Agility Through Uncertainty

July 11, 2018

by Otto D. Harris III, Ph.D., Senior Pastor of St. Marks UMC. 

I have been on this side long enough. There has to be more to leap, slide, spin, flip, and climb on the other side. If I put my hand here and my foot there, I can make it over and explore what is there. Step. Press. Assess. Slip. Adjust. Lift. Arrive. What an agile child! Likewise, Jordan surveys the court. He adjusts position. He bends. He spins. He scores! What an agile player! Lebron nails the 3 from way downtown! Serena soars to return with a backhand! Brady floats the pass to the back of the end zone! What agile athletes! The term “agile” can also be used to describe Hendrix, Keys, or Santana whose nimble fingers have spun, bent, floated and soared through chords and rhythms to construct harmonies for differing audiences in differing settings alongside differing musicians. What agile musicians! Agility described enhanced performances through quick changes in direction while maintaining balance, speed, strength, and control. Beyond nimble physical bodies, agility can be applied in many art forms and disciplines, including comedy, theater, health care, academia, law, politics, parenting, and leadership. Why Leadership?
Agile leadership is needed in the 21st century with such constant fast moving technological, political, and cultural shifts. An agile leader’s priority is to direct the organization to survey, apply, adjust, sometimes fail, learn and repeat. The Agile Business Consortium describes agile leadership from a business perspective as adaptive, responsive to feedback, responsive to current contexts, and providing opportunities for others to lead. Will Yakowics, analyst and staff writer with Inc., adds resilient, innovative, capitalizing on failure, viewing issues from multiple angles, and stretching beyond comfort zones. Agility Consulting and Training offers The Leadership Agility Profile assessment that can be used for “facing the volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous business context.” These concepts have been applied successfully for capitalizing on strengths related to leadership agility in the corporate setting.
Most agile leadership constructs from the corporate world can be acquired, or reclaimed, by and for Christian leadership. The agile leader’s relationship to uncertainty is what most immediately intrigues me. Much of the leadership I observe in Christian contexts tend to hold certainty in high regard. Conventional Christian leaders establish budgets, set calendars, and appoint leaders with a measure of certainty of what they can manage and control. Some make allowances for uncertainty, including a budget line item for unanticipated expenses, as surely, something will occur within the year that was not foreseen. That’s reasonable. That’s safe. That requires a measure of agility.
But what if only making allowances for uncertainty just scratches the surface of the potential of the agile leader and of our communities of faith? What if Anne Lamott is correct when she proposes, “The opposite of faith is not doubt, but certainty”? Perhaps, the most transformative potential of the agile leader and of the Church resides in uncertainty. What if we make room for uncertainty instead of only making allowances for uncertainty? Perhaps, Jesus made room for uncertainty by inviting the disciples to “the other side” (Mark 4:35; Luke 8:32), through Samaria (John 4:4), into Bethany (John 11:15), and into Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). Jesus made room for his disciples in uncertain territory. Who knew what would happen there? In uncertain territory, Jesus’ disciples were compelled to engage in surveying, applying, adjusting, failing, learning, and repeating – agility. As a result, people were saved, baptized, taught, forgiven, liberated, healed, transformed and commissioned to be agile in uncertain territories.
Instead of dealing with uncertainty only when it invades, churches could employ the strengths of agile leaders faithfully by intentionally occupying spaces of uncertainty. The agile leader can boldly trek with agile followers to where our non-religious, un-churched, de-churched, and pre-churched neighbors congregate and just be Christian. Who knows what may happen? The agile leader can create opportunities for those who typically do not teach, speak, or lead. Who knows what may happen? The agile leader may initiate ongoing conversations with persons from different ethnic, cultural, political, generational, economic, and/or religious backgrounds. Who knows what may happen? The agile leader can lead agile followers to try new approaches to making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. Who knows what may happen? The agile leader may fail from time to time. And/Or the agile leader may bear much fruit. Either way, certainly, the agile leader will learn along the way. Agile Christian leaders, rise up to survey, adjust, bend, spin, float, and soar so that God can reveal the possibilities of what may happen when you lead in faith through uncertainty. Who knows what may happen?
“Agility Consulting.” Agility Consulting The Agile Model Comments,
“Culture and Leadership: The Nine Principles of Agile Leadership.” Agile Business Consortium, 23 Mar. 2018,
Lamott, Anne. Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith. Riverhead Books, 2005.
Yakowicz, Will. “4 Qualities That Make an Agile Leader.”, Inc., 9 June 2015,
Leadership Development