Leadership

Last night I saw Selma for the second time. The movie tells the story of the 1965 Selma to Montgomery voting rights marches. For those who have not taken the time to see this movie, please go. It is worth the price of admission. This movie is a stark reminder of a past that many would like to forget. 1965 was a time when Jim Crow laws shaped the daily lives of our brothers and sisters of color by instituting various racially motivated economic, education, and social hardships. These laws mandated the segregation of public schools, public places, and public transportation including restrooms, restaurants, and drinking fountains.

In the midst of all of this a leader and prophet emerges, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I had always assumed that leadership came easily to King. Hearing his sermons still takes the listener to a higher place. Who doesn’t resonate with “I have a dream” or “He’s allowed me to go to the mountain. And I’ve looked over, and I have seen the Promised Land”? King had a way of rallying people to his cause, of stirring people to action. I imagine that just being in his presence made you a better person.

The movie dared to expose a more personal side of King; a side that questioned, doubted, and wondered. Sometimes it is easy to assume that leadership is about confidence and strength. It was good to be reminded that leaders are human beings as well. King found ways to overcome his fears and questions. In doing this he became the prophet, pastor, and spiritual leader we needed and continue to need.

Today we still need people who can move beyond their fears, questions, and weaknesses to find the courage to speak truth to power. We need people to dream, to go to the mountain and see not what is but what can be.

Obstacles

A few weeks ago, my pastor made an interesting statement, “An obstacle is what the eye sees when it is distracted from the goal.” The more I have thought about this, the more I believe the statement to be true – especially for those of us who call ourselves Christians. But how can we know the difference between an obstacle and the goal?

According to my Reformed brothers and sisters, the highest end of man (humanity) is to glorify God and to fully enjoy him (God) forever. This sounds a whole lot like “the goal.”

Now, figuring out what the obstacles are is a tad more difficult.

For example, if Sunday worship helps us to glorify God, then it cannot be an obstacle, right? If this is the case, then why do we spend so much time arguing about worship? Some folks want their worship experience to be quiet and reflective; well others want their worship to be loud and expressive with a little dancing thrown in. Does this make worship a means to the goal or an obstacle?

Worship is simple compared with some of the other issues faced by the church. Is God a God of life or choice? Should we pray for victory in war or the courage to be a people of peace regardless of what others have done?

Keeping our eyes on the goal is important, but obstacles are a fact of life. Debating the merits of the obstacles is an inescapable reality. Is it possible that healthy discussions about obstacles help us to better see and understand the goal?

Maybe the problem isn’t the obstacle itself, but rather how we choose to engage the obstacle.

Can you imagine a church where people with different understandings and beliefs about the obstacles choose to worship together anyway?