From the Isenheim Altarpiece, painted by Matthias Grunewald
When Jesus arrived as the long-anticipated king of Israel, he was a far cry from the kind of leader that many expected him to be. While the gospel narratives describe him as one with authority and power, it was the ways he used that authority and power that surprised many. Instead of inciting a military revolt against Israel’s oppressors, he travelled around as a homeless man doing things like healing people, feeding them, and washing their feet. In other words, he served people.
Jesus’ leadership in this way is the ultimate example of what many Christian leadership resources have called “servant-leadership.” I believe this is a fitting term. Jesus does indeed provide a model of leadership that finds its modus operandi in service to God and one’s fellow human beings. Christian leadership resources are correct in pointing to service as the functional heart of leadership. However, in my opinion some of these resources, while appropriately citing Jesus as an example to follow, miss some theologically richer dimensions of his servanthood. When understood in the context of the person and work of Jesus, his servanthood has something more profound to offer than just a moral example of what it means to lead as a Christian. Continue reading →
One of my favorite actors just died. Can’t say that I liked any of the characters he played, but I liked his skill at playing them. For you see, he was especially good at playing bad guys—the kinds you love to hate. I especially remember a particular preacher he played. This “Man of God” had beautiful golden curly hair (of which he was perversely proud) along with his fine clothes and his honeyed and heavenly speech. However, when hallowed things were invoked, it was to serve the preacher’s own purposes (usually self-preservation and self-glorification). And when he spoke of Scripture, it was to justify his sin (or to describe his bowel movements). He was full of himself. It showed. And even though this fact was obvious to everyone, he didn’t seem to notice or care. Outside he was beautiful… inside, he was full of dead men’s bones. He was an empty-talker, a teacher of sordid gain. He professed God with his mouth and then denied Him with his deeds. He was just for show… until he was shot in the back as he ran uphill in chains to get help from his enemies. It was a perfect picture of the life of selfish pretention—running uphill, in chains, after the favor of those who couldn’t care less. Continue reading →
How about your view of yourself? If you are not the star athlete, the top sales associate, the supermom or dad, the greatest [fill in the blank], that does not mean you are stupid, unsuccessful, insignificant, or a failure. Most of us are somewhere in between. Striving for excellence is a process, one that requires pacing and patience. Striving for perfection is insanity and will only make you miserable.
So the next time you hear the statement, “Go hard or go home” consider these alternatives:
Something is better than nothing.
Perfection is not the goal, excellence is.
Excellence is always achievable if you remember that excellence is a process that never ends, requires patience and hard work, and allows for our continual growth, no matter where we are on the journey.
Growth occurs in ebbs and flows. Don’t get discouraged when you get tired, fail to meet preset expectations or disappoint others. Remind yourself of #’s 1, 2, and 3 and keep moving forward. Continue reading →
“Mary then took a pound of very costly perfume of pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped His feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of His disciples, who was intending to betray Him, said, “Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and given to poor people?” Now he said this, not because he was concerned about the poor, but because he was a thief, and as he had the money box, he used to pilfer what was put into it.” – John 12:3-6
I fear that Judas is still with us. He pretends to have concern for the poor, but is really concerned for his bank account or his political power. When giving is local, the money box is small. But as giving moves further and further away (such as from Washington D.C.) the money box gets larger and deeper and more hands can fit into it, and more people are tempted to take too much for themselves. Recently I have heard that only one quarter of every dollar collected by the government to assist the poor actually makes it to the poor. Though I’m not sure if this is true, it is true that while most of the country is experiencing a Carter Era misery index, the City of Washington D.C. is booming. It is rapidly becoming the richest district in the country. Continue reading →