Leadership in a Culture of Cowardice (part fifteen)

What kind of pastor will lead the Church in our day to salt and light the world? Pastor, what can you do to arouse your church from its slumber and stand in the storm of insolence and juvenility that such a stirring will provoke?

For several weeks, we’ve been examining what it means to live and lead courageously amidst a culture of cowardice that appears to have captured the Church in North America, leaving American society rudderless in a tsunami of short-sightedness, sensuality, secularism, and self-centeredness.

Thus far, we’ve suggested:

  • 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.
  • Take full responsibility for your own emotional being and destiny.
  • Promote healthy differentiation within the church or system you lead.
  • Stand, as an exemplar, in the sabotage and backlash that must come.

Now we turn to the fifth essential of effective leadership. As before, I’m indebted to Edwin Friedman’s remarkable examination of leadership: Failure of Nerve. Here it is: Don’t “push on the rope”: the unmotivated are invulnerable to insight.

I’ve done a little boating. A few summers ago in Leland, Michigan, you’d have seen me standing on a dock, tugging on a line endeavoring to center the hull of our friends’ Boston Whaler over the submerged bunks of a small boat lift. Without thinking, I “push” my hand out, imagining that, by this motion, the boat will somehow move away from me. As if I’ve presumed that the rope has somehow stiffened so that it can propel the boat away from the dock and over the lift.

Of course, it can’t.

You cannot provoke change by pushing on a rope.

Friedman offers this: the unmotivated are invulnerable to insight.

29 unmotivated A29 unmotivated BYet, Sunday after Sunday, good hearted, well intentioned ministers stand in pulpits all over the land, bringing scintillating insights from God’s Word, trusting that learning will motivate life change.

Statistics, sadly, illuminate the truth of the matter. People, by and large, are not changed by our preaching—at least, not much.

Too many of our listeners are invulnerable to insight.

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

Even change that sounds good, change that would be preferable to what is, or change that could propel the listener toward an honorable outcome will elicit mental agreement, without igniting any action.

What, do you think, is the key?