Category Archives: Leadership

Weekend Survey–Leadership Qualities

   For this weekend’s survey, let us consider this question: “What three leadership qualities do you consider to be the most important?”

   While we are currently under the spectre of a national election, this survey is not aimed just on the political. I am speaking of leadership in general. While this obviously includes elected leaders, it would also apply to church leaders, community leaders, work leaders, etc.

   Here are my answers in no particular order:

  • Vision–a leader must have an idea of where he is taking his followers.
  • Discernment–a leader must know the difference between right and wrong.
  • Determination–a leader must commit to his vision and remain so, despite the obstacles.

What do you think? I am interested to hear your opinions.

Have a blessed and safe weekend.

Foundational Criteria

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

The very birth of our country was spawned by this belief. This conviction led our founding fathers to risk their life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness in order to form a Union that would provide these rights for successive generations.

Our nation is also based upon the principles of democracy. While our government is a form of republic, it operates under the premise that the voice of every citizen carries weight.

This places upon the shoulders of government the immense and priceless burden of protecting these rights for every citizen. A government that fails to pursue the protection of these rights with the same zeal for all citizens is lacking in meeting the criteria of a true democracy.

This also provides to the citizen a yardstick by which each candidate for public office may be measured. As we evaluate the two tickets that are legitimate candidates for the presidency we should apply this yardstick to each.

Sen. McCain and Gov. Palin have both stated unequivocally that they believe that life begins at conception. Sen. McCain has a consistent record in Congress of voting pro-life and has stated his intention of appointing judges who share his view. Sarah Palin’s views on the matter are well-documented as well. Both have shouldered the responsibility of protecting the right to life of even the youngest of citizens, even those who are deemed to have special needs.

Sen. Obama has publicly confessed his ignorance on exactly when life begins. This raises questions about his ability or inclination to protect the right to life of all Americans. Sen. Biden has stated that he believes that life begins at conception but does not feel obligated to protect that life. Both of these men have a congressional record that indicates their deficient value of the life of the unborn.

Additionally, Obama’s website states his position that the most fundamental right is the right to vote. While voting is undeniably an important privilege, it is not to be mistaken as being as weighty as the right to life. Again, confusion and ignorance seems to characterize Obama’s position on the matter.

For those who read this, I would pose this question, “If we cannot trust the Democratic ticket to protect the first and most basic of all rights for our weakest citizens, how can we trust them to protect any of our rights?”

If the right to life is denied, the other rights are meaningless.

The value of life is determined by the fact that man was created in the image of God as a living soul. It is not based upon the circumstances of their conception, the abilities of their parent(s) to provide for them, the environment of their birth or their mental and physical abilities.

When presidents, judges and lawmakers start determining whose life is valuable enough to protect, we are treading on a slope that is nothing more than oil-coated glass. When we surrender the right to life to the judgment of others, we place them in the role of God and we risk forfeiting our own right at some point.

Let us elect leaders who recognize the sanctity of life so that the blessings of liberty and the pursuit of happiness may continue.

General Observations on the Election

I can say, without a doubt, that this has been the most interesting presidential campaign that I can recall. The almost unlimited stream of data on the candidates that is available has certainly made it possible for voters to make informed decisions. The minute details of the candidates lives are exposed for all the world to see. It would not surprise me in the least to see Wolf Blitzer report that John McCain fell asleep with his dentures still in, or for Sean Hannity to bring breaking news that Barack Obama switched brands of deodorant.

Another thing that has made this an enjoyable campaign is blogging. I had not yet discovered the world of online, self-published punditry in the previous presidential race, so it has been provocative, to say the least, to read the thoughts of so many others and interact with them in the discussion.

In many of the discussions in which I have participated, invariably theological questions and concerns are raised. This is probably due to the fact that most of the blogs that I frequent are operated by Christians and we understand the dynamic of our faith touching every part of our lives. I have seen many of these conversations escalate to the point of name-calling, questioning ones salvation, slurs, twisting of words, etc. Come to think of it, it really hasn’t been all that different from a lot of theological conversations after all. 😉

I wanted to share just a few thoughts that I am using to help keep my perspective on track (I think).

1.  We are electing a president, not a pastor.

There is a difference between leading the country and leading a church. To confuse the two may be an indication that either ones church is over-politicized (gasp, that could never happen), or that we are assuming that God’s kingdom may somehow be hamstrung if we don’t elect the right candidate.

I find it ironic that many of the extreme right consider themselves to be adherents of Ronald Reagan and yet turn up their nose at John McCain. Now, I am not dissing the Gipper, I admired the man greatly (I came within a whisker of naming my oldest son after him), but many of the same theological objections I have heard some raise about McCain would also apply to Reagan. Ronny was known to imbibe, he was divorced from his first wife and while he professed to be a Christian, his church affiliation could hardly be called evangelical.

In our nation’s history, we have never had a president who would make a good pastor. Why is this election suddenly different?

The Bible gives a list of requirements for the office of bishop/elder/pastor, it does not do so for the leader of a country. It does tell us about the consequences of having ungodly leaders, but if there is an inventory of qualifications I have not seen it.

2.  Change does not begin at the White House.

I know I am leading with the trump card of both candidates, here. I honestly believe both men are sincere in wanting to bring change to this country. However, if we as voters are naiive enough to believe that even the Apostle Paul could change the course of this country we are dreaming.

No, change begins at my house and your house. In four years, we will be doing this whole process again (won’t THAT be fun?) and it is highly unlikely that the political landscape will be changed significantly by that time. What brings lasting change is what happens in the homes of the American people. We each have the opportunity to bring change.

Someone wisely stated it this way, “If the Ten Commandments were on the walls of more homes, it wouldn’t be as big an issue about putting them on the walls of the courthouses.”

3.  We will always be voting for the lesser of two evils.

By its very definition, an election means that I am choosing a candidate that I believe is better suited for the job at hand than is his/her opponent. For me to think otherwise is to distort the intent of the process. There has never been a perfect candidate and there never will be. Mankind is inherently sinful and everyone who has their hat in the ring is in that category.

I do not intend for this to be offensive, although some may find it to be so. Those who abstain from voting, simply because they cannot find a candidate who agrees with them on everything deserve to live in a dictatorship.

I owe it to our forefathers, our veterans, our troops, my family, myself, you and the generations that will follow to vote.

4.  The sun will come out tomorrow.

‘Nuff said.

Negotiating With Wolves

Once upon a time, in a beautiful green meadow, there lived a flock of sheep. It was a beautiful meadow that offered many wonderful opportunities for happiness and comfort to the sheep who lived there. The flock had grazed and watered in this meadow for many years, growing from just a hardy handful to a swelling population that reflected much diversity.

Due to the bountiful opportunities for betterment that presented themselves in the meadow, this particular flock became the envy of all of the other flocks and herds around the region. Each generation of sheep had the chance to learn more, grow more and have more than the generation before it. The flock grew so great that many of the other flocks benefitted from its greatness as well.

While the meadow was not perfect, it was still an amazing place in which to live, and more importantly, raise little lambs who would one day make the flock even larger and greater.

After a period of time, a problem arose. In one particular corner of the meadow, a pack of wolves began to lurk. They began to devour some of the youngest lambs. They did not hurt the adult sheep, just a few of the little ones.

Alarmed by these events, the sheep held a conference. They began to discuss whether or not the wolves had any right to eat the lambs. Although most were against the idea, there were a few who actually sided with the wolves. When they appealed to some of the leaders of the flock for wisdom, the leaders said, “Well, after all, a wolf is a wolf and will do what a wolf does. I suppose the only solution is to chase the wolves away, but is it really worthwhile to do so? After all, we risk getting hurt or killed ourselves if we try to fight the wolves, and besides, we might hurt the feelings of those sheep who like the wolves. Why don’t we just live and let live?”

Time went by and things got worse. The lambs began disappearing in increasing numbers. The wolves got more and more brazen with their killings until they were seen to openly flaunt their kills. Amazingly there were some of the sheep who actually cheered them and allowed their lambs to wander into the areas where the wolves were known to kill. They justified it by saying, “Well, that lamb was deformed.” Or, “I really don’t have the time or the grass to raise a lamb right now.” Or, “That lamb was sired by the wrong ram.” The future of the flock was actually being affected because of the number of lambs being killed.

There was one particular wolf who was very eloquent and charming, but had eaten his fair share of lambs. This wolf actually had a desire to become the leader of the flock of sheep.

Many of the sheep protested, “We don’t want you to lead our flock. You have killed too many of our little ones. Why should we think things will be better if you become our leader?”

The wolf replied, “I am not going to change my appetite. I am still going to continue to devour your lambs. I only eat the lambs of those sheep that I trust. I believe those ewes who send their lambs to my corner have given it a lot of thought and have discussed it with those they trust. It is their choice and their right to do what they will with the lives of their little lambs. But, perhaps we can move beyond the question of my appetite and maybe we can discuss how we can keep so many lambs from coming near me.”

As you can see, the sheep are faced with a big decision. The future well-being of their flock will be greatly affected by their choice.

What should they do?

Obama’s Hypocrisy

In the last few months, Barack Obama and his supporters have castigated President Bush for leading our nation into war on less than perfect intelligence reports. In addition, they have mocked Republican presidential candidate, John McCain, for his statement that he “didn’t know much about economics.”

In the recent Saddleback Forum, Obama made a statement that exceeds the definition of hypocrisy. When asked by forum moderator, Rick Warren, “When do you think unborn babies should begin to receive human rights?” he glibly replied that if Warren were asking for a theological or scientific definition of when life began he would “Have to go to higher pay-grade than mine.”

Over the last thirty years or so, there has been no moral issue that is more of a hot-button with voters than that of abortion. This man wishes to be the president of the United States and has no opinion on when life begins. Are you kidding me? What is worse, he seems to have no desire to find out.

He is willing and desirous (this video shows his intent) to continue a holocaust of unborn children and is tacitly admitting that he doesn’t even know if the underlying principle of his position is correct. Such a man has no place in authority over the lives and deaths of other people.

Don’t let the smooth talk about working past our disagreements fool you. He has stated that in religious matters, he welcomes “vigorous and open debate.” Yet when James Dobson questioned the validity of his interpretation of the Sermon on the Mount, Obama’s response was, “He’s just making stuff up.”

This underscores what I have written earlier about Obama’s inability to lead the nation. If his moral compass is nothing more than public opinion and his hypocrisy is this blatant, electing him president is worse than a crap shoot.

I would suggest to the senator that there is One with a higher pay-grade than him and He has already defined life as beginning with conception.

Perhaps Obama should actually read the Bible that he so often misquotes.

What Concerns Me About Obama

As we approach the national conventions of the major political parties we are seeing the candidates attempt to position themselves on the various issues as well as keep America in suspense as to who their respective running mates will be.

I have already written about why I believe John McCain would be the best choice for president. I believe his experience, honesty and ability to cooperate across the aisle without compromising core issues would go a long way in helping this country move forward out of our current funk.

As I consider Barack Obama, I see some causes for concern. First, let me say that I find him to be a personable, intelligent man who is a very eloquent and at times inspiring speaker.

Many have attempted, some legitimately so, to point out some extreme aspects of the Obama package. His connections to Jeremiah Wright, slumlords, socialistic icons and others have been well documented. However, it is not his extremism that concerns me. There is too much gridlock balance in Congress for him to be able to advance any radical positions that he may hold. I believe the mainstream of America is probably too solidly centrist to tolerate extremism on either side.

I do take issue with his positions on moral issues such as abortion and gay rights and would have some concerns over what type of judges he would be likely to appoint, but in all fairness, the Republicans have had opportunity to right these wrongs over the last eight years and have failed to do so.

What does concern me is his lack of experience and confidence in where he stands. While it is not unusual for politicians to change their minds over time on various issues, it has been somewhat alarming to see how Obama is vacillating so freely on issues like abortion, gun control, offshore drilling and others. These changes have not occurred over a course of years, but literally in months and even weeks, presenting the senator as a morph from an extreme liberal during the primary to a moderate in the general election. One can’t help but wonder if this is not merely an attempt to appeal to the undecided voters who stand in the middle. Obama has attempted to present himself as an agent of change, and indeed it appears he is.

His inexperience is also coming to light. In his recent trip to Europe, he blew off a scheduled visit to one of our military hospitals. Even if we give him the benefit of the doubt and stipulate that his motive for doing this was sincere, I still would submit that it was the wrong choice. Our soldiers deserve the best attention that our leaders can give them. While he has his sights set on being president, he is still a U.S. Senator who has every right and responsibility to visit our troops.  I am not a soldier, but I cannot help but think that if I was one and was lying wounded in a hospital far from home, I would even be glad to see one of the Clintons. Whether or not they were sincere would matter little, it would be important to me to know that my country had not forgotten me.

To me, this raises questions about Obama’s ability to make the right decisions where our military is concerned. Contrary to what Wesley Clark would have us believe, I do think John McCain’s military experience is a powerful factor in this case, rendering him much more suited for the job of commander-in-chief.

I am not convinced that Obama is the secret monster that many make him out to be, but I do not feel confident at all about his abilities to lead our country. I believe that as the candidates continue to debate the issues, his inexperience will become even more highlighted.

The question is, will anyone notice?

Christ the Sensitive Leader

   I occasionally often find myself in a bit of a leadership dilemna. There are times when I have a tendency to get too far ahead of those whom I am trying to lead. It’s not because I’m that much better or faster than them, it’s that I fail to be sensitive to where they are.

   Jesus was a master communicator who was sensitive to the individualities of those who were around Him. In one place you will find Him gently correcting Martha for getting her feathers ruffled at Mary. In another, you will see Him sternly rebuking the impulsive Peter who should have known better than to try to correct the teacher. In yet another instance, see Him use what might even be considered to be heavy-handed tactics (calling the Pharisees “generation of vipers”, driving the money-changers out of the temple) to get His point across.

   A great challenge to Christian leaders is to find the balanced sensitivity that Christ showed. Notice what Isaiah 42:3 has to say about Him:

A bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench: he shall bring forth judgement unto truth.

   This text indicates that Jesus would be sensitive to both those who were broken and those who were on top of things. A “bruised reed” is quite literally a “cracked rod”. A rod was a very useful tool, especially for shepherds. However, if it ever became cracked due to use, age or stress, it was no longer strong enough to fulfill its purpose. Usually, so that it would not be used by mistake, the owner of a cracked rod would simply break the rod in two over his knee and throw the pieces in the fire.

   How often do we discard the cracked rods? Those who are discouraged, disillusioned or defeated, those who have failed and fallen, those who strayed, do not need to be discarded as being unprofitable. We don’t need to finish breaking them. Why? Because Jesus didn’t do it. The Master had the ability to repair the cracked rod and still use it for His glory. As ministers of His grace, can God not accomplish that same healing through us?

   By the same token, we should never discourage those whose passion for God is growing. Those who are a flax (a candle-wick) that are beginning to catch fire and burst into a light-giving flame for God should receive all of the encouragement that we can give. We should never quench those smoking flaxes with the cold waters of cynicism, pride or judgment.

   This is an area of my life and ministry that God has been reconstructing. My prayer is that God will make me to be a better listener,  a more perceptive, more compassionate, more patient, and generally more sensitive leader to those to whom I minister. I’m just glad that when I fail in these areas, He doesn’t break me over His knee and throw me away.