Is this really a crisis?: a 9/11 leadership lesson

Twin_towersDo you remember where you were when the Twin Towers were hit?  I was getting ready to go into a church leadership meeting.  The TVs in our worship office shown the first one hit, and it was chaos in our room with tears and gasps.  I saw the second plane hit on TV and was feeling the shock live with Peter Jennings on ABC.  My thoughts were that this is big, this is historic and we had better in our meeting address this since our people will be feeling much emotion from the attack.  If anything, this would be a grand opportunity to teach our people since we might actually have your attention.  Little did I know that I was in the minority with my thinking.

When our staff meeting begun, the events that were freshly unfolding were simply not going to thwart budget, calendar and our planning process.  The spreadsheets were on the table and we were quickly turning to the appropriate page.  A couple of us were dying inside. How could be ignore what people are feeling?  Well, we have our plans. We are God’s church and must continue, regardless of what is going on in the news.  The rigidity actually nauseated me.  How could we miss this?

The short of it is that we missed the mark that day and week.  We did not have empathy for what the community of our nation, city and church were feeling and thinking.  All of us were hurt, changed and shocked.  Now, I must say that even though we were a week behind in reacting to this event, the mistake was noted and corrected.  We had one of the most moving memorial services.  Imagine a gigantic 50 foot flag raised, our Marine officer in full dress with medals leading prayer–and kneeling.  We sang “America the Beautiful” not “God Bless America” since we felt the need to say “may God thy gold refine” rather than simply “bless us.”  Sermon series of the best quality addressing the various issues ensued with special prayer meetings and events.

The lesson here was that empathy is an important leadership quality.  Feelings do matter, even though we do not lead from them, they are central to our humanity.  They indicate the deepest longings and fears of the soul.  This is the kind of leadership that lets people grieve and leads them to grieve.  “Jesus wept” is the shortest verse quoted in the Bible, but a powerful reminder that to lead well we must not be so driven by our agenda that the drive in our agenda overshadows the fact that people are the agenda.

The next time a church member is heard of being in crisis, a storm wipes out a town, a diagnosis of disease is confirmed the idea is to not be paralyzed.  In fact, the idea is to be human as a leader.  This is the model that Jesus left for us.  He is human, coming from His lofty place to relate to us to lead us by serving us.

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Rich Kirkpatrick

Rich Kirkpatrick

Writer, Speaker, and Musician. Rich Kirkpatrick was recently rated #13 of the “Top 75 Religion Bloggers” by Newsmax.com, having also received recognition by Worship Leader Magazine as “Editor’s Choice” for the “Best of the Best” of blogs in 2011, 2014, 2015 and 2016.

24 comments

  1. It’s amazing what we learn about ourselves in times of crisis. Great words here, Rich, one of your best posts on a blog full of great posts.

  2. It’s amazing what we learn about ourselves in times of crisis. Great words here, Rich, one of your best posts on a blog full of great posts.

  3. It’s amazing what we learn about ourselves in times of crisis. Great words here, Rich, one of your best posts on a blog full of great posts.

  4. It’s amazing what we learn about ourselves in times of crisis. Great words here, Rich, one of your best posts on a blog full of great posts.

  5. This is my first time visiting your site, but this was an excellent post.
    I’ll definitely be back!

  6. This is my first time visiting your site, but this was an excellent post.
    I’ll definitely be back!

  7. This is my first time visiting your site, but this was an excellent post.
    I’ll definitely be back!

  8. This is my first time visiting your site, but this was an excellent post.
    I’ll definitely be back!

  9. I can relate to this and yet …
    Living as I do in the shadow of DC, the church we went to at the time really wallowed in it. That got nauseating after awhile. We sang “God Bless America,” and all the rest. I think we lost sight of God and began to worship our country. It’s a delicate balance to walk and difficult to maintain. So I wonder what tensions your senior staff were living in when they made those decisions.

  10. I can relate to this and yet …
    Living as I do in the shadow of DC, the church we went to at the time really wallowed in it. That got nauseating after awhile. We sang “God Bless America,” and all the rest. I think we lost sight of God and began to worship our country. It’s a delicate balance to walk and difficult to maintain. So I wonder what tensions your senior staff were living in when they made those decisions.

  11. I can relate to this and yet …
    Living as I do in the shadow of DC, the church we went to at the time really wallowed in it. That got nauseating after awhile. We sang “God Bless America,” and all the rest. I think we lost sight of God and began to worship our country. It’s a delicate balance to walk and difficult to maintain. So I wonder what tensions your senior staff were living in when they made those decisions.

  12. I can relate to this and yet …
    Living as I do in the shadow of DC, the church we went to at the time really wallowed in it. That got nauseating after awhile. We sang “God Bless America,” and all the rest. I think we lost sight of God and began to worship our country. It’s a delicate balance to walk and difficult to maintain. So I wonder what tensions your senior staff were living in when they made those decisions.

  13. Sonja, The lesson learned was that we did not take too seriously the people’s depth of feeling and the magnitude of the event right away. However, it was corrected. To my satisfaction, we never sang “God Bless America” as the pastor and I both agreed the message and humility in “America the Beautiful” with lines like “may God thy gold refine” and such made for a better reaction. As a worship leader, it was very important that God came before country, even though I love my country.

  14. Sonja, The lesson learned was that we did not take too seriously the people’s depth of feeling and the magnitude of the event right away. However, it was corrected. To my satisfaction, we never sang “God Bless America” as the pastor and I both agreed the message and humility in “America the Beautiful” with lines like “may God thy gold refine” and such made for a better reaction. As a worship leader, it was very important that God came before country, even though I love my country.

  15. Sonja, The lesson learned was that we did not take too seriously the people’s depth of feeling and the magnitude of the event right away. However, it was corrected. To my satisfaction, we never sang “God Bless America” as the pastor and I both agreed the message and humility in “America the Beautiful” with lines like “may God thy gold refine” and such made for a better reaction. As a worship leader, it was very important that God came before country, even though I love my country.

  16. Sonja, The lesson learned was that we did not take too seriously the people’s depth of feeling and the magnitude of the event right away. However, it was corrected. To my satisfaction, we never sang “God Bless America” as the pastor and I both agreed the message and humility in “America the Beautiful” with lines like “may God thy gold refine” and such made for a better reaction. As a worship leader, it was very important that God came before country, even though I love my country.

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