We Don’t Need More Leaders

birdsRecently I heard what has become a common call to Good: someone working to build up more leaders from a particular group of people. In order to try to keep things objective I won’t tell you the description of the group: it really doesn’t matter. Let’s just call them “The Cohort”. This person was on a podcast describing an effort to have more people from The Cohort become leaders. It should be said that this person was entirely well-meaning. I really don’t think they were twisting their mustache because their evil plot to make new leaders was going ahead according to plan. But the whole idea was never even questioned. It was discussed in that myopic way that “Good” things are thought of these days: the same culture that believes in strict moral relativism largely assumes the good of anything that they assume helps people. What could possibly be wrong about wanting to make more leaders? Not wrong: misguided. We must always defend ourselves against our own assumptions and never contract the illness of someone else’s assumption.

Here is what struck me about the plan: it wasn’t to help people feed their children or educate themselves or die in peace: something that might be valuable in allowing people the dignity they inherently deserve. The call to make leaders is different and yet can be sold as being in the same category. It raises leadership to something that all should aspire to; a calling bordering on a human right.

But leadership is not a right; it is a responsibility. The world system believes we should crank out leaders from a diverse range of people not because of what those people might bring to the table but because they have a right to lead and we have no right to choose only certain groups from which to choose our leaders. Few seem to notice that to pick leaders based on a set of demographics is really no different than the problem they are trying to solve. If we have too many leaders from group “A” we think we should add more from group “B”; but we’re still making a person’s group the criteria for being a good leader. We haven’t made much progress.

Saying we need more leaders is like saying we need more airline pilots: a job inherently dangerous to the pilot and, if they perform poorly, to all the passengers. When I heard someone calling for more of The Cohort in leadership roles I couldn’t help but be concerned for them. “Wait, it’s a trap!” I wanted to tell them! “You don’t know what you’re getting yourself into!” Leaders suffer: they are alone, they are questioned, challenged, blamed, and are responsible for themselves and others. Like the first bird in the formation they take the wind resistance. Is what’s best for The Cohort really to draw more of them into that jungle?

Now on the other hand I Timothy 3:1 says, “The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task.” So maybe wanting to be a leader isn’t so bad. But then the following verses go on to describe the character required of a leader in God’s Church. This is because while in the Kingdom of the World leadership equals authority and authority is a virtue and virtue is a right, the Kingdom of God has no such view of leaders. Leaders are servants in the dark. They do not seek to be seen but to lead people toward the unseen. They see hidden things in hidden people: gifts and potential. They suffer in sacrifice for the good of those for whom they are accountable. They do not feel entitled to lead but a calling to serve.

We do not need more leaders. We need godly leaders.

Down to a Science

Fashion_1Art can be weird. But weird always has rules. Fact can be cold, but it unlocks our wonder.

Some things are subjective: they’re really in the eye of the beholder. Some people wear bright pink hats, but I don’t. Fashion can be weird and people like me don’t often get it. To be honest, I don’t think most people do, regardless of what they choose to wear. But when you hear fashion designers talk about style they stand out from the average person because when they describe what they like and dislike they are able to describe why, and they do it in objective terms. Where most people would feel their way through options on a clothing wrack, style professionals understand why certain cuts, colors, patterns, and shapes (or “silhouettes” to use their term) work or don’t work. Clothing is for them an art, but for the person who really understands an art it begins to border on science. Any art at the highest level of expertise begins to arc away from the realm of the subjective into the land of fact.

The reverse is true as well. Areas that deal in hard facts  will stay in that realm at lower levels. No high school or college physics students are encouraged to discover, only to learn (even if a well-meaning educational culture uses the terms interchangeably). But no professional scientist ever became famous for getting all their facts down correctly and acing their exams. Memorizing information doesn’t excite anyone. Those who are highly skilled in their fact-based craft are able to cross over into the subjective. They discover, conjecture, invent, guess, wonder. The invent new theories to describe things and speculate about what may likely be, even if it is just beyond reach. Science done exceptionally well borders on art.

We are often surprised by our own fascination with facts. We say things like, “You can’t make this stuff up!” and “Truth is stranger than fiction.” But the reality is that you can make this stuff up and fiction will always be stranger than reality. But it’s not really the strangeness that so intrigues us as it is the truth of an event. Why do we lap up “true crime” stories and listen with greater intent to a speaker talking about their own life rather than someone telling a story they made up? It is not because truth is stranger than fiction. Fiction is almost by definition stranger and there will always be a market for fantasy stories. But fact is almost by definition more fascinating. We may be entertained and even transported by pure fiction but fascination requires facts.

I am never satisfied by unfinished stories. I want to know if those two characters got married, if that person survived the rest of his journey. When I’m forced to speculate at fiction I never find it really fulfilling. But to speculate at facts is much more intriguing: What happened to the settlers of Roanoke Colony? Is Bigfoot real? How did the Easter Island Heads get there? We enjoy wondering about the truth.

We need both fact and fiction. Fact would be no fun without a little touch of wonder. Pure imagination wouldn’t come alive without some grounding in fact. I can’t help but to think that when God designed into us a hunger for truth and a sense of wonder He wove them from the same cloth, making imagination a door to truth; fact a window to wonder.