At the end of Marvel’s Avengers: Endgame, Steve Rogers gives up his role as Captain America and officially goes into retirement. In a symbolic passing of the torch, he gives Sam Wilson – Falcon – his trademark shield. Since his creation as Captain America, Steve Rogers has served as the symbol of American values within the Marvel Universe, as well as the weight of leadership of the The Avengers. It’s a heavy mantle bear. In Disney+’s latest Marvel TV series, Falcon and the Winter Soldier, there is a heavy air surrounding Anthony Mackie’s Falcon as he decides to give up the shield, feeling inadequate of being chosen as Steve’s successor.
Everyone’s eyes were on Sam as he made the decision, much like everyone’s eyes are on us as well. Simon Walker writes, “When you accept a role in leadership, you accept a public life in which your behavior is identified with the institution you represent.” As much as we may like for our leadership to stay in the recesses of our organization, as leaders people are always watching and waiting to see what we do. Some people have genuine motives, while others may have something more sinister.
For better or worse, leaders are associated with their organizations, which is why when a hero falls their organizations are in danger as well. Living abroad, I am often lumped in with the actions our political administration takes. “You’re an American, so you must believe that as well” or “Are all Americans like Donald Trump / Joe Biden?” are common questions I receive.
When we take on leadership roles, we bear the burden or weight of an organization. We become the face that people see. If you think about Apple, Steve Jobs may come to mind; Bill gates when you think of Microsoft; Elon Musk and Tesla. When one of these leaders does something, it inevitably falls back on their organization.
The church is not exempt from this; in fact, it seems that people scrutinize church leaders closer than most. In my denomination, there was a recent scandal regarding a General Baptist pastor who said many demeaning things about women. This put the General Baptist denomination under fire by the media, particularly because of the polity that General Baptists hold in that it falls on the local associations to deal with pastoral discipline. When public witness is tainted and trust is destroyed, it’s difficult to crawl out of that pit.
As I reflect on the way we present ourselves, a few things come to mind:
- Beware and BE Aware. We need to be careful of how we present ourselves and be aware of the people with whom we surround ourselves. We must also be aware of the ones who are actively watching us. Who are the people we defend? Who are the people who defend us?
- Our Identity. Although we may represent our organizations in different capacities, ultimately we cannot tie our identity to them. When we do so, we risk losing ourselves in the torrent of feedback and complications found in our organization. What happens when the organization fails? What happens when we fail in our own leadership?
- Have Grace. Leaders make mistakes (some worse than others). However, when we – or others – make mistakes, we should approach the situation in humility and as a learning experience. This does not diminish the need for consequences, but rather reframes our troubles in light of the One who shows us.
 For more, you can check out: https://nypost.com/2021/03/03/pastor-slammed-for-telling-wives-to-lose-weight-look-less-butch/