Wednesday, January 17

We have a Dream

Probably the weirdest/toughest part of my job (Assistant Pastor at Bishopbriggs Community Church) is that there is no 'quantifiable product' with which to measure my day's work. Someone at a party asks you what your job involves, and it's hard to answer the question. Or you get to the end of a day and think "what did I do today?". At the moment, our church community is trying to make a vision into reality: namely, to see us engage with and bless our local community through things like a cafe, fitness classes, children's care or debt counselling. It's an exciting time for us.

One page in Frost and Hirsch's "The Shaping of Things to Come" (a book I just keep coming back to - thanks for the gift Mark!) struck me today, and I couldn't help thinking of Martin Luther King again.

It's page 188 - and I'll put the full text in a comment (well worth a read, especially if you're in church leadership). Here's a snippet, though:

"My task as a leader is to so articulate the vision that others are willing to embed their sense of purpose within the common vision of the community. Only if they think that the common vision legitimizes their vision will they be motivated by the leader's vision. In this sense, willingness to partake in corporate vision is the greatest compliment that a person can pay to leadership. It is holy ground and should be treated with reverence."

I think Martin Luther King is a great example of this kind of leadership, even if he never saw the "promised land" himself. Sure, he said "I have a dream", but when he gave that dream words (despite their being in the first person) the community sat up and heard their dreams being given voice. Come to think of it, that makes some sense out of Jesus' early popularity too - he gave words to the dreams of the people, and that 'common' vision (the kingdom/dreams of God) was holy ground.

4 Comments:

Blogger Jamie said...

Frost and Hirsch "The Shaping of Things to Come", page 188.

One of the best working definitions of poverty is not just the lack of money but the lack of a dream, a vision, a hope. Darryl Gardiner, the director of Youth for Christ in New Zealand, believes that one of the core missional tasks when working with the poor is to help them begin to dream again. The poor, in Darryl's view, are people without a dream. It is the missionary's task to rouse the imaginative abilities that lie at the base of the human soul in order to awaken the possibilities for a new gospel future and to access the deepest sources of human motivation - faith, love, pleasure and hope. It is to awaken a sense of purpose, of mission, in life. No less is needed to help birth and nurture the missional church in the West. We need to dream again, and to do this we must cultivate a love for imagination. Before we can do it, we need to dream it.

And it's one of the core tasks of leadership to help the community to dream again. It is a disturbing trait of the more gung-ho Christian leader today to believe that he (usually male) is the sole visionary and the people are mere receivers of the vision and must adhere to it because of the position of the leader in the organization. While many of us reject this approach to leadership, a watered-down version of this kind of thinking exists in many so-called leadership development programs. They teach that all is well when graduates of these programs simply (super)impose their vision on a community without first listening very deeply to the longings and dreams of the local people in that community.

A much more wholesome view of vision and visionary leadership is contained in the idea of the management of meaning. Condsidered philosophically, all that a great visionary leader does is awaken and harness the dreams and visions of the members of a given community and give them deeper coherence by means of a grand vision that ties together all the "little visions" of the members of the group. The fact remains that no one will be prepared to die for my sense of purpose in life. She or he will die only for her or his own sense of purpose. My task as a leader is to so articulate the vision that others are willing to embed their sense of purpose within the common vision of the community. Only if they think that the common vision legitimizes their vision will they be motivated by the leader's vision. In this sense, willingness to partake in corporate vision is the greatest compliment that a person can pay to leadership. It is holy ground and should be treated with reverence.

When Martin Luther King Jr. so compellingly articulated the vision of a better America in his legendary "I have a dream" speech, he was not articulating ideas that were particularly new to the people, or for that matter to history itself. The Old Testament prophets gave us the basis of that moral vision in the first place. Something much more primal was going on in his hushed audience - he was acting like something of a midwife to the great primal dream of God lying at the heart of every human cry for justice. Rather than espousing a new vision, he was awakening their innate sense of purpose and their longing for justice and peace by giving that dream a vocabulary, legitimacy, and direction.

And so it is for all authentically visionary leadership. It is the capacity to articulate a preferred future based on a common moral vision that allows people to dream again. This is true of all genuine apostolic leadership. And in a profound sense the leader is the key person in the release of spiritual creativity and innovation in any setting - the catalyst for reconceptualizing the mission of the church.

1/17/2007 03:02:00 pm  
Blogger Stuart said...

Hello Jamie - popped over to see who Jamie (as on Brodie's blog) was - have enjoyed the stuff on M.L King and was interested to see that a number of the books featured on your site have been stuff that either I have got (not read yet!), recently read, or am reading. Regards.

1/18/2007 03:23:00 pm  
Blogger Jamie said...

ah, I must be on the right track then. ;)

thanks for popping by Stuart.

1/18/2007 07:11:00 pm  
Blogger Jeff said...

Our church leadership team worked through that book early last year. Fantastic, thought-provoking.

I love how so many people are being moved by the Lord to renew and re-mind themselves for this current day of ministry and kingdom building.

1/18/2007 08:38:00 pm  

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