They all held back
Frozen in doubt and dismay
Until there arose a leader to show them the way
They all held back
Frozen in doubt and dismay
Until there arose a leader to show them the way
There were guides, and then there was Angus MacDonald.
In his twenty years as a guide into the New Territory he had never lost a charge. A mountain man’s mountain man, he was a skilled tracker, scout, and a sure hand with medical attention as well. He did not hurry stragglers beyond their abilities, nor did he abandon the weak.
For the past five years, his son, Rory had joined him in bringing migrants across the hill country. This only added to his reputation, as he no longer halted full parties in order to wait for the dawdlers, but would send his son on with the main party while he awaited the slow movers.
Angus MacDonald began his adult life as a up-land shepherd, and while his flock might have changed, his stewardship never did.
Though a leader of the people – yet blind was he
By customs and traditions benighted
And so it was at night he came
Was mere convenience or to avoid “shame?”
“You are a teacher – sent by God good –
For you do such things – no mere man could. . . .”
“Wait just a moment,” Jesus did say –
“To be born again, is the only way.”
“‘Born again?’ How can that be?
Return to the womb – when you’re as old as me?”
“How is it that you a leader of men,
Cannot my words – comprehend?
Be born not by flesh – but in Spirit true
This is the thing that men must do.”
And so Nicodemus went away –
His life forever – was changed that day.
John 3: 1-21
August Bible Poem 10
Thirty years before the chalkface
Wearily I stand
Korczak, Vygotsky, and Dweck as well
Feature in my lesson – planned
Yet for all the experience and the prep
Notes will still make their rounds
Doodles filling pages blank
And whispers start when I turn around
But I am patient, and I understand
Longevity in teaching has taught me such
I know that learning will in the end be had
If I use a firm but gentle touch
Hollywood made it look easy. How hard is it to serve you country? Okay, they shave your head and you have a few weeks of some sadist shouting at you, but then you graduate, and go out and do the job. Well that’s what some people think anyway.
What the films don’t show you is the near sleepless nights as you take watch so others can sleep peacefully. They don’t show you the shivering as you sit soaked to the skin in the face of a steady wind. You don’t feel the sand between your teeth. That’s true grit.
“In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that shows true grit. You can use the phrase or embody the theme. Who or what has true grit? Go where the prompt leads you!”
The Guardian Tree stood his post on the edge of the wood. Oh, how he had envied so many of the other saplings when he was in his youth. They, with their green foliage and spreading branches.
Ugly, I’m just ugly, he had thought. He had often repeated those words to himself, as he pondered his dull grey bark and stubby pointed branches.
When he was in his twenties these short branches began to thicken. While still short, they had begun to harden as well, and the points upon their ends became more pronounced.
He still didn’t see himself as beautiful. Oak and Maple, they still caught the eye of most passers-by, but Guardian knew he was appreciated by many in the forest. His unassuming looks, and power of character often drew comments of quiet praise from those who knew him and his purpose.
When he was forty-five, he was proud to take the Guardian’s Oath. He would stand firm, laying down his own life if necessary, for the “Good of the Wood.” How many Birches and Willows depended on him? How many saplings of every kind of bark and leaf stood behind his grey-spined trunk?
So for twenty more years he stood, silent protector on the edge of his community. Many of the young still marveled at him and his brethren standing in their quiet vigils. It seemed that the society as a whole, secretly even questioned why they were needed.
Then, un-expectantly the day came. “Beavers!” the panicked cries rang out. But there, when others cowered, the Guardians stood firm.
In tribute to law enforcement, the military, and others that quietly serve.
Much of what I know about leadership dates back to over three decades ago when I was an NCO. But each of those principles has been reenforced over the last couple of weeks when I, in my role as an Area Director for an international speakers’ club, organised and put on a humorous and extemporaneous speech contest.
It has been said that true leaders bring out the talents of others. If this is the case, I must be one of the most outstanding leaders of this century. While the first point may well be true, the second is ultimate exaggeration. What I did have in the past few weeks was a group of dedicated, supportive, and already talented people who were willing to give of their time and knowledge, to put together a great programme, and in so doing made me look like I knew what I was doing (even when I was still finding my way).
It is such teamwork, in which each member is working to a shared goal (in this case an entertaining and well run contest) that makes the difference. Leaders need to remember this above all else, “it isn’t about you!” It is about the goal, and about those going on the journey with you. Every leader is only as good as those that follow. If you lord over, if you are “the boss” then they will not so fervently follow. If one is not followed, then you ARE NOT leaders.
I am thankful and blessed for all who worked with me on this competition. The success is yours! I could not have done it without you.
While I am a good student, and a competent academic, I have never really been a “high flyer (nor have I aspired to be). I was a non-commissioned officer in the forces, vice chair of several civic and professional organisations; and when I have held roles such as “President” or “Director” it has always been at a “middle” tier of a larger organisation.
Put simply, I am very experienced at “middle management.” Being in the middle is a challenge, but also a blessing. Okay, on the down-side you are expected to carry out the plans and wishes of those higher up the organisation. You are limited at times in your own initiatives, by the protocols and requirements of the system.
That said, middle leaders have more of an interaction with the “rank and file.” You get to celebrate in their triumphs and accomplishments, not just the meeting of the “bottom line.”
Middle leaders, when they truly lead, motivate and inspire. They enjoy loyalty and a sense of purpose. But how do you get to that point?
First, is the realisation that true leaders don’t command, but by definition are followed. It is not “standing behind” or “dictating from upon high” but showing the way. It is sharing your vision, and taking part in the process.
This balance is often missed by those who aspire to “management” (and often by organisations themselves). I remember when I was in the service, we were putting up a command post tent. It was a windy day, and the canvas was whipping around. I reached out to grab a pole to help steady it, just as the battalion commander came past. He actually scolded me! “You aren’t a worker bee any more.” Here I was a middle ranked NCO helping to get the job done, and supporting my guys. This was a great middle management learning experience. Why? It taught me how to lead from the middle. I responded “Aye, aye that, Sir.” Delegated someone to take the pole. Then after he had passed drove some tent stakes.
A second lesson was that “stuff” flows down hill. As a middle manager I have always taken the approach that (unless it is really bad, or outside my skill base to deal with) the shortcomings of my team are my issue. I never, unless as noted above, flag the flaws of my followers “up hill.” Yet, I always praise them upwards. In a similar fashion, criticism from above rests on me, not my team. Yet, compliments from “above” always get to those who deserve them.
It in the end is not “about me.” Jesus had said “He who wants to be first, should be a servant.” This really fits the “leader” model. Serve, and you will be followed. I have come across this management advice in the scripture (as above), in union leadership “It is about the “Rank and File,” and in Toastmasters training I received yesterday, “It’s about the members.”
Leaders need always remember this. You are not a leader if no one follows. Position and title are empty without their organisation/cause being successful.
Ministry is a calling. Many people of God have answered the call, and many have left us words of advice on how to likewise respond to that call.
First of all there is a great point to ponder,
“Ministry’s not an option for a Christian; it’s a privilege.” Lori Hatcher
Ministry is not “something we will try for a while,” but a commitment. It is a blessing from God, even as our salvation is. It is not about us, but Him who sent us.
The great message that we have to carry, as ministers of God’s Word and followers of Jesus, is that God loves us not because of what we do or accomplish, but because God has created and redeemed us in love and has chosen us to proclaim that love as the true source of all human life.” Henri Nouwen
To carry out this calling, we may also need to leave behind the comfort of our churches and parishes. It may require us to do some leg work.
“To convert somebody go and take them by the hand and guide them.” Thomas Aquinas
And this guidance we bring needs to bring transformation. Otherwise, why were we sent. It is again about His work, not our reputations. We are not (or should not be) in the popularity business. De Sales put it wonderfully,
“The test of a preacher is that his congregation goes away saying, not “What a lovely sermon,” but, “I will do something!” Francis de Sales
We also need to remember that we too need to have a transformational and humble relationship with God,
“A minister may fill his pews, his communion roll, the mouths of the public, but what that minister is on his knees in secret before God Almighty, that he is and no more.” John Owen
We need to seek transformation. We need to grow! This requires us to be fed as well as to feed.
“Pastors and Bible teachers go about their work in communal settings, where they listen to as well as deliver sermons, hear as well as speak, and gain biblical insights from their parishioners as much as they pass them on.” Peter J. Leithart
Or as Gary Rohrmayer, more succinctly put it,
“Great leaders are teachable leaders.”
And ultimately, we as shepherds need to follow the example of our Good Shepherd, who laid down His life for His sheep. Our ministry may seem burdensome at times, and may not have the kudos (note again de Sales words, however) we might have expected. But here is a great point to close on,
“Ministry that costs nothing, accomplishes nothing.” John Henry Jowett
John’s humility and preparation to diminish so that Jesus would be elevated, does not mean he was a footnote to the biblical account. Jesus’ own testimony of John shows us this.
“When the messengers of John had left, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John. “What did you go out to the desert to see—a reed swayed by the wind? Then what did you go out to see? Someone dressed in fine garments? Those who dress luxuriously and live sumptuously are found in royal palaces. Then what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is the one about whom scripture says: ‘Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, he will prepare your way before you. I tell you, among those born of women, no one is greater than John . . . . (Luke 7:24 – 28 emphasis mine)”
John was more than a prophet. In fact in Matthew’s account Jesus adds,
“From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been subjected to violence, and violent people have been raiding it. For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John. And if you are willing to accept it, he is the Elijah who was to come. Whoever has ears, let them hear (Matthew 11: 12 – 15).”
John, the awaited Elijah? The precursor to the arrive of messiah? Jesus says – yes.
But we have this account immediately before Jesus’ announcement about John in which John seems to question Jesus’ identity.
“After Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and preach in the towns of Galilee. When John, who was in prison, heard about the deeds of the Messiah, he sent his disciples to ask him, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?” Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor (Matthew 11: 1 – 5).”
Was he despondent? While it has been argued that it was the despair of captivity and impending death which clouded his faith? Was this the same man who had seen the Spirit descend on Jesus? Had he not proclaimed Him to be the lamb of God? Is he doubting now?
Many pastors have drawn on this seeming crisis of faith to use as an analogy of our own doubts, and struggles. But this approach seems problematic (though not impossible) based on the scriptures. Let us remember that John had a loyal supporter base. Even in Acts, Paul encounters “those who only knew the baptism of John,” but not the gospel.
If we explore John’s attitude about his disciples “abandonment” of him in favour of Jesus (see Andrew and John) we might have a clue. The question may well have been for the sake of the messengers sent to Jesus, not for John himself. He may well have seen that his remaining followers needed to hear Jesus’ testimony for themselves.
John Chrysostom suggests a more consistent view that the question was intended for his disciples’ instruction, rather than his own benefit. He was passing the mantle of “master” from himself to his cousin, much as he had 2 or so years earlier with Andrew and John (John disciples who had witnessed Jesus’ baptism).
While we may never know while on this Earth the answer to this question, it does seem that John’s question offers an insight into the man. Whether as some suggest, that his humanity (even as one of the greatest men ever born of a woman) remained nonetheless human, with doubts and fears; or as a prophet to the end, giving direct teaching to his disciples by sending them to the source – this was a man of God.
John: Levite, prophet, teacher, and above all example. We have much to learn from this cousin of Jesus.