As the globe seeks to “flatten the curve” on COVID-19, this is no time for church leaders to allow the enemy to use this virus as a tool to flatten the curve on disciple-making. We need leaders who are able to deftly balance between leading through a season of sorrow as well as a season of sowing for the coming harvest.
Yes, sorrow and sowing, together in the same season.
“I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels—a plentiful harvest of new lives.”John 12:24
Yes, heartache and harvest, together in the same season.
“When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them because they were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. He said to his disciples, “The harvest is great, but the workers are few. So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields.”Matthew 9:36-38
This season requires us to lead like a giraffe. Yes, a GIRAFFE!
Since my first trip to Kenya in 2004, I’ve traveled to the continent of Africa thirty-three times to a dozen different countries preaching the gospel and training leaders. Maybe it’s the adventurer, the Jeep lover in me, that dreams of safari drives on the African plains, but we have a house full of carved animals I’ve brought home from my journeys across the continent. I’m a carved animal hunter.
At first, it was the rhino I was enamored with. This was around that time I’d read Erwin McManus’s The Barbarian Way and his example of the rhino, whose grouping is called a crash, an animal that is nearly blind but can run at speeds upwards of 30 miles an hour, but can’t walk backwards.
While we were living in Kenya, the movie The Chronicles of Narnia came out, and I naturally shifted my affections from the rhino to the king of the beasts. Mark Batterson’s book, In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day, and his subsequent book, Chase the Lion (partially inspired by the lion spike from Kenya I’d given to him as a gift, pg. 127), also served to fan the flames of my lion carving passions.
More than lions, rhinos, elephants, or any other animal though, our house is adorned with giraffes. I’ve brought home several large carved giraffes, managing to get them all the way back from Africa in one piece.
There are leadership lessons to be learned from all of these animals.
The hard-charging rhino, unafraid and unstoppable. A picture of bold faith.
The fierce lion, prowling, ready to pounce. A picture of courageous vision.
The enormous elephant, gentle yet immovable. A picture of unwavering conviction.
But what about the giraffe? Called a “twiga” in Swahili, a group of giraffes are appropriately called a tower. Here are seven leadership lessons from the giraffe.
A full-grown giraffe is between 15-20 feet tall, the tallest creature in the animal kingdom. It’s height allows it to reach what others can’t and see what others don’t.
Leading through a crisis requires that we are able to rise above and look beyond the obstacles that stand in our way.
LEADERS. STAND TALL!
A giraffe’s visual acuity allows it to see a person moving up to a mile away. Because other animals can’t see to that distance, they take their cues from the giraffe. If it turns and runs, other animals follow because they know danger is approaching. If it moves forward in confidence, seeing a watering hole or safe grazing ahead, other animals follow.
Leading through a crisis requires that we have vision to see beyond the crisis, recognizing the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.
LEADERS, SEE FAR!
A giraffe’s neck can stretch up to 7 feet long, the height of NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal. The giraffe’s neck is thick and strong and can be swung violently, used as a weapon in battles with other giraffes.
Leading through a crisis requires that we be willing to stick our necks out. Playing it safe won’t win the leadership battles we face.
LEADERS, TAKE RISKS!
A giraffe’s legs can be over 6 feet long, allowing them to run up to 35 miles per hour. A giraffe’s stride can be up to 15 feet in length. Even at a leisurely stroll, a giraffe can cover 10 miles in a single hour. Their long legs also serve as a defense as they can kick off predators like the lion. Giraffes can kick in any direction, and their powerful kick has been known to even decapitate a lion!
Leading through a crisis requires that we pace ourselves, sometimes running, sometimes walking, so that we keep moving forward purposefully and persistently.
LEADERS, KEEP MOVING!
A giraffe’s heart is the largest of any land mammal, weighing 25 pounds and pumping 60 liters of blood throughout its body every minute. The giraffe’s large heart is required to pump blood up its long neck to reach its brain.
Leading through a crisis requires that we both feel deeply for others and act boldly with compassion. It requires that our heart be attached to our head, working in concert, so that we demonstrate compassionate wisdom.
LEADERS, LOVE BOLDLY!
The giraffe eats all day long, consuming about 75 pounds of food a day. It’s tongue, which is up to 20 inches in length and rough like sandpaper (I can attest to this. I’ve been “kissed” by a giraffe.), is able to continuously grab leaves and twigs and bring them to its mouth. Giraffes are the third largest land mammal, coming in only behind the elephant and the rhino, weighing in at 1800 pounds.
Leading through a crisis requires that we continually feed on God’s Word. We’ve got to reach for the truth, grab a hold of it, and allow God to speak to us in the midst of the challenges we face.
LEADERS, BE HUNGRY!
A giraffe’s sleeping patterns are unusual. Giraffes sleep standing up, and only sleep between 30 minutes and two hours a day. Lying down would make them vulnerable, so they stand. They seldom sleep because they want to be awake and alert, prepared for a predator like the lion.
“Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.” 1 Peter 5:8
Leading through a crisis requires that we be alert. Our enemy is active. He has come to steal, kill, and destroy. He wants to discourage us and defeat us.
LEADERS, STAY ALERT!
Leaders, don’t be afraid to stick your neck out. Hold your head high. Be big-hearted. Have the vision to see beyond where others see. Be alert. Lead the way. In the midst of today’s sorrow, we must sow seeds for tomorrow’s harvest.