The Training Table: What’s at the Heart of Great and/or Gruesome Leadership? Part 2 of 3.
Welcome to the Training Table where you can depend on some spiritually-nourishing chow, carefully prepared, to help you run the Godly and good race! For what good is a good race, unless it’s a Godly race (2 Timothy 4:7; 1 Corinthians 9:24)?
What’s at the Heart of Great and/or Gruesome Leadership?
As a reminder, here’s the plan: January 14—7 Habits of Spectacularly Unsuccessful Executives; January 21—Leadership: When and How Did It All Go Wrong? January 28—Leadership: It’s an Inside-Out Job. So Let’s Get It Right!
When and How Did the Ideals of Leadership… Actual Leaders…
Begin to Degenerate in So Many Ways?
This is a really great question, right? Or does the question and an answer really even matter? Fact is, it matters a great deal.
St. Paul in his letter to the church at Philippi famously said, Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:13-14).
The best and only way to thoroughly transform our thinking about any given subject is to, a) “forget the past” by first remembering exactly what it consisted of, b) why this was the case, c) what God did or didn’t have to do with the reality, d) what we did or didn’t have to do with the reality, e) to humbly and openly place both the truths and falsehoods of the reality at the foot of the cross, and f) to move back into the present not simply with a better understanding and a “healed sense of the past”—but a reconciled and redeemed version of how to restore reality… IN and UNDER CHRIST.
In order to “forget in a redemptive fashion”, we FIRST must apply a holy, redeemed, and sanctified remembering to and of the past—which then creates a whole array of spiritual, emotional, psychological, and physical conditions of preparedness, repentance, gratitude, a reality check, and the great potential for transformed, long-term behavioral change, aimed at glorifying God and blessing others in word and deed. [Far, far too many folks delve into the past and get stuck there in order to catalog and coalesce their identity as a victim; God has another way… And it’s all about being God-aware, self-aware, and VICTORIOUS in Christ!]
Like anything in life we wish to do far better than we’ve done it before, “pressing forward for the prize of LEADERSHIP” requires we look at the past and apply a detailed and holy forgetting—in the PRESENT to best prepare us for the FUTURE! It stands to reason that forgetting first requires remembering. How can we forget what we don’t first remember? But it’s not simply a rehash of the good, bad, and ugly of the past… Rather, it’s the hard yet richly rewarding work of REDEEMING the past… because God is not in the business of wasting ANY of our story!
Using the past for our ultimate good or to our detriment: The difference is huge.
Context is Everything! Ideas Have Consequences.
Always Start at 30,000’ and Move Down to Ground Zero.
Here’s a [way] high and cursory perspective of how things got so far off track in the realms of the culture’s perspective on LEADERSHIP… and the consequences of how individual LEADERS have suffered as well:
1) The consequences of ideas and “the domino game effect” [how one thing leads to another], “the law of the farm” [sowing and reaping], or exactly how consequences occur… is fascinating and extremely instructive.
The idea of leadership and the prevalence within our past culture of [primarily] men to lead, is dramatically different than the glaring absence of leadership learning and actual leaders in our day.
The reason for the slow, incremental, stage-by-stage, and sure change in leadership and leaders is the same rationale for all of the massive “plate tectonic” forces and changes in the culture—and the hearts of everyone therein! The heart of the matter is a matter of the heart… Ideas have consequences; and the heart of leadership has devolved in the same manner the rest of our culture has over the past 75-100 years.
The first philosopher’s ideas—such as Plato, Aristotle and others—had an impact on the worldview, thinking, and postulating new, “modern” philosophical treatises and ideas of the likes of… don’t miss the various lines of progression, “sowing and reaping”… Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Descartes [father of modern rationalism], John Locke [father of modern empiricism], David Hume [father of modern skepticism], Immanuel Kant [revolutionary philosopher], Karl Marx [father of modern utopianism], Soren Kierkegaard [the father of modern existentialism], Frederick Nietzsche [atheistic existentialist], Jean-Paul Sartre [existential nihilist], and Darwin [naturalistic, anti-theistic evolution—the dignity of human beings is at risk, origins and destinies questioned, humanism promoted] and Freud [founder of psychoanalysis, religion is simply rooted in deep psychological needs and wish projection… nothing more].
It’s worth reading this “line of reasoning”, “the flow of ideas and consequences”… and how the import of “The Age of Reason” [religion no longer needed to explain life], Enlightenment, Humanistic thinking and worldview began to have a radical influence on Western culture: It was an incremental yet sure movement away from being God-centered and towards being self-centered.
“Christians, in the last 80 years or so, have only been seeing things as bits and pieces which have gradually begun to trouble them and others, instead of understanding that they are the natural outcome of a change from a Christian World View to a Humanistic one; things such as over-permissiveness, pornography, the problem of the public schools, the breakdown of the family, abortion, infanticide (the killing of newborn babies), increased emphasis upon the euthanasia of the old and many, many other things.
All of these things and many more are only the results. We may be troubled with the individual thing, but in reality we are missing the whole thing if we do not see each of these things and many more as only symptoms of the deeper problem. And that is the change in our society, a change in our country, a change in the Western world from a Judeo-Christian consensus to a Humanistic one.
That is, instead of the final reality that exists being the infinite creator God; instead of that which is the basis of all reality being such a creator God, now largely, all else is seen as only material or energy which has existed forever in some form, shaped into its present complex form only by pure chance. (Francis Schaeffer, A Christian Manifesto, 1982, emphasis added)
The “hinge point of worldview history” in our land came when the ideas and consequences of the previous era came to fruition in “the ‘60’s” and ushered in a sea change of revolutionary sexual promiscuity [many consequences], the lowering of social mores, the implosion of the family nucleus, radical feminism, experimentation with psychedelic drugs of all sorts, etc.—all of which occurred, in large part, due to the glaring lack of Godly, male leadership.
Like a sublimely simple yet mind-bogglingly complex game of “idea, worldview domino’s”, each idea and person [above] has taken their place in advancing [or degrading] Western culture to get us to the place where we are today:
2) The philosophical and material fruit of the past… evidenced in our day?
Rampant Secularization—all that exists is the here-and-now; no transcendent, eternal realm exists; functionally, practically, there is no God; and no more shame.
Rampant Privatization—what we do in private has no bearing on our public life.
Rampant Pluralism—no more True Truth; what is true for you isn’t necessarily true for me; we all have a version of the truth; a relativistic culture.
The result is, as Francis Schaeffer so eloquently stated reality as being “a death in the city” began as a death in the heart of Western man as his estrangement from God became a more and more pervasive aspect of the culture:
When the Scripture speaks of man being thus foolish, it does not mean he is foolish only religiously. Rather, it means that he has accepted a position that is intellectually foolish not only with regard to what the Bible says, but also to what exists—the universe and its form, and the mannishness of man. In turning away from God and the truth which He has given, man has thus become foolishly foolish in regard to what man is and what the universe is. He is left with a position with which he cannot live, and he is caught in a multitude of intellectual and personal tensions. (Francis A. Schaeffer, Death in the City, 2002, Ch. 1, referring to Romans 1:21-22, emphasis added)
The Boiling Frog Syndrome…
Leadership Principles and Leaders Alike—Slow Cooked—But Just as Dead.
The boiling frog story is a widespread anecdote describing a frog slowly being boiled alive. The premise is that if a frog is placed in boiling water, it will jump out, but if it is placed in cold water that is slowly heated, it will not perceive the danger and will be cooked to death. The story is often used as a metaphor for the inability or unwillingness of people to react to significant changes that occur gradually… (Snopes)
Gradually… the import of philosophical ideas transformed leaders into the state and behavior of family-less, father-less “men without chests”, “geldings who the culture demands be fruitful”… For man is not just a chance configuration of atoms in the slipstream of meaningless chance history. No. Man, made in the image of God, has a purpose — to be in relationship to the God who is there. And whether it is in Jeremiah’s day, or in our own recent generations, the effect is the same. Man forgets his purpose, and thus he forgets who he is and what life means. (Francis A. Schaeffer, Death in the City, Ch. 1)
Virtually every institution in society has been seduced, assaulted, depredated, defiled, ransacked, dumbed-down, and stupefied by the above-referenced domino game of ideas and their consequences. Today’s leadership principles and leaders alike have, in far too many cases… not all… lost their sense of God, and, as a consequence, lost their sense of self as well.
Neither male nor female can lead in this state of heart and the circumstances that demand more than ever we know the principles of sound, enduring, and influencing leadership and the words and deeds of being a leader as well.
Whether we look at the lack of God-honoring and people-blessing leadership principles and/or leaders, we have arrived at the place we are today by slowly but surely—philosophy-by-philosophy, idea-by-idea, creed-by-creed, action-by-action, degradation-by-degradation, institution-by-institution—giving ourselves the freedom to jettison and suppress God’s True Truth and Love in exchange for falsehoods, idols, and passing fancies based upon our culture of comfort and our addiction to various kinds of narcissistic supplies! (Romans 1:18-32)
We’ve gotten ourselves into a helluva leadership pickle…
Is It Possible to Reverse Course?
We make men without chests and expect from them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. (C.S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man)
I personally find the above history, consequences of ideas, and how it all has had an impact on the degradation of the principles of enduring leadership and the hearts of leaders alike… to be fascinating.
It’s possible to reverse course, but [WAY] far from easy! In fact, it will take mostly miracle and a splash of man’s cooperation… That’s how bad it is, and how good God can be if we turn back to Him.
More importantly, knowing this [albeit on a very cursory level that deserves MUCH more thought and discussion…] provides us a connection to the next part of this 3-part series: January 28—Leadership: It’s an Inside-Out Job. So Let’s Get It Right!
Under the auspices of God’s Plan of Redemption, anything is possible to redeem. But the window of opportunity will not remain open indefinitely. When [not if…] we die, or Jesus Christ returns to make all things new, the window will not only be closed, but our choices as to whether we will or will not take up the battle on improving leadership in all realms of life and culture WILL be reflected in our statute and station in heaven or hell… for eternity. This is not a scare tactic but the reality of our existence. Our stewardship of leadership will be reflected in heaven and/or hell. It’s no small matter for God and it should not be minimized by us either.
There is little else in history and especially in our own day that’s more important than recouping the principles and practice of leadership. Because in order to do so, we have to FIRST turn back to God.
Please take a good chunk of your intentional and communal [not alone] time, talent, and treasure to ramp up your grasp of leadership principles and practices, my fellow marathoners for Christ. People are perishing for the lack of Godly leadership—and we will feast on how to get back to great leadership next time we sup’ at The Training Table. Bring a good appetite!
God richly bless you,
What strikes you as being most surprising—or most expected—in the “consequences of ideas” above?
What are the top five characteristics of leadership you most appreciate? Why these?
What characteristics of poor leadership have been most harmful to you?
The Consequences of Ideas, RC Sproul
Death in the City, Francis Schaeffer
The Abolition of Man, CS Lewis
A Christian Manifesto, Francis Schaeffer