I am still trying to process all that I experienced yesterday at the Kentucky Baptist Convention in Paducah. As I sat with some of my church family and listened to so many reports and participated in some important votes, I couldn’t help but celebrate. Yet, I also came away realizing that the great leaders who spoke struggle just as I do to find a balance in speaking to God’s people.

Here’s the struggle:

I celebrated with the guys and gals that stood behind the pulpit and spoke of the successes that they had experienced during the past year. The ministry entities that answer to the Kentucky Baptist Convention reported on growth in attendance, influence, conversions, finances, and so much more. As those reports were given, applause would erupt from the hundreds of messengers. They (we) were excited to hear that things were going so well.

This is such an important aspect of leadership that gets things done. If a leader knows how to lead, he/she is going to lead from a position of hope. He/she is going to celebrate the past and point to a brighter future. That is what motivates and gets people mobilized. Further, it gets people to come back to our meetings. A boring, discouraging Kentucky Baptist Convention or church service will have negative long term effects.

Yet, as the Kentucky Baptist Convention ended yesterday evening, we concluded in prayer and left the sanctuary. In that place, we had worshipped and celebrated all day with our brothers and sisters in Christ. But as we left and went back out into the world, we were reminded as we stepped out of the sanctuary that we are living in very dark days.

Our country is spiraling out of control. Sin that once hid itself in back allies now parades itself down Main Street. Families are being ripped apart by divorce and abuse. Filth permeates our nation’s media. Abortion is being funded by tax dollars and the homosexual agenda is forcing its intolerant policies on those who it deems ‘intolerant.’ Despair is growing over issues like the shaky job market, the increased cost of living, the fear of losing insurance, etc. This list could go on and on.

As Christians, we have been called to be salt (to hold back decay) and yet we see moral decay all around us that is getting worse, not better. We are called to be light (to shine Jesus’ Gospel into a dark world) and yet we see moral darkness growing, not shrinking. Any fair minded person would agree that our nation is in trouble and it is getting more troublesome as time goes by!

As I read through the Old Testament book of Joel this morning, I was reminded that God moves against nations that refuse to submit to Him. A nation that does not pursue righteousness will sooner or later experience His judgment. I think that it is fair to say that America is experiencing God’s judgment right now.

What was the answer? What remedy did God give His people to end the judgment? It was a call to acknowledge that things were not OK and to acknowledge that it was because of their sin. God called His people to repentance.

“‘Yet even now,’ declares the LORD, ‘return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; and rend your hearts and not your garments.’ Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster. Who knows whether he will not turn and relent, and leave a blessing behind him, a grain offering and a drink offering for the LORD your God? Blow the trumpet in Zion; consecrate a fast; call a solemn assembly; gather the people. Consecrate the congregation; assemble the elders; gather the children, even nursing infants. Let the bridegroom leave his room, and the bride her chamber.” (Joel 2:12-16)

What Joel recounts in this text is not a time of celebration. It is a time of brokenness. A time of repentance.

And yet, I realize that as we lead, there needs to be a balance. We should be a people who enjoy celebrating what God has done through us. Yet, we should also experience true brokenness over our country’s condition so much so that we are moved to prayer, fasting and repentance.

I struggle with how to balance these two. How can we as Christian leaders, as churches, as the Kentucky Baptist Convention celebrate the victories God has and is accomplishing through us while acknowledging that times are dark? How do we keep celebrating while encouraging brokenness and repentance in those we lead?

May the Lord give us wisdom in this matter. Time is running out.