Being a Non-Anxious Presence

Being a Non-Anxious Presence

24 October 2023

Over the Summer I came across Mark Sayers' book “A Non Anxious Presence: How a changing and complex world will create a remnant of renewed Christian leaders”, in which he offers some profound and provoking questions on the nature and challenges of leadership in the modern 'post Christian' World. 

Yet in the midst of the chaos of a crisis we're only too familiar with comes opportunity. The history of the Church tells us that crisis always precedes renewal, and the framework of renewal offers us new ways forward. 

Sayers reflects on how, in our day, anxiety has become one of the most significant ailments we face. Not just individually, but collectively as a result of the rise of the internet and growing loss of faith in institutions.

In such anxious environments, Sayers notes that reactivity becomes the name of the game. In social networks swamped by chronic anxiety, high emotion all too easily becomes the dominant form of interaction as the more mature and healthy begin to adapt their behaviour to appease the more irrational and unhealthy. The result is that leadership, once about the art of building consensus, can in anxious environments quickly become about desperately seeking to avoid conflict.

I think it goes without saying that the increasing levels of anxiety experienced by our young people and the growing pressures and demands placed on our schools poses significant challenges to church school leaders. The temptation when faced with such challenges can be to succumb to the anxiety of the group and experience either a “failure of nerve” or a “failure of heart”.

Christian author and Church Leader Jon Tyson puts it this way:

“Failure of nerve is caving to the anxiety of the group to return to the status quo. It’s a loss of courage to further the mission. A failure of heart is the emotional cut off that occurs when a leader’s discouragement leads them to psychologically abandon their people and the charge they’ve been given.”

As we begin another half term, I wonder if these words resonate at all? Are there areas of your life or leadership where you recognise the temptation to cave in through either a failure of nerve or heart?

If so, what might it mean to recommit those things to God now? To seek His wisdom and direction in navigating a path forward? To ask for His peace, His non -anxious presence, to still the waves within us - so that we can in turn speak peace to the storms around us?

For, to close with the words of the prophet Isaiah:

"In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength" (Isaiah 30:15).




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