Leadership in a Culture of Cowardice (part four)

What does it take to be a courageous leader, particularly in a culture that has been growing more cowardly, childish, self-absorbed, and immature? Is it possible to live and lead in our Christian context so that spiritual and emotional maturity emerges?

If it is, you, as pastor, are key.

Let’s review for just a moment.  We’ve covered two essentials to lead effectively in a culture of cowardice that I say has become characteristic of the Church in North America today (2010).

One: Courageous leadership is not about skill, technique, or knowledge.  It is, most of all, about the presence of the leader as he or she moves through life.

Two: Take full responsibility for your own emotional being and destiny.

And today, we move from you to your organization, church, system, business, or family:  Three: Promote healthy differentiation within the church or system you lead.

Differentiation, as has been pointed out, means to take full responsibility for your own being and destiny.  So, stand in relationship with your congregants as if they were responsible for their own well-being, which, before God, of course, they are.

Remember how Jesus responded when his disciples were giving themselves to panic?  Did he make himself responsible for their emotions?  Their sense of wellbeing?  Their comfort or discomfort?


Remember the storm at sea.  In Mt 14:25-31, the disciples are terrified both by the storm and what they thought to be a “ghost” walking on the water.  Still out of the boat, Jesus says: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

Then, as Peter goes down into the water, Jesus grabs him and asks: “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”

I imagine most pastors might exclaim something like: “Hey, great job Pete!!  I am SO VERY PROUD OF YOU!!  Look how many steps you took!! Hey fellas, let’s hear it for Peter!!”

Jesus’ response indicates that he saw this incident as character-development training for challenges yet to confront Peter and the others.  When members of your church come up against frightening challenges, what is it that you think you’re doing with and for them?  Comfort?  Encouragement?  Appeasement?  Or, are you developing them into mature, godly, followers of Christ??

When the disciples are unable to free the boy with the symptoms of epilepsy, Jesus behaves as if they are responsible for their own preparation for ministry: “This kind can come out only by prayer.” [Mk 9:29]  Jesus seems to believe that regular Christians can actually free those who were suffering like this boy was.

My dear friend and mentor, Dr. J. Robert Clinton [Professor of Leadership at the School of Intercultural Studies, Fuller Theological Seminary] taught me what he called Goodwin’s Expectation Principle.

Essentially it is this: “People will live up to the expectations of those whom they respect.”

Jesus seems to have understood this.

Rather than making allowances for their playing small, their love of comfort, and their penchant for control, Jesus lived as if he expected his followers to live and minister like he did. He expected then to trust God and step up to the challenges that life presented.

Didn’t he?

More importantly, how often and how consistently do you?