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DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Taringa Whakarongo (Let Your Ears Listen)

Written by: on April 1, 2020

Te timatanga o te matauranga ko te wahangu, te wahanga tuarua ko te whakarongo.
The first stage of learning is silence, the second stage is listening. [1]

Culture is meaningful. I have observed a culture of leadership, specifically of the Christian ilk, that seems to be quite fearful at its root. Hierarchy and a striving to the top, education and experience to prove status, sweet articulation to achieve dominance, posing and posturing, showering control and using charisma to achieve ‘all-in’ support for just whatever and…for what? Survival of the fittest, only the strongest (hottest, most cut, sweetest speaking) survive which leaves the rest of us with no other option but, having to follow these leaders? 

Seriously, in Christian leadership…seriously?

Of course, there’s no pride in this admission that I have observed not only the impact of this kind of leadership on me but also, the presence (like an imprint) of this kind of leadership in me. In the presence of such fear, “Dear Jesus, deepen humility.” Then, hope strikes and spreads the waters that there is a genuine article, the undefended leader. 

And, I think of Isaiah’s prophecy of Jesus, wondering at his eloquence and the pictures drawn of him over the millennia, ‘He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.’ (Isaiah 53:2-3). Here is the Genuine Article. His people knew who he was. The heard the Voice of the Shepherd and, He knows who we are. 

What was it about Jesus anyways? There’s something about Him that screams ‘this is what life-let-go looks like’, life unchained and abundant. Walker writes that, ‘In order to be effective leaders we need to enter the vulnerable spaces of the self that harbour fear and disarm their influence over our behaviour.” [2]

Simon Walker is a teacher and clergyman. He teaches at Oxford University and carries some fame for his writing. The Undefended Leader, originally a series of three separate books, is devoted to exercises of leadership that are more so self-emptying than empowering even, exercises that increase strength through becoming weak. Of Simon Walker, it has been written that ‘he is a Christian, and his thoughts on leadership are drawn from the life and death of Jesus’ [3].  The three parts of ‘The Undefended Leader’ are titled, in order: Leading Out of Who You Are, Leading with Nothing to Lose and Leading with Everything to Give. Depth of integrity, caring vulnerability and honest compassion are character traits of the undefended leader that Walker gives focus toward throughout his work. 

Be silent, be still. In these words, is a call to let go, to becoming vulnerable, a humility of power and control.Walker, towards the end of Part one in his trilogy on progressive, wholly-attuned leadership reflects on a ‘relationship’ as he imagines a leadership that has let-go in order to be truly alive. ‘Freedom,’ he writes, ‘is to lead an undefended life, freedom to lead others as an undefended leader, involves finding a relationship like that. A relationship in which we are safe, secured by an unconditional regard and affection, an unbroken attachment, that holds us despite the threats we face’ [3]. 

The relationship that he is referring to is the one that was there before anything else was. A relationship before the struggle started, a relationship that breathed life into us, a relationship that is an apple in the eye of the Beholder. This attachment that he speaks of, he refers to earlier as an attachment to ‘one who is big enough not to be overwhelmed by our failures and weaknesses’ [2]. God never lets go and, when we decide to let go into this relationship of Original Proportion, and most epic and ancient Attachment, we come undone of our strategy for maintenance and more, we fall into deep Security and thereby express as being undefended. 

Once upon a time there was a little man with a big heart. He knew himself; he was simply with us and the people loved him. He handed out $5 bills and was given IOU’s that would never be paid. On his desk, a stack of them with a spike through the middle. He led a ministry to thousands in this city, a ministry that provided food for thousands and the miracle, he had time for everyone. Every person felt deeply cared for when in his presence. His stature was diminutive, and he knew it. His swagger wasn’t unbecoming, never puffed up but humble. His message was unswerving and unabashedly of Christ and obedience, spotlight or not, cameras and microphones or curbside, consistent. They called him the Mother Theresa of our city, I called him grandfather. 

One day ambition came knocking, two pastors in their prime pushing for power, and my grandfather gave them the opportunity to have their way. He had heard the strategic grumbling, the disease of the disgruntled, the striving of the next-in-line and he faced it with such grace. Open-handedly, he stepped out of his office, leaving the question to be answered regarding his future in the ministry. In his office that day, nothing was said. I was young and listening, wondering, confused. Not a word. Later that year, opportunity came about to DO IT (Matthew 26:50) and, it was accomplished in unbelievable, disrespectful fashion and over excruciatingly long period of time at the end of which my grandfather became very sick and passed away.

In the office that day, I could sense that there was an extreme discomfort. There was an encounter with a pristinely undeniable undefended leadership. Walker writes that ‘Living out an undefended life as a leader by and large involves living in a place that feels provisional and perhaps uncomfortable’ [5]. We were not in the office for long after our leader had left. After all, he was our leader. And, in a time such as this, that the world is facing such emergency and our community a heavier oppression, in the absence of such undefended leadership, I recall his attitude and character, imagining what his approach and messaging would be.

‘Freely you have received, freely give.’ (Matthew 10:8)

The Leader is still with us. He may have left the office but, He is still our Leader and we are not alone. When we keep Him out or consider the way without Him then, we become no longer undefended. This is our self-centred ambition, ego-centric struggle apart from our Help. There is a wonderful Attachment that keeps and comforts us. Be still, come to silence and, listen.

Ka tut e ihiihi.  
Stand fearless. [1]

 

Bibliography

[1] Kerr, James. Legacy: What the All Blacks can Teach Us About the Business of Life. Constable and Robinson Ltd. Great Britain: 2015.

[2] Walker, Simon P. Leading Out of Who You Are: Discovering the Secret of Undefended Leadership. The Undefended Leader, Trilogy Book 1. Piquant Editions. Kindle Edition.

[3] Morgan, Alison. ‘Simon Walker: the Undefended Leader Trilogy’. Piquant 2007. Summary by Alison Morgan, April 2014. https://www.alisonmorgan.co.uk/Books/Walker%202007.pdf

[4] Walker, Simon P. ‘Becoming Undefended: Developing Leaders Who Are Freed from Fear’. https://steeringcognition.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/Simon-Walker-DProf-Context-Statement-2.55.8-corrected-1.pdf. May 2014. University of Winchester. Professional Doctorate By Contribution to Public Works.

[5] Van Sandwick, G. ‘Leadership: Being Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable’. Thrive Global. May 21, 2019. https://thriveglobal.com/stories/leadership-being-comfortable-with-being-uncomfortable/

 

 

About the Author

mm

Chris Pollock

Dad of Molly Polly Pastor at the Mustard Seed Street Church Trail Runner

6 responses to “Taringa Whakarongo (Let Your Ears Listen)”

  1. mm Darcy Hansen says:

    Chris,
    I’d love to share a poem with you that came to mind as I read your post:
    In the Wilderness
    By Bethany Lee

    The leaders we find it easy to follow
    Who stride ahead with certainty and power
    Are taking us to a land
    Where we think we want to go

    But those who walk with stumbling steps
    slow and careful in the darkness
    These accompany us into the promised land
    To the place we already are
    Into the place that is already home

    Sounds like your grandfather was the latter type of leader. Based on what I know of you, you are too. Keep leading others to the promised land. It might not be what they want, but it is what they need. Grace to you always.

  2. mm Greg Reich says:

    Chris,
    As I read your blog and story of your grandfather I couldn’t help but be reminded of the scripture in 1 Peter 2:23 speaking of Jesus “When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.” Leadership for some is an ego trip and a climb to power. For an undefended leader it is an act of service and compassion for others despite the cost to oneself. I would have liked to have met your grandfather I am sure I would have enjoyed talking to him.

    • mm Chris Pollock says:

      Greg, I could see you and him having a nice conversation and great laugh! Thanks for responding 🙂 appreciate your thoughts and reference to scripture.

  3. mm Shawn Cramer says:

    Chris, you really embody Walker’s humility.

  4. mm John McLarty says:

    I saw a news report yesterday about an aircraft carrier captain in the US Navy being relieved of his command because the concerns he raised about the spread of covid-19 on his ship. I know the military has its own way, but there’s something to respect about a person who will trade his career for the lives of those under his command. As I understand it, that carrier has since docked and the sailors are getting tested and treatment. Reminds me of something else Jesus said, “Greater love has no man than this…”

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