Today's Reading: Mark 10:35-45
Those of you who read my blog regularly might remember that in yesterday’s entry I identified one of my favorite topics to explore: leadership.
And if you’re looking for resources on leadership these days, there is certainly no shortage of them out there. Peruse the New York Times Best Sellers List of Hardcover Business Books for just a moment and you’ll find titles like “Fierce Leadership” and “Strengths Based Leadership”. Enter the words “leadership seminar” and “Los Angeles” in the Google search engine and you’ll get 2,710,000 hits. And ask the Leadership Gurus Network to name the top 30 speakers on leadership, and you’ll get a list that ranges from Roger Konopasek at #30 to John Maxwell at #1. Everywhere you turn these days it seems folks are hungry to learn about effective leadership.
When folks ask me where I turn to learn about effective leadership, I get a big smile on my face. I smile because the resource I most frequently turn to isn’t on any best seller list (at least not the one in the business section of the newspaper). Nor has my leading resource mass produced seminars on leadership that are packing them in. And sadly my resource failed to show anywhere on the Leadership Gurus Network list of top 30 leaders.
Let me tell you why I say that.
There are dozens of reasons why I could identify Jesus as being the epitome of a great leader. My primary reason for picking Jesus, however, is because Jesus had what I believe is the single most important attribute of a good leader: he embodied the principles for which he stood.
When he said, “Whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave,” for instance, Jesus didn’t leave it at he abstract level. He left them concrete images for what a life of service looked like. From his willingness to deviate from his travel itinerary at a moment’s notice in order to effect healing, to the moment he grabbed a towel and a basin and washed his disciples feet on their last night together – Jesus didn’t just describe what greatness looked like: he showed them.
And when he talked about one who is great giving one’s life in exchange for others – once again, Jesus didn’t leave them drowning in a sea of rhetoric like we pastors are prone to do. Whether he was leaving behind his biological family in his quest to teach and transform lives; or whether he was leaving behind his family of choice on the road to the cross – Jesus’ showed them what it looked like to exchange one’s life for another’s.
In other words, through both word and deed Jesus did three things all great leaders do: he taught them, he equipped them, and then he sent them.
One of the reasons I believe the world today is starved for great leaders is that we’ve lost the model of leadership that Jesus presented us with. Those who aspire to greatness these days tend to focus on just the first third of that equation (the teaching) and ignore the final two thirds (the equipping and sending parts).
Thankfully as members of The United Church of Christ – we belong to a denomination that has not forgotten any of those elements of greatness. For through the thread that weaves our local UCC churches together – a thread called Our Churches Wider Mission or OCWM – we knit ourselves together with 1.2 million persons from around the country to teach, equip, and send one another into our own expressions of the mission field.
For every dollar a local church commits to OCWM, Jesus’ words are taught – whether that be through the Southern California-Nevada Conferences’ camping ministries at Pilgrim Pines, or through the Seasons of the Spirit curriculum put together for our Sunday schools by Local Church Ministries. For every dollar a local church dedicates to OCWM, disciples are equipped to respond to Jesus’ call – whether it’s through the training and support for members of our local churches that happens at our Conference’s Annual Meeting; or through the Wider Church Ministries work to organize relief efforts in Samoa & Tonga following the recent tsunami. For every dollar a local church dedicates to OCWM, followers of Jesus are sent into the mission field – whether it’s through the conference’s ability facilitation of the pastoral search process; or through the Justice & Witness Ministries effort to mobilize supporters of health care reform.
Of course in order for Jesus’ call to greatness to be realized through vehicles such as OCWM, it requires the response of courageous individuals in faithful local churches who will forward say: “We have not only heard Jesus’ call to greatness– we will go the next step and put our money where our mouths are. We will do what it takes to teach, equip, and send.”
This morning we have someone special with us who will celebrate one local church who has done just that: committed itself to supporting Jesus’ vision of greatness by faithfully supporting OCWM. I’d like to invite forward Ann Feaver, chair of the Southern California-Nevada Conference’s board of directors, to recognize that church…