Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Deep unity and social distance: an invitation

Written by: on March 14, 2020

I began reading Confronting Christianity at the start of a Spring Break trip with my family this week. I was excited for this hopeful, accessible book after several weeks of heavy, difficult reading. However, little did I know, I would be spending a large share of this week in hours of video chats, conference calls, and crafting communication that was unheard of just the week prior. McLaughlin took a back seat to the immediate need of our students and campus community as we tried to make the most informed decisions possible. Like many of you, we seemed to be in the midst of lose-lose scenarios. Balancing help for elderly parents, the closure of schools and the needs of teams and students from afar was not what I had intended. Honestly, I was one of the first to eye-roll at all the hype. Even though I still do not understand the panic buying of toilet paper and hand sanitizer, I am beginning to see more clearly the ways our organizations are contributing to the slowing of this virus through closure and cancellations. As we learned from Freidman, we have a presenting opportunity to be a “non-anxious presence” for those around us in panic.[1]

The fear around us is real. People are suffering from this virus through its physical symptoms as well as the disruption is has produced. However, McLaughlin reminds us that “Jesus is no remote deity, watching suffering from a safe distance. He is the God who inhabits our suffering.”[2] This week, I have observed church leaders respond publicly in a variety of ways…from supportive and prayerful to condemnatory and judgmental. I wonder why we turn fearful times like this into opportunities for further division rather than unity. Does it matter if we think people are over-reacting? Does our open judgment of leaders who choose to cancel or not to cancel their church services and events really help? Regardless of our personal thoughts and feelings, we are invited to be part of a Spirit-filled response to other leaders as we all try to make the best decisions we can. There are people on the other side of every decision made in this crisis, and we’re all hoping for the best. Maybe the media is stirring us into a frenzy…maybe the concern is actually merited…maybe we just don’t know.

People are concerned. People are responding in panic. People are slinging judgment and slander. People have a common need. This virus is confronting our Christianity. It matters to us, and it matters to Jesus. Even in the midst of “social distancing,” I heed Mclaughlin’s words: “Christians following Jesus are deeply attached, and covered in tears – their own, and those of others – just like their Lord.”[3]

Let’s pray for one another. Love one another. Let’s allow our Christianity to be a beautiful response of unity and acceptance in an unknown time.




[1] Edwin H. Friedman, A Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix, ed. Margaret M. Treadwell and Edward W. Beal (New York: Seabury Books, 2007).

[2] Rebecca McLaughlin, Confronting Christianity: 12 Hard Questions for the World’s Largest Religion (Wheaton: Crossway, 2019), 201.

[3] Ibid, 207.

About the Author

Rhonda Davis

Rhonda is passionate about loving her Creator, her wonderful husband, and her three amazing sons. She serves as VP of Enrollment Management & Student Development at The King's University in Southlake, TX.

6 responses to “Deep unity and social distance: an invitation”

  1. Hi Rhonda. Good stuff as usual. The series of questions you pose is good to think about in these uncertain times. Ultimately, the veiled judgments through grandstandings and challenges really don’t help when people are suffering and we’re not doing anything to help. It’s a good reminder. After reading your post I asked my wife, whose parents live nearby, if we can pick up groceries for them. So thank you for the reminder.

  2. Andrea Lathrop says:

    Thank you, Rhonda. Yes to Friedman’s challenge – I am grateful for that reminder.
    Justin and I were talking the other day about some pastor’s videos that were almost mocking. It isn’t that there is nothing to be annoyed about (more so a week ago in different parts of the country less affected perhaps) but this is a chance to show what should be Christianity’s great attraction – our compassion when a crisis hits. I’ve thought of the stories of early Christians staying back in a plague whenever everyone left…

  3. Jenn Burnett says:

    Sounds like a big week Rhonda! I appreciate you turning to Friedman. The idea of being a non-anxious presence is such a great way to engage so many scenarios. It is a difficult task to take a high level of precaution while not communicating anxiety. I have found it useful reading a couple of articles by people feeling quite vulnerable in terms of health and the way the discussion is unfolding. Those most at risk are being talked about like they are expendable. So how do we not only be a non-anxious presence but also create environments and conditions that alleviate the anxieties of the vulnerable legitimately? How do we keep in mind the diverse situations of our neighbours while minimizing fear? I am so thankful that a compassionate and thoughtful leader such as yourself is part of making these difficult decisions. May God’s grace abound in you and through you as you work to reduce the anxiety around you.

  4. A great post Rhonda. Decision making is not as easy but it’s the essence of leadership, as we navigate through these times of uncertainty and fear. Like Andrea has pointed out you have Wisely revisited Friedman’s idea of the leader’s need of being the non-anxious presence in the midst of the fear and confusion across the world at this point in time.

  5. Sean Dean says:

    Great thoughts Rhonda. I appreciate your perspective and how you brought in Friedman’s concepts.

  6. Harry Fritzenschaft says:

    “As we learned from Freidman, we have a presenting opportunity to be a “non-anxious presence” for those around us in panic.” I am so glad we read Freidman because we now all know how to be a non-anxious presence! Isn’t it amazing how a little virus named COVID-19 can throw our global community into such a panic? Much prayers and blessings for all you are dealing with. I am just wondering what God is up to and would like to accomplish through this? Thanks again for your non-anxious, compassionate admonition.

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