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The Fog of Disorientation

It would be an understatement to say that these are disorienting times. Most of us in ministry have some sense of losing our bearings. The landscape of ministry has changed and we find ourselves in an uncharted wilderness.

There have been many times that I have found myself disoriented in life. For nine years in my university and seminary days I worked on a tree nursery in Oregon (yes 9, I was a slow student). One of my regular duties in the winter was delivering trailers full of bundles of trees to another nursery up on the hill.

You see our nursery was in the valley, but the big outfit that we sold most of our stock to was up on the hill. It was about three miles as the crow flies, but about 8 miles on winding narrow rows. I took an average of 5 loads up a day for months on end, and I am not exaggerating to say that I knew those roads like the back of my hand. Well, at least I thought I did.

You see that the Tualatin Valley where we farmed had one thing that could be counted on in the fall and winter months, fog, thick pea soup fog. I always thought I knew the roads well until the fog set in. When the fog rolled in I lost all sense of orientation.

The curves that I knew in order and knew how fast I could take with a wagon of trees became a guess. I would doubt my own knowledge of what curve or turn was next, and I would find myself quite confused. In times of extremely dense fog, it was not unheard of to miss a turn and find yourself going in a direction that you did not mean to go.

I believe that is what we find ourselves in as church and ministry leaders today. The ministry path that many of us have known for so long has gone grey with a fog that we cannot see through. We have lost our understanding of where to turn and when to slow down and speed up.

On these foggy days, the best you could do is slow down, even to a crawl at times and, to look for any landmark that would tell you that you were still on the right road. For me, it would be things like the Presbyterian Cemetery, Gramps Fornshell's trailer in front of his place, the big oak tree at the fork in the road, or the big Swiss flag in the front yard of Mr. Brooks' farm. Those familiar signs told you that you were still on the right path.

In leadership we often use the term of our "true north" Bill George, a Harvard Business School professor who wrote a book entitled "True North" says it this way:

"True North is your orienting point - your fixed point in a spinning world - that helps you stay on track as a leader. It is derived from your most deeply held beliefs, values, and the principles you lead by. It is your internal compass, unique to you, representing who you are at your deepest level."

For each of us in the world of Christian ministry, our ultimate True North would be Jesus. We must "fix our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith" Hebrews 2:2. But, the definition above speaks to our "internal compass, unique to you".

I think that the biggest struggle for me in this strange season of life has been to stay true to my unique true north under the umbrella of the true north of Christ. Over the last number of weeks, I feel that the Lord has blessed me by lifting the fog in moments so I can see a bit of my personal true north.

What the Lord has been showing me is fruit in the lives of those that I have had the pleasure to disciple through the years. The original call to ministry that I received many years ago was a calling to discipleship. While this call has not changed over the years, how this calling plays out has altered drastically from one season to another.

On Christmas eve, I was brought to tears during a candlelight service at a church in Oregon. I am always brought to tears during Christmas eve services, but this was different. I was moved while I watched Aaron, one of my previous youth group kids who would later be my intern and then my replacement as an Associate Pastor, lead his current church as the Pastor of Worship. After the service, I would hear him say that at 44 he was preparing to hand his ministry over to younger leaders as I had done with him 22 years ago.

This, along with several other interactions has brought me back to my ministry theme verse of 2 Timothy 2:2:

"And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others."

This has been reorienting to me in a season of disorientation. When I find myself in the fog, I need to find opportunities to pour into the lives of others to make sure I stay on the right path for me.

If you find yourself in this fog of disorientation, might I encourage you to find your unique true north and to lean into it?

Categories: Coaching , Discipleship , Leadership