Category Archives: Conversation
“Leading with a Limp” by Dan B. Allender
By Mark S. Sooy
Dan Allender’s treatment of leadership, as a topic, is unconventional to say the least, but refreshing in its own way. Rather than give a laundry list of “best practices” for leaders to follow, he gives a realistic assessment of what leaders can expect. “So here’s the hard truth,” he states, “if you’re a leader, you’re in the battle of your life. Nothing comes easily, enemies outnumber allies, and the terrain keeps shifting under your feet” (pg. 1).
With that realistic admission of the difficulty of leadership, he proceeds to suggest that “to the degree you face and name and deal with your failures as a leader, to that same extent you will create an environment conducive to growing and retaining productive and committed colleagues” (pg. 2). It is from this perspective, one of leadership shortcomings, that Allender views leadership and suggests a strategy for leading well – in his words, “leading with a limp.”
The analogy of the limp is taken from the story of Jacob wrestling with the Angel, in which Jacob finds himself leaving the struggle with God an impaired human being. Just so, leaders are men and women with impairments, often inflicted by the God who is molding them into the leaders He desires them to be.
Allender builds his case using a list of leadership challenges that include crisis, complexity, betrayal, loneliness and weariness. To these challenges he notes that leaders often respond in negative ways such as cowardice, rigidity, narcissism, hiding or fatalism. These responses cause ineffectiveness in leadership and often result in broken relationships. Avoiding such faulty responses will bring about more positive results.
The positive responses to the leadership challenges are much more effective. Admittedly, these responses are often counter-intuitive and require the leader to think carefully before responding to any challenge. However, the positive results are well worth the effort as a leader responds in courage, depth, gratitude, openness and hope. The results, according to Allender, are improved relationships and effectiveness in leading others.
Allender works to help leaders recognize their faults and willingly admit to them – in the presence of those he or she leads. In so doing the leader more readily identifies with them, and they with the leader. This aspect of his leadership model shows a positive “lead by example” style that invites other leaders and followers to admit to their own shortcomings as well, essentially creating a “we’re in this together” communal response to leadership failure.
Many personal stories adorn Allender’s ideas on leadership in “Leading with a Limp.” This gives his ideas a real-world perspective that brings it quite a bit of credibility. It is not clear if Allender rejects the idea of leadership strengths, but it is clear that he feels leadership should be approached from the leader’s weakness rather than from his or her strength. This reviewer is not quite convinced in this approach; however “Leading with a Limp” is a solid study of leadership challenges and a worthwhile investment for any leader.
Dr. Allender serves as Professor of Counseling at The Seattle School of Theology and Psychology. He travels and speaks extensively to present his unique perspective on sexual abuse recovery, love & forgiveness, worship, and other related topics.
“Visual Faith: Art, Theology and Worship in Dialogue” by William A. Dyrness
Worship and the Arts: Renewal in Tandem
There can be no dispute that Western art and music were influenced in their development by the message of Christianity. The Church had the power – and the money – to dictate much of the thematic content of the arts. Beyond that, the culture itself was “Christian” in the broadest sense of the term, and it only made sense that artists and musicians would express their gifts for use within the church and to help spread the message of Christ.
As history wore on, the influence of the Church deteriorated and its patronage of the arts decreased. In the last 150 years or more, the distinctive creativity that was once the hallmark of Christian art has dissipated to the point that it is hardly distinguishable from other modern art perspectives. There are certainly exceptions, and a resurgence and energy in the last several decades has shown that Christians can, and do, create art and music at the highest levels. We can be thankful for the men and women who have begun to re-establish Christian truth as a valid and appropriate message for all artistic endeavors.
In his book, “Visual Faith: Art, Theology and Worship in Dialogue,” William A. Dyrness brings the arts and worship together to paint a picture of renewal that is both thoughtful and intriguing. In his preface he writes that, “it has become my conviction that the practice of worship provides the most appropriate setting for a fresh appraisal and even a renewal in the arts…I believe that making beautiful forms is theologically connected to our call both to listen and respond to God in prayer, praise, and sacrament” (Dyrness, pg. 9).
I think Dyrness has a point. Worship and the arts can interact in ways that will cause us to think and re-think both. Is the way in which we practice corporate worship as full and expressive as it can be? Do our expressions in the arts represent a well-grounded biblical and theological understanding of the Christian Worldview? Are we “redeeming” the arts and allowing the Spirit to renew their use? Is tacking on a Christian message to any art form enough to redeem it? Do the forms of art themselves need renewal? And what of our worship, does it need redemption too?
These questions, and many more, are necessary and vital as we think about our modern worship and our modern arts. Scholars and professors are considering these things, but pastors and laymen seem to overlook the important implications that these questions raise. Corporate worship is the main public expression of the Church, yet so few think carefully and thoroughly about it. I highly recommend Dyrness’ book as a starting point in the discussion.
When asked about the “greatest commandment,” Jesus encapsulated in His response a broad perspective on life and relationships. Reflecting upon his answer at this time of year can help us as we move forward in every area of ministry. His answer gives us perspective.
Jesus answered, “The foremost is, ‘HEAR, O ISRAEL! THE LORD OUR GOD IS ONE LORD; AND YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH.’ The second is this, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:29-31)
First, we must know God. This is the essential element of understanding life and all of our relationships. There is only one God, and we know Him as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. He is the Creator of all things, both seen and unseen, and we are part of His creation. Our very life is dependent upon Him, as well as our salvation. He is God, and we are not, though we often attempt to displace Him in His proper role.
Secondly, we must know others. In knowing them, we must love them. In loving them, we come to know them more fully. All of their idiosyncrasies, their foibles, their habits – both good and bad! As we take a look at others, we really see how needy they are, in every facet of life. We can see in their need the reality of their dependence upon God. Such is the human condition.
Thirdly, we must know ourselves. Our love for others is inherently connected to our knowledge and love for self. Too often we view ourselves separate from the others around us. However, we must overcome this delusion and realize we are the same as they. We need God’s supply and sufficiency each and every day.
So, really, there are only two sides here, rather than three. God is on the one side as Creator, Sustainer, and Provider. We and all the “others” are on the other side as needy and dependent upon God’s care and provision for us.
Keeping this in mind as we serve people in 2014 will help us keep the proper perspective. As we serve those around us, we serve them out of our own dependence upon the God whom they need as well. We are no better than they in this regard, whether they are believers or unbelievers, young or old. As we depend upon Christ for our life and our sustenance, we can be a light for others who search in this darkness. May we be faithful in showing forth His light throughout this New Year!
(Original written for the January 2012 Newsletter of the One in the Son chapter of the Christian Motorcyclists Association, Grand Rapids, MI)
“There was the true light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and those who were his own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them he gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name…” (John 1:9-12 NASB)
Christian Worldview studies are meant to help us view the world in the proper way. God created both what we see and what we don’t see. Man, in his pride, disbelieved God and disobeyed His Word bringing the corrosive influence of sin into the world. The resulting damage to our relationships with God, with self, with others and even with the created world is something we experience every day.
But God, in His mercy and love, provided a way for mankind to be restored. This is what the Christmas season is about. Although man, on his own, could not repair the damage caused by sin, the Son of God coming into the world as a Man brought the “true light” and salvation to those who would respond to Him in faith.
The passage quoted above connects the ideas of Christian Worldview and Christmas together. Notice how many times the word “world” is used. Notice God’s view of the world. Notice how inter-connected God the Son is with this world that He created. Notice His love for this world in coming to this world and becoming one of us in order to restore our relationships damaged by sin. Notice that because of His love for us, He gives us the “right” to become children of God when we believe in His name.
Are you one of the “children of God?” There is no better time than today to consider the reality of your sin, and your need for a Savior. Christ has come, and during this season we celebrate His coming. May this year be a time for each of us to really see – and understand – the depth of God’s love for us in the presence of His Son on earth.
(Original written for the December 2011 Newsletter of the One in the Son chapter of the Christian Motorcyclists Association, Grand Rapids, MI)