Tag Archives: Maturity

Ministry To A Hopeless Man


The task of the Christian leader is to bring out the best in man and to lead him forward to a more human community; the danger is that his skilful diagnostic eye will become more an eye for distant and detailed analysis than the eye of compassionate partner.  And if priests and ministers of tomorrow think that more skill training is the solution for the problem of Christian leadership for the future generation, they may end up being more frustrated and disappointed than the leaders of today.  More training and structure are just as necessary as more bread for the hungry.  But just as bread given without love can bring war instead of peace, professionalism without compassion will turn forgiveness into a gimmick and the kingdom to come into a blindfold. (page 42)


Many will put their trust in him who went all the way, out of concern for just one of them.  The remark “He really cares for us” is often illustrated by stories which show that forgetting the many for the one is a sign of true leadership. (page 73)


All this suggests that when one has the courage to enter where life is experienced as most unique and most private, one touches the soul of the community.  The man who has spent many hours trying to understand, feel, and clarify the alienation and confusion of one of his fellow men might well be the best equipped to speak to the needs of the many, because all men are one at the wellspring of pain and joy. (page 73)


I have—found that the very feeling which has seemed to me most private, most personal and hence most incomprehensible to others, has turned out to be an expression for which there is a resonance in many other people.  It has led me to believe that what is most personal and unique in each one of us is probably the very element which would, if it were shared or expressed, speak most deeply to others.  This has helped me to understand artists and poets who have dared to express the unique in themselves. – Carol Rogers on page 74.


A Christian leader is not a leader because he announces a new idea and tries to convince the others of its worth; he is a leader because he faces the world with eyes full of expectation, with the expertise to take away the veil that covers its hidden potential.  Christian leadership is called ministry precisely to express that in the service of others new life can be brought about.  It is this service which gives eyes to see the flower breaking through the cracks in the street, ears to hear a word of forgiveness muted by hatred and hostility, and hands to feel a new life under the cover of death and destruction. (page 75)


Many ministers, priests and Christian laymen have become disillusioned, bitter and even hostile when years of hard work bear no fruit, when little change is accomplished.  Building a vocation on the expectations of concrete results, however conceived, is like building a house on sand instead of on solid rock, and even takes away the ability to accept successes as free gifts. (page 77)


Hope prevents us clinging to what we have and frees us to move away from the safe place and enter unknown and fearful territory.  This might sound romantic, but when a man enters which his fellow man into his fear of death and is able to wait for him right there, “leaving the safe place” might turn out to be a very difficult act of leadership.  It is an act of discipleship in which we follow the hard road of Christ, who entered death with nothing but bare hope. (page 77)

Crises and being tough

A crisis is a terrible thing to waster – Paul Romer, Stanford (page 149)


In a change program as the one needed here, ‘Someone has to be the unreasonable one’.  If you start accepting the excuses, however plausible, it is a slippery slope.  As I look back on four years in the Delivery Unit, I regret a number of cases of giving a department the benefit of the doubt, I can’t remember a single case of being too tough. (page 154)


Our second problem with courage is doing – we have passive approaches to spiritual growth – we read books, we go to seminars.  But the Bible is full of the courage of doing actual things.


1. You have to take responsibility


There has been a lot of research that has shown that people hit enormous problems when they don’t take responsibility.


2. Everyday courage is the courage to make a change


People trade in the ideal to settle for what is comfortable.


The promised land is always filled with stuff that you think can kill you.  For Israel it was the Canaanites.


3. Everyday is the courage not to make a change


Sometimes we blame.  A researcher called Brene Brown defines blame as a “way to discharge pain and discomfort.”  Very often it is our own pain and discomfort when we are dealing with blame.


4. Everyday courage is the courage to take God at his word


Look at the way that the word was trusted in taking Jericho.


Tells story of Tony Campolo giving up money and living with a beat up car.


Difficult Delivery



There are so many barriers to successful reform that one wonder sometimes how anyone ever achieves anything at all. It is not just the cynicism resulting from the track record that gets in the way. There is the tendency to have pleasant little projects which tinker at the edges of a service but do not change teh core business. There is the ever present risk of watering down a proposal to gain consensus, with the result too often that roaring lion becomes a squeaking mouse. There is the risk that before a reform has really made a difference, the agenda shifts, attention is diverted elsewhere and the service slips back to its pre-existing state. Most of all , there is the danger of underestimating the extraordinary deadweight force of institutional inertia. No wonder most reforms fail, and I haven’t yet mentioned the barriers – bad ideas and gross incompetence – which are so obvious they would hardly need stating but for their historical pedigree. Remember the Poll tax?


There are thousands of people in government bureaucracies whose job it is to complicate matters (lawyers spring to mind – ‘It all depends’, they begin). I don’t necessarily criticise this – government is, after all, a complicated thing. However, to get something done, a countervailing force is required; people who will simplify, keep bringing people back to the fundamentals:

– What are you trying to do?

– How are you trying to do it?

– How do you know you are succeeding?

– If you are not succeeding, how will you change things?

– How can we help you?


‘The neglect of implementation issues is more than a simple intellectual mistake: it may be a rational response to the fact that our political system confers more rewards for the shrewd deployment of symbols and generalising arguments than it does for detailed realistic analysis, and forecasting.’


(page 71-74)

Leadership and Reform

From page 481:

It [the conflict over tuition fees] is an object lesson in the progress of reform: the change is proposed; it is denounced as a disaster; it proceeds with vast chipping away and opposition; it is unpopular; it comes about; within a short space of time, it is as if it had always been so.


The lesson is also instructive: if you think a change is right, go with it.  The opposition is inevitable, but rarely is it unbeatable.  There will be many silent supporters as well as the many vocal detractors.  And leadership is all about the decisions that change.  If you can’t handle that, don’t become a leader.


And the lesson goes wider: it is about rising above the fray, leaning how to speak above the din and clatter, and about always, always, keeping focused on the big picture.

Page 585:

During the course of that attempt at reform [pensions] I had learned one rather larger lesson: be clear that if someone isn’t screaming somewhere, it probably isn’t going to work.  Consensus is great, but in modern politics, where debate unfortunately works through disagreement, it is like the philosopher’s stone sought by alchemists: if it sounds too good to be true that you can turn base metal into gold, that’s probably because it is.  So consensus is wonderful, but not if it is part of a delusion that making real change with real impact is going to please everyone.  It isn’t.  And in these circumstances the ‘consensus’ can be a sign that the reform isn’t really biting, in which case it probably isn’t going to fulfill its purpose.

Adam’s Return – Part 6 – Hierarchy



Ken Wilber makes a brilliant disctinction between “actualisation hierarchies” and “domination hierarchies”.  Actualisation hierarchies are parents in relationship to children, bodies in relationship to cells, hosts in relationship to parasites.  The smaller needs the larger for its existence.  Nothing in the universe survives without a protective hierarchy (page 74)


Without actualisation hierarchies you have heaps not wholes, strands but never a web… Hierarchy and wholeness in other words are two words for the same thing – quoting Ken Wilber on page 74


[Jesus] never rejected or abdicated leadership; he simply grounded it in servanthood and community rather than in domination (John 13:12-15; Luke 22:24-27). What genius.  Jesus is never out of date and always up to date. (page 75)


I never thought I would promote the importance of hierarchies and nobility, but the alternative that I have seen is a disaster (“dis-astra” = disconnected to the orientation of the stars) (page 76)


If a man has not been authored from above, he will give his authority to the crowd, as Pilate did.  (page 81)


People who have let life initiate them tend to be tend to creative individuals, grounded and solid.  You can feel it when you are in their presence.  You feel safe and you feel energised.  They do not take your energy; they give you energy.  You know they have an excess of life, and maybe some for you, so you seek them out, as the crowds did with Jesus and still do with wise men and women. (page 81)


In looking for a spiritual leader:

Being chosen and being useable are not the same as sanctity – that is absolutely clear in the Bible.  It just makes it easier for us when they do coincide.  In fact, I usually find that most great people still carry one or another significant personality flaw.  It is fairly predictable.  St. Paul himself, clearly flawed, humbly recognised his “thorn in the flesh, an angel of Satan to buffet me. “ (2 Corinthians 12:7) which he says was necessary to keep him from “getting too proud.”  In most wise people I know, their very authority and wisdom come from the struggle itself.  A neurotic genius is to be expected.  (page 82)


The mature person loves with both the motherly and the fatherly conscience, in spite of the fact that they seem to contradict one another.  In the failure of this development lies the basic cause for neurosis. Erich Fromm, The Art of Loving (quoted on page 83)


In later years, men largely recall and remember their tough teachers and their demanding coaches, those who pushed them to their best and their limits.  In some way, a male knows that his other teachers did not take him seriously – page 83.

Justice at last for Dag Hammarskjold

This article in today’s Guardian reminds me that we perhaps need to add a fourth figure to the pantheon of modern martyrs.  Hammarskjold was mystic who acted, a spiritually nourished diplomat whose integrity and skill glorified the God he worshipped.  Like Bonhoeffer and King, it seems that he too died through violence.  New evidence suggests that his plane was indeed shot down over Zambia. Fifty years on, the truth of his last minutes seems to be emerging from the African jungle in which he died.  He was man of rank, prepared to lose it and to make himself a sacrifice.

A man more lauded, yet possibly more compromised was Kennedy.  Before he too died in violent circumstanes, he said of Hammarskjold, “‘I realise now that in comparison to him,
I am a small man. He was the greatest statesman of our century.”

Hammarskjold is a reminder that the truly contemplative life is cannot be forever cloistered.  It is light, and light must always head towards darkness, to shine in it and not be overcome.

Here’s an excerpt from Wikipedia on his spiritual life:

In 1953, soon after his appointment as United Nations secretary general, Hammarskjöld was interviewed on radio by Edward R. Murrow. In this talk he declared: “But the explanation of how man should live a life of active social service in full harmony with himself as a member of the community of spirit, I found in the writings of those great medieval mystics [Meister Eckhart and Jan van Ruysbroek] for whom ‘self-surrender’ had been the way to self-realization, and who in ‘singleness of mind’ and ‘inwardness’ had found strength to say yes to every demand which the needs of their neighbours made them face, and to say yes also to every fate life had in store for them when they followed the call of duty as they understood it.”[31]

His only book, Vägmärken (Markings), was published in 1963. A collection of his diary reflections, the book starts in 1925, when he was 20 years old, and ends at his death in 1961[32] This diary was found in his New York house, after his death, along with an undated letter addressed to then Swedish Permanent Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Leif Belfrage. In this letter, Dag writes, “These entries provide the only true ‘profile’ that can be drawn…If you find them worth publishing, you have my permission to do so”. The foreword is written by W.H. Auden, a friend of Dag’s.[33] Markings was described by a theologian, the late Henry P. Van Dusen, as “the noblest self-disclosure of spiritual struggle and triumph, perhaps the greatest testament of personal faith written … in the heat of professional life and amidst the most exacting responsibilities for world peace and order.”[34] Hammarskjöld writes, for example, “We are not permitted to choose the frame of our destiny. But what we put into it is ours. He who wills adventure will experience it—according to the measure of his courage. He who wills sacrifice will be sacrificed—according to the measure of his purity of heart.”[35] Markings is characterised by Hammarskjöld’s intermingling of prose and haiku poetry in a manner exemplified by the 17th-century Japanese poet Basho in his Narrow Roads to the Deep North.[36] In his foreword to Markings, the English poet W. H. Auden quotes Hammarskjöld as stating “In our age, the road to holiness necessarily passes through the world of action.”[37]

Hero to Host

I was speaking to a friend yesterday who had been inspired by the model of leadership that saw the leader not as hero (a model that has been hugely discredited) but as host.  More on this here.

This is from Henri Nouwen (August 5th in Common Prayer)

“That is our vocation: to convert the enemy into a guest and to create the free and fearless space, where brotherhood and sisterhood can be formed and fully experienced.”

Spiritual Leadership


‘As a result of his experience, [Hudson Taylor] used to say that there were three phases in most great tasks undertaken for God – impossible, difficult, DONE.


‘To INITIATE is an important function of the office of a leader. Some have more gift for conserving gains than for initiating new ventures; more gift for achieving order than for generating ardour. The true leader must have venturesomeness as well as vision. He must be an initiator rather than a mere conserver. Most of us prefer to play safe, but Paul did not play safe. He constantly took carefully and prayerfully calculated risks.

Robert Louis Stevenson indicted the attitude of safety, security and prudence as “that dismal fungus.” Hudson Taylor did not play safe. The tremendous steps of faith which he took with monotonous regularity were denounced as wildcat schemes. But that did not deter him, and today history is on his side. The greatest achievements in the history of the church and of missions have been the outcome of some leader in touch with God taking courageous, carefully calculated risks.

A great deal more failure is the result of an excess of caution than of bold experimentation with new ideas….”The frontiers of the kingdom of God were never advanced by men and women of caution,” said Mrs H.W.K.Mowll.

A leader cannot afford to ignore the counsel of cautious men around him. They will often save him from unnecessary mistakes. But he must beware of allowing their excess of caution to curb his initiative, if he feels his vision is of God. Nor must he allow them to restrain him from taking daring steps of faith to which God is calling both him and them.’



Francis Schaeffer in Church Before the Watching World:

‘Once Christ is no longer King and Lord in a church, then that church cannot have our loyalty….When a church comes to the place where it can no longer exert discipline, then with tears before the Lord we must consider a second step. If the battle for doctrinal purity is lost…it may be necessary for true Christians to leave the visible organisation with which they have been associated. But note well: If we must leave our church, it should always be with tears – not with drums playing and flags flying.’