Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Served or Followed

The adage goes something like this: You’re really not a leader if there are no followers.

Leadership is, of course, people business; in really broad brushstrokes, there are two kinds of people in the wake of leaders: those who serve and those who follow. With position often comes a certain amount of service and obedience. With chains of command and titles come staff and subordinates, employees who obey and serve because it is their job. I’ve noticed that some leaders seem to be gratified by the obedience of those who serve. In my view, this really isn’t being a leader; it is simply being a boss.

Leading those who serve is easy; leading those who follow is hard work. Being a boss is a cheap thrill; being a leader takes sacrifice, but the rewards are genuine. Bossing may work for tactics; it takes leadership to make a lasting impact, to see people grow, to cause strategic change, and to leave a legacy.

I’m finding myself entirely dissatisfied with merely being a boss, and increasingly irritated by those who insist on being a boss when they should be leaders (and especially intolerant of pastors who boss rather than lead… but that is probably the subject of another post). I’m working to inspire followers, whether I’m officially their boss or not. And I’m trying to purge any satisfaction that comes from being merely served, but rather find my gratification, and judge my own effectiveness, by the impact of those who may follow.

Sunday, April 27, 2008


We went, as a family, to see Expelled (really enjoyed it… made us both think and laugh). I went to the Seattle Times’ Web site to look up theaters and times (my goto place every time I want to see a movie… which would be about once or twice a year). I wasn’t all that surprised to read the lead line on their unbiased description: “A highly slanted documentary about evolution - or as the movie refers to it, "Darwinism" - and how its proponents have shut off any sort of debate about whether our origins depend, not on random mutation, but a Creator.” Of course it would be slanted; documentaries like these generally have some agenda to push.

Now reflecting on the movie, I no longer agree; I can’t really say that it was slanted at all. No Bible thumping. No jamming any ideas down anybody’s throat, theological ideas or otherwise. The main point of the movie is that it appears that powerful scientists refuse to behave scientifically when it comes to the origin of life.

So… where does the Times get off on declaring the movie slanted? In order to call something slanted, I suppose one ought to have a sense of plumb. And, I suppose that the Times’ writer decided long ago that Darwinism is a perfectly aligned fact of science.

Check out the movie and decide for yourself.

Sunday, April 06, 2008


Sociologists will tell us that social movements (religious and otherwise) take their facts and ologies (ideologies, theologies, ontologies, ecologies, etc.), and turn them into nonnegotiables. These nonnegotiables serve as a powerful unifying force that gives strength to the movement. The nonnegotiables become a filter through which every thought is passed, or rejected.

We religious types are expert in reducing our faith down to facts and theologies.

“We have the truth.” End of story. Not only will we not respond to any questions about our nonnegotiables, or any urging to expand or modify our understanding of nonnegotiables, we will take offense at any questions. If you persist in your questions, you don’t get to be part of the club.

I need to remember that our faith is founded on One who says that truth isn’t merely facts and ideas. Jesus says that He is the Truth. Absolute Truth is a person. We don’t figure out Truth; we are invited to a relationship with Truth.

We need to somehow master ways to hold onto Truth without shutting people out. If we truly believe, we can both have Truth and seek Truth.

In my world, I find that academics, of course, are truth seekers. We can open up ways to better reach, and better mobilize, academics by all being truth seekers together. Nonnegotiables throw up red flags; the typical academic sees nonnegotiables as a sign of intellectual weakness.

Facts and ideas are exhaustible; they can be entirely mastered and contained. But a relationship grows infinitely. Our relationship with The Truth is inexhaustible and uncontainable. This concept of Truth will stand up with academics (and the postmodern mind as well).

There are two definitions of nonnegotiable:
  • Ideological – that which cannot be questioned
  • Financial – that which cannot be traded

So far I’ve been dwelling on that first definition, the ideological definition that fits this posture of reducing our ideas and facts into a list of nonnegotiables. But the financial definition is interesting to me too. Think in terms of trying to get a latte at your friendly neighborhood Starbucks with a pocket full of dinars. The Iraqi dinar won’t get you much, especially those older dinar notes with Saddam’s face all over them. They are nonnegotiable; they can’t be traded and they are worthless.

In the realm of ideas, our nonnegotiables are often nonnegotiable.

When we cheapen Truth to a list of nonnegotiables, we make our positions worthless in today’s market of ideas. Our faith is not only big enough to stand up to all questions; it is expanded, enhanced, and strengthened by questions.

For a bit more of my thoughts, check out today's talk at The Chapel at http://www.cedarpark.org/thechapel/services