Leadership Courage Series # 40

As we review the nine leadership characteristics I think are necessary to lead the Church in this hour, today we turn to #5: Don’t “push on the rope”: the unmotivated are invulnerable to insight.

Ever tried to get a kite out of a tree?  If you’re like me, there’ll be moments when you’ll “push” the string, mindlessly assuming you can dislodge the kite by the motion.  Of course, you can’t.  A string, or rope lacks the stiffness to propel the kite away from you.  

Here’s the thing.  Those who are unmotivated lack the substance — the firmness of character — to be dislodged from their spiritual slumber by your orations—no matter how eloquent or convincing.

Have you noticed?

A leadership expert and friend of mine tells of leaving his home church for a five-year stint out East.  Upon his return, he was shocked to find the people he’d left were no more mature.  They struggled with the same issues, expressed immaturity in the same ways, were just as vulnerable to entitlement, sloth, and selfishness.  All their religious activity — all those sermons, all the small group meetings, all those hundreds of Sundays later — failed to produce any discernible progress toward maturity in most.

Edwin Friedman explains why: “The unmotivated are invulnerable to insight.”

Every Sunday, well-intentioned ministers bring artfully-crafted insights from God’s Word.

They assume that insight will motivate change.

And, people, by and large, are not changed—at least, not much.  Too many are invulnerable to insight.  You discover it when some sort of crisis occurs—and Christians respond with stunning immaturity.

Don’t they?

Without compelling motivation, there is insufficient hunger to embrace the price and pain of change.

I urge pastors who are committed to bringing change to work exclusively with those who are motivated.

People have trained themselves to take one of three postures toward risk and change. 

One group will attempt something new if it holds the possibility that a more beneficial outcome could result.  These, I call “PIONEERS”.

A second category engages life with the priority of fitting in.  They’ll entertain change when the majority of the group has decided that the change is safe and will be successful.  Then, the “BELONGERS” will change.  Not before.

The third classification of folks interpret life through the lens of loss.  “RESISTERS” strive to avoid loss whenever possible.  These will not change until the pain and loss of not changing exceeds the perceived loss they associate with the change.

Employing the distinction: Don’t “push on the rope”: the unmotivated are invulnerable to insight, Christian leaders must introduce, experiment with, and lead change with their pioneers.  To invite belongers and resisters to participate in the front end of any change process is just about the dumbest thing you can do!

Like pushing on a rope.