Jehoshaphat, our leadership partner in crisis

April 10, 2023

This is the first of four devotionals based on 2 Chronicles 20: 1-30.

King Jehoshaphat is informed that a massive army has come to annihilate Judah, and he gathers the entire community for prayer at the temple. After he prays, the word of the Lord comes to the assembled community through Jahaziel, calling them to stand firm because the Lord will take care of this enemy.

The narrative concludes with a description of this miraculous deliverance. We’ll walk through this narrative in four parts.

Alarmed, Jehoshaphat resolves to inquire of the Lord and he proclaimed a fast for all Judah. The people of Judah came together to seek help from the Lord; indeed, they came from every town in Judah to seek him. Jehoshaphat stood up in the assembly of Judah and Jerusalem at the temple of the Lord in the front of the new courtyard. All the men of Judah, with their wives and children and little ones, stood there before the Lord. (2 Chronicles 20: 3-5, 13)

And the little ones

This has been my go-to leadership passage ever since COVID shut us all down just over three years ago.

Just as we were faced with a leadership crisis for which no clear  solutions were apparent, Judah was faced with probable annihilation, and there seemed to be no way out. 

Jehoshaphat’s response to this news is remarkable. 

Immediately he proclaimed a fast and a prayer meeting for the entire community, including the little ones. Imagine explaining this to your six year old grandson. “Levi, we’re going to walk twenty miles to the temple. No, it’s not Passover. The king has called us for a special gathering and he wants you to be there too! No, I’m not sure what is going to happen and I don’t know why he wants you to join. This is new for me too. Hold my hand as we walk, and we’ll both find out what the king has in mind.”

This is a crisis that will affect every single member of the community from the oldest to the youngest, and every single member is gathered in front of the temple courtyard, ready to listen to their king.

Jehoshaphat embodies the “over-communicate during a crisis” leadership principle.

I read an article last week that observed that many church leaders under-communicated both during the pandemic and afterwards for two reasons: (1) they didn’t have clear answers to give, and (2) they knew that a segment of their members were prone to reactive anger. They leaned into a conflict-avoidant posture. 

But I’m also aware of many congregations that practiced the “over-communicate principle” in marvelous ways.   One friend mentioned that during the first year of the pandemic, his pastor called his home (and every member’s home) for a two minute check-in (not longer!) once every three weeks. He said, “We all know what she’s doing, and we make sure the check-in doesn’t go longer than two minutes. But it’s amazing how much care and trust can be strengthened in two minute installments.”

A local pastor colleague began posting a short devotional that he would read out loud on the church website every Monday to Friday. He still continues to do this every week.

I just walk through a book of the Bible, and offer a brief encouragement.

After three years of five days a week, people have become eager for this daily word of assurance from a voice that they know and trust.

We understand why this is effective. And perhaps you’re saying to yourself, “I’ve been exhausted these past three years; I don’t have that kind of stamina.” But both pastors recounted how energized they have become by these channels of communication. 

The practice of over communication embodies the values of respect and transparency. The literature that describes loss of trust in leadership in our society (including the church) is voluminous; trust takes an even greater beating during times of crisis, but giving respect transparently is the cornerstone of earning, maintaining, and strengthening trust.

The narrator of 2 Chronicles does not describe for us how the multi-generational crowd in the temple courtyard responded to Jehoshaphat’s over communication during this crisis. From our own experience, we can guess that these community-strengthening values of trust and respect were present there as well. 

As Jehoshaphat’s story unfolds (during the next three weeks), that guess will be reinforced. 

And what about you? How would you describe the shape of the communication you and your team have practiced these past three years? What have you learned that might bless others? What might you tweak to strengthen communal trust? 

Written by Syd Hielema

Currently serving the CRCNA as a Regional Pastor

Former Director of Faith Formation Ministries and the Connections project 

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  1. Thank you for sharing this and yes totally agree, over communicating is better. This is encouraging for me as an administrator of our church.