The Mission Central Blog
Resources on Effective Leadership, Emotional Health, Spiritual Growth, and Faith and Work
If we think of ourselves as Christian leaders, we must first become followers. We must let Jesus include us on the only terms which he uses to include anyone: “Come, follow me.” If we, for any reason, think that we have arrived or secured a place for ourselves apart from answering that call, we are mistaken. Our own sin should be enough to remind us that we need a savior just as much as the next person does! No level of respectability and no set of social markers can rescue us from sin; only Jesus can do that.
A micromanaging boss can get under your skin. There’s something about having someone breathing down your neck—it’s not just annoying; it can feel infuriating. It makes you want to shout, “Just let me do my job!” At the other end of the spectrum, there’s the boss whose expectations are a mysterious void. You want to do a good job, but you’re hard-pressed to say what your job is. Sometimes you just make something up and do that for a while, because getting a straight answer or clear instructions is impossible. The sweet spot for empowering leadership is between those two extremes: The boss who provides clear expectations and helpful guidance, but leaves the details of execution up to you, because you’re smart enough and competent enough to figure it out.
It’s in his story of suffering that we see who Jesus is—the kind of person he is, and the kind of Messiah he is. In particular, we can learn about Jesus from his attitude toward his own suffering while it happens. Looking at the passages in Luke about Jesus’ betrayal, arrest, and passion, there are four aspects of his attitude toward suffering that emerge: • I’m ready for this. • I don’t have to fight this. • I can love others in the middle of this. • There’s something better on the other side of this.
At some level, when you ask for a raise, you’re telling your boss how to do her job. You’re saying, “It’s in your best interest to change compensation for one of your employees; here’s why.” So, before you ask, consider this: If you had your boss’s job, would you give you a raise? Why?
When a truth rests in our heart, it means that how we live will be different because of it. First, someone understands the truth in their head. Then they believe it in their heart. Then they bear out that belief through the actions of their body. In reflecting on the results of their actions, they gain a deeper understanding, and the cycle repeats.
I confess that I’m not sure, at the level of larger social and denominational structures, what can be done about this disagreement. Bonnie Kristian has spoken to the possibility of division in sobering terms; for many of our institutions we may have to say “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold.” But I do know that at the scale of interpersonal relationships and local congregations, Scripture calls for us to “make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3 NIV) and to “bear with each other and forgive one another” (Colossians 3:13 NIV). To that end, I recommend four difficult steps for conversations about race: 1. Practice a Posture of Prayer 2. Have Humility 3. Hold Your Ground, Gently 4. Champion Cultural Change
The example of surgery is instructive, because the costs of failure are so stark. The “July effect,” so-called for the month when U.S. medical residents begin their work, has an even bleaker nickname in the United Kingdom: the killing season. That irreverent moniker reminds us that there is no “failure free” option for teaching human beings new skills, even in life-and-death disciplines. Every summer, the experts grimace and hand over the knife to those who have never held it before. Whatever our line of work, we can learn to do the same for those who need the chance to learn.
How we respond to suffering sets the bounds on our personal growth, including our emotional health and maturity. Our response to suffering is not just a one-time act of the will. It’s a whole set of habits that are reinforced over time as we encounter small difficulties, either preparing us or leaving us empty-handed when a bigger trial comes our way.
Thankfulness is not just an action we perform, but rather a disposition of life that, Lord willing, increases over time and shapes our responses to our experiences more and more readily. Jesus taught us to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11). That daily petition is completed by daily gratitude for the daily bread God does supply, tracing the pattern on our hearts until the thankfulness comes easy, like the fit of a well-worn pair of shoes.