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

The Walk of Leadership

Written by: on November 9, 2017

In this week’s reading, Heroic Leadership, Chris Lowney uses his history as a Jesuit priest and a managing director with J.P. Morgan to evaluate the leadership tactics used by the Jesuits for over 450 years; a fascinating historical look at the religious practices interwoven with fundamental leadership skills of the long-lasting Jesuit order. Upon reading this work, the motivation behind it seems to demand consideration to the most avid of leaders, for the benefit of optimizing the value of every individual on the team. Heroic Leadership takes into effect the value that every person has as a leader, and in spite of their differences, calls to action the need for recognizing each person’s contribution, whether great or small.

In order to show the need for reviewing a new methodology, Lowney works diligently to draw on the shortcomings of modern day business as a means of showing the beneficial attributes that were a byproduct of Jesuit practices. “What often passes for leadership today is a shallow substitution of technique for substance.”[1] Interesting enough, he demonstrates that the practices, though ages old, are still just as valuable today as they were 450 years ago. There is a need to find the strengths of each member in order to draw out the full potential of a group. Often we have used the saying, “You are only as strong as your weakest link”, but perhaps Lowney is saying, “You are will always come up short if not using every link.”

I found three things interesting about this read; first, the very principle that everyone is in fact a leader, was still founded on a principle of leadership necessity; second, though all of four building blocks discussed were fascinating, I was especially drawn to the struggle in ministry that comes from the ingenuity factor; and lastly, the concept of “heroism” in its own right in conflict with the Christian message of non-individualism.

First, I kept thinking of the conflict between leaders and followers. Though Lowney wrote, “We’re all leaders, and we’re leading all the time, well or poorly,”[2] there is the reality that exists that requires one or more leaders to draw out the power of others. George S. Patton was quoted as saying, “”We herd sheep, we drive cattle, we lead people. Lead me, follow me, or get out of my way.”[3] There seems to be the same reality driving all people that sometimes we lead, sometimes we follow, and inadvertently, sometimes we just sit there. Lowney does not so much argue this point as much as he seems to be motivating the reader to find their power to lead, in whatever capacity they may find. “Leadership springs from within. It’s about who I am as much as what I do.”[4] The goal is a personal trek of self-discovery and achievement. “Leadership is not an act. It is my life, a way of living. I never complete the task of becoming a leader. It’s an ongoing process.”[5] Because of this reality however, I feel that there are going to be some who have to learn leadership before they will have it; for that reason, not everyone starts out a leader, but has to learn those qualities along the way.

Second is the discussion Lowney made regarding the building block of ingenuity. Lowney wrote, “Leaders make themselves and others comfortable in a changing world. They eagerly explore new ideas, approaches, and cultures rather than shrink defensively from what lurks around life’s next corner.”[6] I have always struggled with the concept of running the church like a business, even though I realize at points, it is inevitable. I kept thinking about this concept as I read through the chapters about leaders like Goes, who did not use the modern method of transportation in order to reach inward China, but rather the old back trails and thousands of miles of legwork; or the role that Ricci served when trying to spread the Christianity inside China with conservative methods rather than “bell ringing in the Chinese equivalent of the town square to attract crowds.”[7] In fact, the very nature of this book is not suggesting a new method of teaching leadership, but a much older, more established method that has already been proven to work. Solomon wrote, “That which has been is what will be, that which is done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun.”[8]  Perhaps the problem is not to anticipate the need for ingenuity, but rather to learn from the past to avoid problems in the future.

Lastly, I truly struggled with the concept of “heroism” in this book. I know our society seems captivated by the Justice League and the Avengers, and every other movie that is produced is a concept engulfed in heroism mentality where the evil is always triumphed over by the victorious good, however, is that really the message that we as ministers are intended to learn? “But all their works they do to be seen by men. They make their phylacteries broad and enlarge the borders of their garments. They love the best places at feasts, the best seats in the synagogues, greetings in the marketplaces, and to be called by men, ‘Rabbi, Rabbi.’”[9] Isn’t the concept of “heroism” the exact thing Christ was trying to preach against here? On a very personal level, in my own ministry, I love the concept of building up the Christian family and showing them that they are all of value in the Body of Christ and that they all have a role to play. However, it is so very important to me that they also grasp the concept that this is not about our own glory but rather our desire to glorify the Father. I appreciate the methods that have been established in this book, and understand the message of empowerment that it is intended to give, and believe that his intention was not to take away from this glory. Lowney wrote, “Work as if success depends on your own efforts-but trust as if all depended on God.”[10]

 

Bibliography

Burchell, K. W. (2012, February 5th). Thomas Paine and His Followers. Retrieved November 9th, 2017, from Kenburchell.blogspot.com: http://kenburchell.blogspot.com/2012/02/did-paine-ever-say-or-write-lead-follow.html

Lowney, C. (2005). Heroic Leadership. Loyola Printing. Kindle.

 

 

[1] Lowney, C. (2005). Heroic Leadership. Loyola Printing. p 9, Kindle.

[2] Ibid, p 15, Kindle.

[3] Burchell, K. W. (2012, February 5th). Thomas Paine and His Followers. Retrieved November 9th, 2017, from Kenburchell.blogspot.com: http://kenburchell.blogspot.com/2012/02/did-paine-ever-say-or-write-lead-follow.html

[4] Lowney, C. (2005). Heroic Leadership. Loyola Printing. p 15, Kindle.

[5] Ibid, p 15, Kindle.

[6] Ibid, p 29, Kindle.

[7] Ibid, p 80, Kindle.

[8] Ecclesiastes 1:9.

[9] Matthew 23:5-7

[10] Lowney, C. (2005). Heroic Leadership. Loyola Printing. P 6,  Kindle.

 

About the Author

Shawn Hart

6 responses to “The Walk of Leadership”

  1. mm Jennifer Williamson says:

    Hey Shawn, I, too, was inspired by the idea of ingenuity. Do you really believe that it is inevitable for churches to be run like businesses? Maybe I’m idealistic, but I think this is the exact thing that we need to work against.

    And can you say more about how you understood Lowney’s explanation of “herosim”? I think you understood this differently that I did, and I’d like to hear more.

    • Shawn Hart says:

      All I meant by the business comment was that there will always be a certain business aspect to church work; there is money change hands, bills to be paid, and ministries to be maintained…business is inevitable. However, I believe there is a great need to trust God rather than money, therefore, how we run this “business” must still be Godly.

  2. mm Dan Kreiss says:

    You quote Solomon yet, it seems to me that the Jesuits were doing something new and different. While their methods may be ‘old’ now because of their counterintuitive nature, they do not seem to have caught on even in Christian contexts. The corporate model seems to me to be the antithesis of how Jesus ‘structured’ his movement, yet with the ultimate acceptance of Christianity in the Roman empire it seems that the Church has sought to retain that type of power and influence since.

    • Shawn Hart says:

      I believe that the Jesuit principles were founded very much in the similar practices that Christ Himself practiced. He chose not the scholars of society to become disciples, but rather the proverbial rejects. He found the value in everyone around Him that would allow Him to, and on multiple occasions, He even taught a little business sense. Ultimately, Christ entire message was about love for God and love for one another. It was these precepts of the Jesuit principles that I found so attractive in the first place. Furthermore, though Solomon may not have perfected the art like his father David had, Christ points out when interrogated that these principles had been the principles for God’s people all along.

      “Jesus said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 22:37-40.

      From how kings treated their people, to the way the Pharisees treated those in the synagogue, to how the apostles responded to woman in Matthew 15; it’s not about business, it’s about how we treat one another. Too many people try to separate the two…Christ did not!

  3. I think that the heroism as defined by Lowney would look quite different than the Avengers-type of heroics we find promoted today. Today we see the hero as the one who gets the glory. Ignatius started out with that sort of approach with his sword-fights and militaristic revenge, but later abandoned this.

    “St. Ignatius had always dreamed of imitating heroic deeds, but now, the heroes had names like Francis of Assisi and Catherine of Siena. Ignatius also noticed something strange happening to him. God, he realized, was working within him — prompting, guiding, inviting. As he traveled far and wide, he realized too that God was similarly at work in the lives of all people, in the everyday events of the world.”

    (Taken from: http://jesuits.org/spirituality?PAGE=DTN-20130520125033)

    I see Jesuit heroics as a simple commitment to finding God in all things, from business to environmentalism to the culinary arts. It’s a heroic thing to come face to face with God and reveal Him to the world even in the mundane and simple, even childish, things.

  4. Great post Shawn. Besides the awesome video at the end that made my night, the quote I enjoyed in your post was, “Work as if success depends on your own efforts-but trust as if all depended on God.” Even in the concept of heroism we need to remember who the real Hero is.

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