18 September 2013

You don't have to be a leader to be a leader

...okay, this has almost nothing to do with what I'm writing about.  Just wanted an excuse to throw it in there anyway.The leadership books our culture promotes are tomes full of management techniques, suggestions for maximum efficiency, and quotes about the benefit of humility.  Kevin Kruse of Forbes.com defines leadership in this way:
"Leadership is a process of social influence, which maximizes the efforts of others, towards the achievement of a goal."
Here's the thing.  Good leadership does originate from the ability to instruct, direct, and influence, but it is predicated on more than simply action.  Good leadership is about achieving a goal, but that goal is more than simply meeting a quota or overcoming an obstacle.  Humility is essential for leadership, but it is more than simply rolling up your sleeves in order to share the workload of your subordinates.  It is more than simply seeing yourself the way others see you.  In other words, the philosophy on leadership which the modern corporate world embraces isn't necessarily wrong.  It's just incomplete.

The qualifications Paul lists in Titus 1 for Elders and Pastors (overseers) are listed below.  An Elder must be:
  • above reproach - a man who is "without fault": in other words, a man who - while imperfect - is unable to be accused of ongoing sinful conduct
  • the husband of one wife - a man of "conjugal chastity" (Matthew Henry); a man who practices godly sexuality, whose heart and body are satisfied with the wife of his youth (Proverbs 5.18)
  • the father of godly children - a man who raises his children to avoid sexual promiscuity (debauchery), who encourages them to aspire to commendable character, who teaches them to submit to authority
  • a steward - a man who recognizes that the role he fills is merely one of a shepherd, understanding that he boasts no ownership; a man who is set apart for ministry
  • patient - a man who is not quick-tempered, who is able both to endure disagreeable circumstances with faith and to extend grace to difficult people
  • temperate - a man who is not a drunkard, not prone to violence, and not greedy for monetary or physical gain
  • hospitable - a man who is less concerned about expense and inconvenience than the comfort and needs of others
  • a lover of good - a purveyor of righteousness and justice; a man whose heart breaks for the same reasons as the Lord's
  • upright and holy - a man who genuinely pursues God's command to be holy as He is holy with every facet of his life (1 Peter 1.16)
  • disciplined - a man of practiced routine, of spiritual and physical exercise, of hard work
  • given to sound doctrine - a man dedicated to both a). the teaching of correct theology and b). the sharp rebuke of faulty theology
I'm not making the argument that every person in any position of authority must fulfill each of these characteristics, possess an M.Div., and boast hours of community service.  That's not the reason Paul, by the direction of the Holy Spirit, made this list.  However, I am submitting this a challenge.

We should all be pastors in our own way - leaders of men no matter what our profession.  Reading through this impressive list of character traits convicted me of the fact that, regardless of my occupation and social status, I want these qualities to be indicative of my life and my character.  Whether or not I find myself in church leadership now or in the future, I want to aspire to be a leader of men.  I owe this not only to those who look up to me, but to the One who sacrificed so much to enable me to walk in such holiness - the very One who desires the best for me, whose glorification is not only my greatest privilege but also my greatest responsibility.

Social leadership values gain, advancement, efficiency, and the benefit of the whole, but it lacks the motivation of righteousness.  Godly social leadership values the same exact things, but interpreted via the light of the Kingdom.  Godly social leadership says, "Let me make sure my life is in order (advancement; efficiency) so that I can a). bring the most glory to God through my decisions (gain) and b). simultaneously have the maximum amount of positive influence on the lives with which I am in direct conjunction (benefit of the whole)."

Isn't that what this is all about?

08 September 2013

Public Speaking 1.0

We took our 4-month-old puppy to the city today to visit Tara's sister.  I'd been prepared for the passersby to react positively toward her (the puppy, I mean): let's face it, she's adorable.  She has the type of face that attracts everyone's attention - even those gruff, middle-aged men who don't want to admit that they have a sensitive side.  Of course, Kaylee's a terrible flirt too, because she comes up to give kisses and then immediately runs away after whatever smell/sound/sight has attracted her two-second attention span.  Naturally, I was prepared to show her off to all the pedestrians of Philadelphia.

What got me thinking is the fact that, had it not been for innocent little Kaylee, bouncing obliviously around my ankles, perhaps not one of the people I spoke to today would have otherwise even made eye-contact.  The typical tunnel-vision mentality of people these days apparently can sometimes broaden.  It seems that the normal hangups of strangerhood can be temporarily suspended when there's a puppy involved.  We can exchange smiles, or maybe even trade salutations.

I guess everyone needs some type of buffer for intimacy to take place - at least initially.  We go to restaurants on first dates because we don't want to introduce the potential Mr. or Mrs. Right to the dirty laundry sitting in our living rooms just yet.  We like the internet because it means we can edit our review and our comments before we make them, and choose the best possible profile picture to highlight our more attractive physical qualities.  On the street, in broad daylight, it's an entirely different story.  Are we all so afraid of rejection that we don't want to risk the possibility of receiving a mildly gruff "hello?"  Or maybe we just worship this god called time so much that we can't risk losing a few seconds to trivial conversation.

But is conversation really trivial?  Sure, maybe we just shoot the breeze and talk about the weather (see what I did there?), but maybe that two-minute conversation was the most pleasant, most peaceful moment of someone's otherwise stressful day.  Maybe that brief chat about the glorious afternoon was the one break in an individual's anxious thoughts.  Maybe those brief words we shared comprised the only in-person conversation that individual had all day long.

But we don't think about that in the moment, do we?  We only think about where we have to go and how weird it is when someone's gaze lingers on us for longer than a cursory glance.

The point is this.  I'm just as guilty as the next person of averting my eyes when someone I don't know passes me on the street.  It takes courage in this age to address a stranger without the barrier of a computer screen or the respectable distance of a phone call to protect us.  This generation needs an absolute, unmistakeable, honest-to-God reason to approach a stranger.  Wouldn't life be so much easier if we just had everyone's number and screen name and e-mail address, so that we could just talk via text, IM or even phone call?  Wouldn't life be so much simpler if we never again had to speak face-to-face to another person we didn't know?

Thank God that's not the way this life works.

Maybe none of this strikes anyone else the way it did me.  I was simply amazed by how easy it was to strike up a conversation with a total stranger about dogs, about pets in general, or even about absolutely nothing, with Kaylee there to lighten the mood.  It was something that I took advantage of, because despite my reservations, I believe that investing in one another's lives is part of the reason we're still here on this planet.  It's why Jesus said, "Go and make disciples," rather than commissioning the 12 with building monasteries.  We are a people not meant for isolation, but fellowship and communion.  In fact, Christianity is about deep spiritual intimacy with one another - confessing our sins to one another and praying for one another.  Of course it seems uncomfortable, because we've become so antisocial that we're no good at doing that!  But it has to start somewhere.  It has to start with letting down our armor and letting people in.  Love can't operate under any other circumstances.

In all reality, it shouldn't take the company of a 4-month-old puppy for me to interact with people - or for them to interact with me for that matter, but I'm only responsible for one half of that equation.  It's something, like anything, that requires practice to do with ease and confidence, and I'm not always going to have Kaylee with me to make it easy.  But with a face like she has, it's certainly a great advantage.