a single sticky note says ''NO'' amidst a grouping of ''YES'' sticky notes
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What ideas or images come to your mind when you read the word “resistance”? The word energizes some people and makes others feel uncomfortable. An online search defines the word as “the refusal to accept or comply with something” and “the ability not to be affected by something adverse.”

In one sense, Christian leadership is a call to resistance. Jesus does not want us to go along with the status quo out of convenience. He invites us to actively resist the “cosmic powers of this present darkness…the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Eph 6:12).

Leaders often find themselves needing to adopt a posture of resistance as they seek to promote adaptive change. Change rarely happens without applying some degree of effort to move in a different direction. And as the leader exerts effort, she should always expect that there will be pressure to keep things from changing. It’s essential that we resist the urge to quit.

As we enter Women’s History Month, we can attest to the power of resistance by remembering the stories of Christ-followers who refused to accept or comply with the way things were. We learn that resistance does not need to be violent, but it does need to be persistent. For example, Pauli Murray — activist, poet and Episcopal priest — is a lesser known contributor to the case against segregation during Jim Crow. A paper Murray wrote during law school at Howard University was shared with Thurgood Marshall’s legal team and used as a key resource in their argument that led to the landmark 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision. Murray refused to accept the status quo.

Where do you need to practice resistance in ministry for the sake of the kingdom or your own soul? For most of us, the call to resistance will probably not be as world-altering as Murray’s, but there are other ways to resist. We can resist the temptation to measure our worth by how much we do. We can resist the fear that makes us reluctant to try something new. We can resist policies that harm people in our community. However it looks in our context, we must practice resistance as an expression of faithful Christian leadership.


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Before you go…

May I let you in on a secret? We do our leadership a disservice when we avoid resistance. If we use appropriate emotional intelligence, spiritual discernment and strategy, resistance may be the necessary pathway to developing our capacity to lead.

“Hypertrophy” is a term from weightlifting that describes the process of increasing muscle mass by increasing the amount of resistance or weight we lift. As we use more weight, we get stronger. As leaders, we must learn not to dread resistance. Reframe the resistance as an opportunity to cultivate stronger networks, improve your communication skills, rehearse the vision and deepen your commitment to prayer.

You can always reach me and the Alban Weekly team at alban@duke.edu. Until next week, keep leading!

Prince Rivers

Editor, Alban at Duke Divinity