This is the final post in our series to articulate “nine elements of a leadership reproduction culture.” For more explanation, see our first post here. Feedback and questions are more than welcome!
On the road to fruitfulness in its mission, Epic is about… Kingdom Foundations: Hope
By Margaret Yu, Brian Virtue, & Adrian Pei
Hope is one of God’s greatest gifts to His children.
There are so many things in life that wear us down, discourage us, and tempt us to despair. Authentic hope is a spiritual condition or process whereby the heart is able to continue to desire an outcome or promise from God, that is not yet fulfilled or seen. As servant leaders, hope gives us the courage and strength to live and lead toward a better, enduring future — not just for ourselves, but for others.
Hope is not wishful thinking. To be hopeful is not to deny reality. Some leaders, fearing the anxiety of those they lead, are committed to optimism at all costs, believing that if people just stay positive, everything will work out. Or they feel leadership is about projecting confidence and competence, so others do not lose hope in them. But this is false hope.
In leading towards the mission, we live out hope by acknowledging the reality of pain and loss that are part of this world. In fact, hope is birthed in our hearts when we experience hurts, sin, suffering, and disappointment with ourselves, others, and God. In those moments, our hearts long for a different experience or outcome. If we try to manage morale by avoiding all “negative” talk, we are actually steering people away from true hope, because without grief, we cannot fully grasp God’s grace and promises for a better reality. As servant leaders, we must never seek to guide people’s hopes to us, but connect them to the hope of Christ, and what He can do to transform or redeem any situation.
Hope is also not “passive waiting.” Sometimes pain and loss bring with them the temptation to act as a survivor or victim, isolating oneself out of self-preservation. But hope is closely related to faith; it is not about living in the status quo until God removes pain and suffering in heaven. Hope is tenacious. It is about relentlessly and courageously leading as agents of change against wrongs and injustice. Hope in action is living with confidence that God is who He says he is, and that He will do what He promises.
Hope is also closely related to love. God gives us the gift of authentic community to build resilience and hope, in the midst of our challenges. When God’s people are able to enter into one another’s sufferings, imperfections or shame, we are able to practice the hope of God’s presence and love by being there for one another. And these are the kinds of communities that produce mature leaders who can engage the mission with full vision, and persevere through discouragement and despair.
Hope is fueled by love to create: whether through works of art, exploring innovative solutions or possibilities, the development of people, or the shaping of a culture in which leaders can grow and thrive. When our hearts have truly been shown a better reality than what we see around us, we cannot help but work to create that for others.
Hope is a gift: we have the capacity to envision what is unseen — to long for more — because of God, and what He has shown to us. And on the road to reproducing leaders who are fruitful on mission, God gifts us with His greatest promise: that He is with us along the way, until we see Him face to face. He fills our hearts with the hope that one day, we will become what we were meant to be, with Him in perfection.
- We all at times mistake false hope, for authentic hope that comes from God. Which do you identify with more: thinking of hope as “wishful thinking” or “passive waiting”? What are some attitudes or areas of your life that reflect that?
- How have you seen “blind positivity” as a denial of reality: in life, leadership, or ministry? What’s the difference between managing morale, and cultivating authentic hope in others?
- Think about the various sources of community in your life. Which have built hope in your life, and why? Which might have discouraged hope, and why?
- As you think about the context where God has placed you, what are the areas where you identify the greatest need to exercise hope?