Graphite Bible Camp is situated on a remote lake in Maynooth, Ontario, Canada, approximately 2 hours from the nearest large city. Throughout my childhood years it had become a second home for me, as I spent two months each summer in this rustic wonderland. Much of who I am as a man, a follower and a leader I owe to the investment of the leaders of this camp into my life.
During the summer of 1993, I was asked to be the Activities Director for the camp and was placed in a leadership role over about 30 counselors and 300 campers for 6 weeks. As a teenager, this was my first significant leadership opportunity and I was eager to make it the best summer the camp had ever seen. The first few days started off well and the weeks of prior planning were clearly paying off as everyone seemed to be having a blast enjoying the activities my team and I had developed.
One after noon, the middle of what I thought as a fantastic set of American Gladiator type activities, several of the older counselors began to verbally challenge my ideas and went so far as to suggest that my planned activities were no good. That moment seared itself into my conscience as if it were a mental tattoo. Hours of deliberation had been poured into each events. The team I had recruited to help plan, strategize and execute each activity was the best I could find. I was mortified at this blatant opposition from the counselors I thought were my friends. An invaluable lesson was learned that day. No matter how hard you try to lead well, there will always be people who oppose you.
Over the intervening 20 years, I have led in countless different contexts and situations; from humanitarian efforts and mission trips to small groups and classrooms. For several years I had the opportunity to be the principal of a high school with over 1400 students and 130 staff. Now I am an executive pastor at The Father’s House in Rochester, New York where I help the Senior Pastor and Executive Team lead a congregation of several thousand people. It doesn’t matter if you are responsible for the welfare of a nation, a group of boy scouts or a volunteer team at your local church; if you are a leader, there will be opposition.
In our last post we explored how the Israelites commemorated the completion of the temple foundation with huge celebration with exuberant worship, shouts of praise and tears of joy. This party was so exuberant and festive that scripture says “the sound was heard far away” (Ezra 3:13). Can you guess what came next?
In the very next verse we read, “Now when the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin heard that the returned exiles were building the temple…” (Exa 4:1). Opposition began immediately.
Ezra chapter 4 recounts in vivid detail, four stages of opposition that were faced by the leadership of the rebuilding effort. First the opposition was dormant, then it infiltrated the workers, next it discouraged the workers from the mission and finally it engaged in blatant and manipulative confrontation in order to derail the mission.
Four Stages of Opposition
- Dormancy of the Opposition
- Infiltration of the Opposition
- Discouragement of the Opposition
- Confrontation of the Opposition
My experience has been that these four stages occur when any leader seeking to bring about meaningful impact over time. As leaders we easily acknowledge that we will face opposition, but we seldom understand that those who will oppose us, are already within our ranks. We ought not to be surprised when opposition arises. We would do well to anticipate opposition and prepare for it.
Great leaders anticipate, prepare for and respond to opposition!
Click below for more posts on the Stages of Opposition: