Sibonokuhle Ncube comes from Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. She is married to Bhekisisa, and they are blessed with three daughters. Sibonokuhle is currently a student at the Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary (AMBS) in the MDiv theology and peace studies program and has treasured her life-long journey in Christ since she was eight years old. Sibonokuhle also enjoys her calling as an eco-womanist, practical theologian and social justice practitioner, connecting people and institutions to the beauty and power of God’s shalom. She likes sweet corn and finds pleasure in creating digital look books with her daughters.
Congratulations on co-laboring with God through an unprecedented and ongoing pandemic context! H’rumph! Literally, this has been like canoeing the mountains! In the wake of the disorientation and wrestling with the shock of the pandemic, church leaders have been feeling the pressure. It has been direct. It has hit the soft underbelly of every community. The times have given a dull aching pain right there where faith sits! The world has recalibrated — many times, catalyzing change in the way we do church. Enter Zoom! Then came the struggle to take back some of the things we said about televangelists. Meanwhile in our policy milieu, bursts: every one mask up, sanitize, social distance and V-A-C-C-I-N-A-T-E! Confusion. Reversal. Resolution. Repeat. The new (ab)normal. It’s been an alphabet soup of needs, loss, fear, conspiracy theories, blurred lines, fake news and no news! All this piled up on a miasma of stubborn disconnects including racism, ecological injustices, the cacophony of political heckling and their ilk. As the existential circumstance has raged on, the battle to bring equanimity between desperate demand for hands on deck and a constrained supply for super-powered leaders has raised the profile of church leaders. Church leaders have traditionally been known to be very sober cradle-to-grave local actors who take care of the business of houses of worship and needs in adjacent communities. True. However, perhaps since September 11 stateside, church leaders have never been as important and, sadly, also taken for granted in the expansive ecology of care. Now enumerated in the work force among “frontline workers,” “essential workers” or the hybrid form of the label: “front line essential workers,” the embodied reaction among leaders and churches has been varied. Signs of trauma from the violence of the mortality and disappointment at the struggling health and social systems have continued to shake the supply-and-demand bridge. The work of shepherding and serving at the tables has expanded beyond job descriptions to a question mark: Do you have a passion for all this? Enter budgetary deficits and surprising surpluses, here and there, as congregations retreated home and experienced (re)visions and a bit of time travel to a setting akin to the early church — home church or church at home. This feels like a brand-spanking-new cross. This is a clarion call for hybrid resilient, patiently fermented faith. Cut.
Alive and aware of the setting, the words of Hebrews 12:1-3 have something for us as we all need to keep actively working at our faith:
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart” (NIV).
This is powerful stuff for self-talk! In the same spirit, the Apostle Paul rubs down and tones the muscles of his protégé, Timothy, with encouragement that generously offers impetus to church leaders who will receive it today:
“But you, man [woman, person] of God, … pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses. In the sight of God, who gives life to everything, and of Christ Jesus, who while testifying before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, I charge you to keep this command without spot or blame until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which God will bring about in his own time—God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords…” (1 Timothy 6:11-15, NIV).
Beloved, here is a call that acknowledges that while there is a lot going on, and we are humanly exhausted, all trouble has an expiration date.
However, we need to aspire to inspire before we expire from the present to the eternal! (Riffing off Jane Jenkins Herlong there). God offers internal, external, and mysteriously transcendent resources for the rigmarole of life, as a human and leader. Remember your calling — who you are, whose are you and what you are being invited/sent to do; continue drawing from Jesus, as a source of tenacity for navigating that liminal space between the beloved community and life in the world. Pandemic or no pandemic, all of us have a race, and this a part of the road where you really need to stay in your lane. Run and keep running! All of us need to put up a fight — a patient resistance against giving up by doing those things that we are called to do. Fight and keep on fighting! There will be resistance and opposition. Endure and keep on enduring! You will also need to be gracious and patient with yourself, but no matter what you do, don’t take your eyes off the anointed and anointing One — that all-powerful, Jubilee-embodying, super sabbath, eternal, all-knowing, doubt-dispelling, empire-resisting, space-traveling, wall-destroying, demon-demoting, dimension-walking, disease-healing, transcendent, jail-breaking, time-altering, virus-embarrassing Palestinian rebel called Jesus! Be patient and consistent. The promised Spirit of enablement is here, and Jesus, well, he will be back!
 A book by Tod E. Bolsinger, Canoeing the Mountains: Christian Leadership in Uncharted Territory, (Expanded. Downers Grove, Illinois: IVP Books, an imprint of InterVarsity Press, 2018), comes to mind.
The views and opinions expressed in this blog belong to the author and are not intended to represent the views of the MC USA Executive Board or staff.