crumbling soil: reflections on leadership

Although the Oregon summer is presently hitting its highest temperatures of 2011, it has been an unusually cool and wet year. This has created precarious situations for roads and homes set on over-burdened water tables. The result? Crumbling top soil. Unstable hillsides. Landslides with broken roadways, homes, and even dreams.

Every metaphor risks its own literary landslide due to breakdowns in pertinent meaning. However, I posit that crumbling soil is an apt device to describe an undercurrent of change in the sphere of leadership.

Most of the published books on the topic bear little resemblance to reality. They perfected styles and philosophies of leadership which were relevant twenty to forty years ago, or more. The world is changing. It cares little that it now defies principles once touted as indisputable, highly effective, and foundational to leadership success. The former leadership lexicon is now found in the humor section of the local bookstore (Honest, it is. I would post the title here but I keep this blog rated G. It is probably for the best. Why promote bad and irrelevant ideas with their incomprehensible jargon, even if it is in the name of comedy?). That is, if you can find a book store which has not yet yielded to the pressures of this dynamically changing era.

It is a new day. We have an opportunity to give voice to alternative ways of viewing the world, and leading others into the challenges that lay ahead. By we, I mean you, me, anyone who may be on the margins of the culture. No titles. No high profile platforms. Just an idea or two, and enough gumption to speak both to the powerful and the weak with  persuasive voices of hope. In the book Tribes, a notable exception to much of the available business literature, Seth Godin writes, “We need you to lead us.” He was not speaking to the powerful; he was appealing to the masses, particularly those individuals in our midst with untapped creative potential to inspire the culture in beneficial ways.

When I resigned as a children’s pastor and dropped my ministry ordination with my former denomination, it seemed like a major part of my life had been shut down. It felt like crumbling soil. It has been surreal. In painful ways, risking disillusionment. Old dreams were laid to rest. Through it all, however, there has been a thread of hope.

So now, I feel like I am navigating a high canyon ridge. It also has its crumbling soil and rock. To the left is the deconstructionist despair which eventually leads to unabated theological, social, and political liberalism. To the right is the positivism of foundationalism and fundamentalism (and often arrogance and abuse of power, particularly in hierarchical ecclesial entities), whatever its theological or political stripe. Add to that the singular American trait of rugged individualism and entreprenuership which has infected denominations and local churches. Of course, they take many of their cues from outdated business literature (or recent publications which propagate newly packaged ideas which are contrary to biblical Christianity).

It’s hard to know where to turn. Negativism is not an option, to be sure. Nor is despair. So, I remind myself to turn to Christ in prayer and the reading of Scripture.

The world is changing. So am I. But Jesus Christ never changes (Hebrews 13:8).

He asks me how I will be obedient in stewarding the gifts he has given me. Me. A truck driver. He waits, a knowing smile on his face.

He is smiling at you, too. How will you respond, despite the crumbling soil in your life? How will you lead us?


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