s kingdom and his Gospel first.

Another exceptional resource for orienting our leadership strategy within each of our spheres of responsibility is Mark Sayers’ recent work, A Non-Anxious Presence: How a Changing and Complex World Will Create a Remnant of Renewed Christian Leaders.

I’m at an early stage of digesting and applying the insights Sayers has written. But his assessment of our current season is so profound that I must encourage you to read and ponder how he perceives the era in which we find ourselves and the people we lead.

Sayers’ insight begins by observing that the world has entered a “Gray Zone.” Gray Zones thrust cultures into an in-between period, where previously dependable, predictable sources of security and stability have now shifted. We now live in a phase where “the world is undergoing transformation. . . . a chaotic period where almost anything can happen, and little can be predicted…” (p. 21).

Understandably, in such situations, where our former sources of security and meaning have become unreliable – institutions, identities, systems, services – we become anxious for leaders to re-establish anchors of security and orientation (what Sayers identifies as “strongholds”) to regain our bearings.

We are experiencing polarization between visions for establishing those “strongholds” upon which a new era of human flourishing will be built. These different models propose radically conflicting movements that intensify the anxiety permeating our culture and lives.

As Christians, we are impacted by this journey through the Gray Zone. Many in leadership proclaim that we must return to a golden age when our country enjoyed a worldview grounded in Judeo-Christian morals and values. Others, focused on end-times Scriptures, declare that the American Century is now passing, as Western culture bounces off the bottom of Romans 1:18-32 downward dive into moral depravity and self-destruction. All this while, Progressives celebrate the deconstruction of capitalism, conservative morality and ethics, and evangelical Christianity to be replaced by diversity, equity, and inclusion. These competing worldviews and models for the future continue to heighten the anxiety of leaders and those we serve.

Sayers’ insights into this Gray Zone are planting missional hope and purpose. He builds a case from history, natural disasters, and Scripture that such seasons of upheaval also incorporate the seeds for renewal, revival, and the advance of the Gospel. I don’t have the space here to unpack his excellent portrayal of God’s purposes in subjecting the culture to such traumatic changes (much, of course, which is self-inflicted) except to highlight his assertion that this is a clarion call for Christian leaders to humble ourselves to ask God to transform us into the kind of men and women who discern how we can shepherd people to turn to God as our Refuge and Stronghold.

“God distributes the seeds of renewal via leaders who carry the seed of renewal…A renewed leader is a leader who then leads others into renewal.”

~ Gray Zone by Mark Sayers (p, 32).

We are called to become such “non-anxious leaders” who seek the presence of Christ in this current wilderness of anxiety so that others within our sphere of influence can stir their faith in the Lord Jesus, who alone gives us not only peace in our anxiety but purpose and impact as his representatives – Salt and Light in a culture of chaos and self-destruction.

Sayers lays some basic groundwork for growing as faithful and fruitful agents of Christ’s Salt and Light in our desperate world. You will significantly benefit from digesting Sayer’s insights.

I love you, O Lord, my strength.
The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer,
    my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge,
    my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
 I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised,
    and I am saved from my enemies.

~ Psalm 18:1-3

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Larry Gadbaugh serves as the Executive Director of Guidelight and Executive Director of the Oregon Pregnancy Center Association. He and Diane have been married for 45 years. They have five adult children and three grandchildren.

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