Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

For Such Times As These, Heroes Are Needed!

Written by: on November 10, 2021

The Hero with a Thousand Faces, written by author Joseph Campbell, is deeply intertwined with elements of psychology and mythology and serves as a comparative analysis of the hero narrative. Breaking the narrative into three stages – departure, initiation, and return – Campbell differentiates these stages into 17 steps. As stated by the author, the purpose of the book is to “uncover some of the truths disguised for us under the figures of religion and mythology by bringing together a multitude of not-too-difficult examples and letting the ancient meaning become apparent of itself.”[1]. Across the epochs, there are similarities among the various hero stories of different people, tribes, and religions. “Whether the hero is ridiculous or sublime, Greek or barbarian, gentile or Jew, his journey varies little in essential plan.”[2]

The author effectively defines the hero as the man or woman who has been able to battle past his personal and local historical limitations to the generally valid, normally human forms… they are eloquent, not of the present, disintegrating society and psyche, but of the unquenched source through which society is reborn. The hero has died as a modern man; but as eternal man – perfected, universal man – he has been reborn.”[3]

What I find interesting is the theme of the hero’s ignoble place of origin. True to form, we see this lived out in the narratives of Frodo Baggins of the Shire, Luke Skywalker in Star Wars, and Harry Potter, to name a few. Without question, Jesus also fits this description, born in a manger and raised in Nazareth, a lowly town from which it was unlikely any good could come.

Though there are 17 steps, I will highlight just two of them. The first, the call to adventure, is the moment in the narrative in which the ordinary world of the soon-to-be hero is disrupted, demanding that they either accept or reject the invitation. The author states one of the pathways to this adventure is a “blunder – apparently the merest chance – [that] reveals an unsuspected world, and the individual is drawn into a relationship with forces that are not rightly understood.”[4] Such is the path of hero-making – crucible bourgeoning the transformation of an unlikely individual into the hero they are to become.

The sixth step, the road of trials, is the first step in the initiation phase. Through various tests and challenges, these struggles initiate the transformation of the up-and-coming hero. Is this not the pathway of leadership or just growing up, for that matter? In my circles of discipleship, we often talk about the neglected theology of suffering. One passage that I think of often in this regard is Romans 5:2-5, which says, “And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint.”[5] Without trials, there is no development, and no heroes are forged.

At first glance, I will confess that I was not a fan of this book. Yet, the more I pushed myself to grapple with the text, the more I began to more meaningfully understand the author’s intent to plot the commonalities of the various hero narratives throughout history, spanning religions, time periods, and cultures. Reflecting on this circular storyboard of hero-making, it is evident that Campbell was on to something by identifying these marks in our world. Near the end of the book, the author states that we are still in need of heroes. He says,

“The modern hero, the modern individual who dares to heed the call and seek the mansion of that presence with whom it is our whole destiny to be atoned, cannot, indeed must not, wait for his community to cast off its slough of pride, fear, rationalized avarice, and sanctified misunderstanding. ‘Live,’ Nietzsche says, ‘as though the day was here.’ It is not society that is to guide and save the creative hero, but precisely the reverse. And so every one of us shares the supreme ordeal – carries the cross of the redeemer – not in the bright moments in his tribe’s great victories, but in the silences of his personal despair.”[6]

For times such as these, marked by great polarity and division, heroes are needed. As Christ-followers, will we follow in His footsteps and live as though the day were here? Or will we give in to the pressures that surround us and succumb to apathy? Church, now is the time for us to lead!

[1] Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, 3rd ed., Bollingen series XVII (Novato, Calif: New World Library, 2008), xii.

[2] Ibid., 30.

[3] Ibid., 14–15.

[4] Ibid., 42.

[5] Mich.) Zondervan Publishing House (Grand Rapids, New American Standard Bible (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2002).

[6] Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, 337.

About the Author


Eric Basye

Disciple, husband, and father, committed to seeking shalom.

7 responses to “For Such Times As These, Heroes Are Needed!”

  1. mm Andy Hale says:

    Eric, heroes, often come in unexpected and unwilling forms. What heroes do you think the church truly needs right now?

    • mm Eric Basye says:

      Great question. I just attended the CCDA (ccda.org) conference this week, and this was one of the topics of conversation. They would say that we needed leaders of color and women! The context of these conversations as primarily in the urban context.

      Another thought from my NPO research is that we need leaders who kind navigate a “alternative path” for everything as of right now seems so divisive. I would agree. I would label it as we need people who are called of the Lord and Spirit-filled to orient and lead with a Kingdom-perspective.

  2. mm Roy Gruber says:

    Eric, I really appreciate what you gleaned from the book. I found it a tough one as well. I cannot agree with you more that heroes are needed in this day. It seems that at the same time, our culture tears down many people who could serve as heroes. I also wonder how we got to the place where there are people who are famous for being famous. To me, a hero a person of tested and proven character and someone worth emulating. Do you think we’ve changed the meaning of what defines “hero” for fame?

    • mm Eric Basye says:

      My quicktake… yes, culturally we have redefined what a “hero” is, but I personally believe that the marks of a kingdom-oriented hero are as much the same today as they were during the days of Moses and others. Humility. Raw dependence on the Lord. Obedience. Trust in the Lord to fulfill His promise (to glorify His own name).

  3. Elmarie Parker says:

    Eric, thank you for your thoughtful engagement with Campbell’s book. It sounds like you were on a journey of meaning even as you read it :). I was also taken with his closing quote. As you talk with others about the neglected theology of suffering, I’m curious to learn more of how you all are fleshing out that theology in your context? And, how is story a part of that (or not)?

    • mm Eric Basye says:

      Great question. For the past 20+ years I have been living and working in marginalized communities as part of a holistic gospel work to make Jesus known in word and deed. Additonally, we have been very involved in going and mobilizing workers to the 10/40 window. That said, to fully engage on either one of these (global missions to the 10/40 or work among the urban poor) demands that we count the cost of discipleship and obedience to the Lord. You too know this well, I am sure. So yes, this concept of suffering is interwoven into the fabric and culture of our work, but we also certainly spend lots of time discussing and learning from the Word and others about what this looks like with our interns and staff.

      In your work the Lord has given you to do, has a theology of suffering been a framework for your engagement?

  4. mm Nicole Richardson says:

    Eric, Thank you for your summary. If you were to describe the differences between Campbells’ understanding of context of hero to the context of today what would those be?

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