Leadership Under Fire



Pray for Ukraine.


The recent Russian invasion of Ukraine has been overwhelmingly condemned by world leaders, baffled by Putin’s shocking disregard for the sovereignty of the second largest country in Eastern Europe. A full scale invasion of this scope hasn’t been seen in Europe since World War II. At the time of writing this, Russian forces have not found this a walk in the park. Putin has rattled the sabers even more by placing his nuclear forces on high alert. It’s a dangerous gamble. Geopolitical analysts have been trying to get inside of Putin’s head. Many believe his primary goal is to replace Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky with a Russian-friendly, NATO-averse ally. He has been labeled the “number one target”. Prior to being elected president, Zelensky was a well-known comic in his country, appearing in Ukraine’s “Dancing With The Stars,” producing a television series in which he actually played the president, and even providing the voice for Paddington Bear in both Ukrainian movie versions. Leadership comes in all sorts of packages. But one of the most telling features of good leadership is leading your people through crises. And it doesn’t get much harder than what is happening in Ukraine. Zelensky consistently encourages his people to not give up, to stand against bullying aggression, and regularly streams videos of himself and his cabinet with Kyiv landmarks in the background so they know he hasn’t abandoned the country. Proximity to the people you lead—or the with-ness factor—is critical. When the U.S. offered to evacuate him from the capital city, Zelensky replied, “The fight is here; I need ammunition, not a ride.” He and his family are staying in Kyiv, even though it’s reported that not only are Russian forces surrounding the city, subversive saboteurs have allegedly infiltrated the city on an assassination mission.


This former television comic has inspired his people.


“Our weapon is truth, and our truth is that this is our land, our country, our children, and we will defend all of this,” he said. Regardless of the outcome, Zelensky has provided an expression of leadership we could all emulate, in whatever circumstances we find ourselves in. In his classic book, Christ and Time, written seventy years ago, Lutheran theologian Oscar Cullman wrote that we live spiritually and metaphorically in the time between D-Day when Nazi Germany was virtually defeated and Victory in Europe Day when they actually surrendered. But it took nearly a year for that inevitable surrender and bore the most casualties of World War II. That was even with a defeated foe. Likewise, we are in a tough spiritual war. And until Jesus returns, as leaders we live between those two realities, in a world where the Kingdom of God is now and not yet.


Leaders stay in the fight despite the opposition. They stay with their people. They define reality while inspiring their people to more. They do what’s right regardless of personal loss or threat.


In Ukraine, we are watching the real-time making of an unexpected leader: Volodymyr Zelensky. Dave Workman | ELEMENTAL CHURCHES



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