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

Looking into Jesus’ RARE brain…

Written by: on February 22, 2024


In John chapter 8, the religious teachers show great disrespect to Jesus and those in the synagogue by interrupting Jesus’ teaching and bringing in a woman in front of the crowd who was caught in adultery.1 But Jesus is a RARE leader. According to Marcus Warner and Jim Wilder, RARE means:

  1. Remain Relational
  2. Act Like Yourself
  3. Return to Joy
  4. Endure Hardship Well2

Now back to Jesus’ RARE leadership. As Jesus listened to the people accuse this woman of adultery, they reminded him the law says she needs to be stoned to death. I wonder if Jesus chuckled inside because he is the one who wrote the law. Anyway, Jesus remained relational. Even though this was a big problem, he “kept the relationship bigger than the problem”3 “RARE leaders are the ones who find relational ways to solve problems and thus, keep relationships bigger than problems.”4 Jesus wrote something in the sand which I’m sure made everyone curious. He did not say, “Go ahead and stone her.” He remained relational because he knew it was about his relationship with the woman.

The second thing he did was act like himself. “Protectors are those who have a well-trained set of fast-track habits…they have a tender heart toward weakness.”5 The religious teachers demanded an answer and Jesus said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!”6 Jesus’ response reminds me of what Nicholas Janni said in his book, Leader As Healer. “Emotions are the gateway to our deeper humanity. Connecting more consciously with our feeling states allows us a richer, more heartfelt and empathic relationship to life and leadership.”7 Jesus’ emotions were not frazzled by the demands of the crowd even though their demand was Scriptural and justified.

Third, Jesus was actually able to return to joy because according to Colossians 3:15, he allowed his own peace to rule in his heart. Warner and Wilder communicate in their book, RARE Leadership that Colossians 3:15 really says, ”Let the peace of Christ be the referee in your hearts.”8 The Prince of Peace did an excellent job refereeing between the antagonistic crowd and the frightened woman who was like a lamb going to slaughter.

Fourth, Jesus endured hardship well. “Suffering and unpleasant emotions can’t be avoided.”9 I am sure it was hard for Jesus to feel her pain of despair. But there may have been wives in the crowd who wanted this woman dead because she had a relationship with their husbands. There may have been husbands in the crowd who wanted this woman dead because this way she could never tell their wives what happened. If this is so, Jesus was well aware of everyone’s inner pain and he endured feeling their pain well.

In Rare Leadership Warner and Wilder write about the fast-track and slow track systems in the brain. “The slow track is optimized for management. It’s primary job is to monitor results and provide explanations and solutions to the problems we face.”10 The fast track’s “primary job is relational reality…controls how we regulate our emotions, how we remember who we are, who our people are…acting like the self God gave us.”11



Whenever we get information through our senses, eyes, ears, nose, mouth, and body it is relayed to a structure in the brain called the thalamus. The thalamus immediately makes two reports. The first report is brief and is sent down to the amygdala. Let’s call this the fast-track. The thalamus makes a more detailed and full report and sends it to the cortex. Let’s call this the slow track. Here’s an example. You place your hand on a hot stove and the amygdala communicates to the brain to take your hand off the stove. You take your hand off before the cortex receives the information from the thalamus. All this happens in a millisecond. When the amygdala detects something to be a threat it sends off warning signals throughout the brain. When these warning signals hit the cortex, they start to make us feel anxious and have anxious thoughts. So how does this relate to leadership?

Janni said in Leader as Healer, “The way we relate to – or, more often, do not relate to – our emotions is one of the biggest sources of fragmentation and disconnectedness in our culture.” Since Jesus had spent a life time building those fast track relational leadership habits (motivation, emotional control, ability to focus, care for others),12 he was able to remain calm when confronted with a very difficult situation. His amygdala did not send out any warning signals of stress, anxiety, or panic. This is what the book Rare Leadership is all about. It is about being an emotionally mature leader. Emotionally mature leaders operate through joy, “which is that feeling of well-being in the deepest parts of the soul.”13 Without joy, leaders are just managing. Working through the four habits of being RARE will enhance a leader’s joy and influence…just like Jesus.



In the book The 4 Stages of Psychological Safety, Tim Clark says, “The need to be accepted precedes the need to be heard.”14 The woman caught in adultery needed to be accepted and Jesus accepted her. After he accepted her, he knew she was ready to be heard, so he asked, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you? ‘No, Lord’ she said.”15 Don’t miss how she addressed Jesus. With worshipful gratefulness she calls him, “Lord”. Therefore:

  1. Who are the people in our sphere of influence who need our RARE leadership. In other words, who are the people that are ashamed, unaccepted, unseen, and/or neglected because they have done something or had something done to them which left them emotionally unhealthy?
  2. Will we text them, call them, email them, stop by their home or place of employment simply because that’s what a RARE leader does?

Who will be the next person in our leadership context to be restored because of our RARE leadership and end up saying, through worshipful gratefulness, “Lord, thank you for pursuing me through ____(insert your name)________!”

  1. John 8:1-11 NLT
  2. Marcus Warner and Jim Wilder. Rare Leadership. 19.
  3. Ibid. 23.
  4. Ibid. 23.
  5. Ibid. 48.
  6. John 8:7 NLT
  7. Nicholas Janni. Leader As Healer. 63.
  8. Marcus Warner and Jim Wilder. Rare Leadership. 159.
  9. Ibid. 175.
  10. Ibid. 26.
  11. Ibid. 27.
  12. Ibid. 27.
  13. Ibid 24.
  14. Timothy Clark. The 4 Stages of Psychological Safety. 24.
  15. John 8:10-11 NLT

About the Author

Todd E Henley

Todd is an avid cyclist who loves playing frisbee golf, watching NASCAR, making videos, photography, playing Madden football, and watching sport. He is addicted to reading, eating fruits and vegetables, and drinking H2O. His passion is talking about trauma, epigenetics, chromosomes, and the brain. He has been blessed with a sensationally sweet wife and four fun creative children (one of which resides in heaven). In his free time he teaches at Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary and is the Founder/Executive Director of Restore Counseling Center.

8 responses to “Looking into Jesus’ RARE brain…”

  1. Scott Dickie says:

    Thanks Todd….a great post that, in part, redeems the book for me (I wasn’t a big fan). More specficially, it challenges me. I had taken step number one and sent a text out to someone, asking how they were and letting them know I was praying for them….and they gave a brief response and said they would like to talk on the phone in the next few days if possible. My response wasn’t RARE…it was, “Ugh…I don’t want to engage more…I’m busy and I have thin margins…and they’re emotionally draining.” My response makes my first initial seemingly-loving act (to send a text) seem pretty shallow and insincere! Dang. So I know who I will be calling today to follow up. I still don’t know how to train my fast thinking side to react differently (I feel the authors don’t answer this question well at all), but I do know what love looks like…and that’s pretty RARE in this world as well….so I’ll use my slow thinking brain to choose love. Thanks for the kick in the pants!

    • Hey Scott! the fact that you sent a text was awesome man. From his perspective it most likely made his week. I’m sure your text helped him to “return to joy” And you’re right, love is RARE and you did that well by reaching out. I hope your follow up call went well.

  2. Adam Harris says:

    Great posts, I loved this quote, “The way we relate to – or, more often, do not relate to – our emotions is one of the biggest sources of fragmentation and disconnectedness in our culture.” One of the things I’ve started since reading Annabel Beerel’s book on her section on vertical learning is a shadow work journal. It really helps explore emotions to a depth that is kind of uncomfortable. Have you ever done that as a counselor or personally? Curious your thoughts on it? Great post man, way to bring Jesus into the conversation in a more in-depth way.

    • Hey my brother, with clients, I have them do shadow work from day one. Whether they realize it or not, that’s why they have come in…childhood problems, unresolved trauma, unseen wounds.
      I have been through “Shadow Work Journal and Workbook” by Scarlett Kent. I highly recommend it. I went through it with a friend and it was powerful as we worked deeply on our issues. What journal did you work through?

  3. mm Jana Dluehosh says:

    restored by Rare leadership. I love your work on restoration in your work and NPO! Thank you for the ways you utilize rare leadership to stand in the gap with those who would normally be written off! How would Jesus journey with those you work with in a RARE way?

  4. mm Dinka Utomo says:

    Hello, Todd!

    It’s an amazing post. it’s authentic and inspiring. Thank you!

    Based on your ministry experiences, how to make joy always present in your hearts? What is the primary source of our joy in your ministry?

  5. Hey Dinka! GREAT questions! It seems to me, the people I counsel don’t find joy until they are able to feel what they have been avoiding for years or decades…and that’s sadness, grief, or other negative emotion. once they begin to learn how to feel these emotions instead of avoiding them, it actually becomes their pathway to joy. In order words you cannot feel joy until you have learned how to feel sadness, grief, pain, etc.
    Making joy present in our hearts can come through authentically serving others and loving those who rub us the wrong way. As a person does this, it is so important to continually stay connected to Christ. That connection with our Savior will be the main source of joy. I like Adam Harris’ post about this.

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