Leadership in any sphere of life can be a lonely experience. It’s not that a leader isn’t surrounded by amazing people. No, it’s that the buck must stop somewhere. This is where true leaders step up.
In the late 1970’s, there was a British Prime Minister called Jim Callaghan. He was a decent man with a chirpy demeanour who the tabloid media nick-named ‘Sunny Jim’. Yet behind the seemingly relaxed exterior was a burdened soul who carried the weight of heavy criticism. Many historians today accept that Callaghan was unfairly blamed for a national crisis. During his twice weekly performance at Prime Ministers Questions (an unforgiving environment at the best of times), he always asked his wife Audrey to accompany him. She would sit in the public gallery and Jim would regularly look up to her for comfort and reassurance. You see, she was the one person who came anywhere close to grasping the loneliness of what he had to bear.
In the good times, leaders resist credit and instead share it with others. In the tough times, leaders get out onto the front line and embrace responsibility, often receiving far more flack than they deserve. Yet any leader worth their salt will never complain about this apparent injustice. They simply accept it as part of the price a leader must pay. The worst kind of leadership is that which deflects and blames others. This produces toxic culture which eventually ends up with an implosion of trust. People will never flourish in an environment like that.
If you should aspire to leadership in life, my advice is to quickly ditch any notions of privilege and position. Leadership is lonely. No-matter how prestigious others think it might appear, you will rarely ‘feel’ it. But you will be all too aware of how vulnerable and weak you are. Criticism will come at an incredibly fast pace. Thats why faithfulness matters. In our weakness, Christ’s strength is made perfect.
The ultimate example of leadership is Jesus. He held no position and occupied no office. Instead, he made himself of no reputation and carried a servant heart (Phil 2:5-11). He embraced the responsibility of our sin and covered the cost, a travesty of justice which he bore with grace and love. Despite the loneliness and misunderstanding, Jesus went all the way. This is REAL leadership.
At the wedding of Harry & Meghan, something happened which caused quite a stir. A bishop by the name of Michael Curry preached a brilliant sermon which had some real conviction & passion. These are things you don’t always find amidst the formal pomp and circumstance of a British royal wedding.
The response to Bishop Curry’s message by the stiff upper lip types was monotonously predictable. There was a great deal of murmuring from those who can’t bring themselves to recognise any different expression of church other than the established one. The BBC commentator patronisingly described Bishop Curry’s sermon as ‘forceful and uplifting‘. Say what?? Mr BBC man was uttering verbal clap trap of the most condescending kind. Honestly….the BBC…bless. Bishop Michael was different…and surely this should be well and truly celebrated?!!! He wasn’t being ‘forceful‘ at all. He simply sounded like a man who believed what he was talking about. That’s a good thing!!!
As I watched Bishop Curry preaching his brilliant message and the awkward reaction afterwards, my mind was drawn back to something that happened when we first planted the Junction Church in Loughborough. I’ll never forget chatting to a brand new Christian who’d been journeying with us. This zealous person had gone into town giving out flyers advertising our new church (something which we had not asked them to do). After receiving lots of positive feedback from passers by, a church minister who happened to walk by (wearing a collar) took one of the flyers and rudely asked what this was all about. As the new Christian naively tried to explain our heart, the minister then proceeded to scrunch up the flyer and grumbled words to the effect ‘we don’t need another church in this town‘ before abruptly walking off. The new Christian could hardly believe what had just happened. Truly shocking stuff…yet that’s just one story!! Surely it would have been far better to just celebrate a different kind of church instead of criticising it?
Anyway…back to Bishop Curry. I loved his sermon. I love it that he was different. I love the fact that he dared to bring some warm passion into a context which can be cold and clinical. This is exactly what the UK Church needs more of. It’s something to be celebrated, not frowned upon. This is a new day and there’s change in the air. A new generation is rising up. It’s time to get with it. God bless Bishop Michael!!
There’s no such thing as a perfect life, not here on earth anyway. All of us have areas of challenge and struggle which we have to face. For me, I had to come to terms with a less than ideal situation pretty early on. This meant I was fostered from the age of 5 right up until my 18th birthday. So it’s been an interesting journey, complex and way beyond my control.
Thing is, sympathy is not the answer to hardship. Most people detest the idea of others feeling sorry for them. It’s disempowering and pitiful. Actually, I’ve discovered for myself that God’s grace not only saves me but empowers my life too. It’s upon this truth where true freedom is found.
In a less than perfect world, God is totally worth trusting. That’s exactly what I’ve chosen to do. He has made a universe of difference to me. This doesn’t mean I suddenly have answers to all the complicated questions of life. I don’t. We’re all born into a unique set of circumstances. Everyone has struggles. Just because someone else might have been brought up differently to me doesn’t mean they don’t have their share of issues too. These normally just take a different form. That’s why it’s a mistake to measure a person’s inward wellbeing by their outward appearance. The two don’t necessarily equate. No-matter how good somebody’s life may look, the truth is that none of us are perfect.
So whoever you are and whatever you’ve been through, lean into God’s grace. Why? Because none of us are THAT good. But God’s grace really is THAT good. It has saved me. It can save you too. Lean in. Keep trusting. Allow God’s grace to shape your life. This is what will make a difference.
Hello. It’s me, now in your 40’s. You’re old now…but not VERY old…yet. From your present vantage point though, you’ll no doubt reckon I’m ancient. Great thing is, I don’t really care. See, that’s what happens when you put a few years on the clock; you become less concerned about what people think of you. This is mostly a good thing, I think.
Now permit me to indulge in some patronising reflecting which I know you’ll read with contemptuous amusement. And by the way, be sure to keep that bizarre humour of yours, no-matter what anybody says. When christians try to turn you into an intense zombie like creature of pharisaical kin, resist it with every funny bone in your body. I promise, your humour will save your life…literally. Don’t worry if others are bemused by you. That’s ok. As long as you enjoy life, that’s what matters. Though probably best to avoid telling that misplaced joke at the funeral service you’ll take in May 2012.
Now then, you’re currently in your 20’s. I reckon this is the most significant decade of your life. The foundations you lay today are a prophecy of your tomorrow. So don’t be in a hurry. Just build slowly & well. And don’t worry if people havn’t recognised your potential. Quietly get on with it. Good things will follow….I promise.
Over the next few years, you’ll hear more and more clap trap about ‘going on a journey to discover who you really are’. I can confirm that your hunch about this is absolutely correct. Yes, it’s all complete and utter tosh. Never EVER try to find yourself. If you do, you’ll end up becoming the sick child of an even sicker society. This is not good. No, don’t ‘find yourself’. Instead, define yourself by your God given convictions. Never compromise on them…not for one moment. Carpe Diem…..seize the day. Cos you’ve only got one shot at this thing. So make it count.
Now Roy, can I please implore you to work a bit harder. I know you could easily get a first in your degree if you’d just put in a tad more effort. Just because you can pick things up quite quickly and remember details doesn’t mean you have an excuse to give as little attention as possible to your subject of choice. Theology matters….even more than music. Yes it does. Your 40 year old self wishes he’d worked a bit harder on this. Don’t be complacent. You’re going to need it because one day, you’ll pioneer a church called the Junction Church. And believe me, if you think the world is messed up now, wait till you see what it looks like in 20 years!! Just a heads up….Instagram is not an instant weight measuring mechanism. And facebook is not a reference to someone whose face actually looks like a book. It’s all far more complicated than that. You’ll see. But keep working at simplifying your life. You’re going to need to.
Right, a quick word about friendships. They’re far more valuable than you currently realise. So cherish them…especially the good ones. In fact, invest in these a lot more. See, what gives quality to life is not money or stuff. It’s the people you do life with. There are many fine acquaintances…but not many great friends. So build great friendships. They’re more important than you presently realise.
Don’t worry about feeling too young to serve God. It won’t be long until you wake up one morning and discover you’re 30. From that point onwards, life becomes a mad race to the finish line (wherever that will be).
Ok, you’ll be pleased to know that I’m closing off now. Can I implore you though, over the next few years, choose your battles well. Some things you’ll be tempted to fight about just aren’t worth it. So channel your passions to what really matters. Live well. Aim for the ‘well done good and faithful servant.’ In the end, this is what matters most.
Be confident, but avoid arrogance. Be wise, but don’t be too cautious. Be passionate, but resist anger. In 2018, the world has become angry to boiling point. It needs a different vibe.
Right then, hopefully I’ll be in touch in another 20 years. Until then, keep giving it your best shot. Enjoy the journey.
p.s. In a few years, you’ll meet a young lady called Lydia. Marry her…no questions asked. She’s definitely the one.
What do traffic lights, doctors surgeries and online deliveries all have in common? They keep you WAITING!! Funny isn’t it. In our insanely fast paced world, we still have to wait for stuff. Even in a restaurant, who are you served by? A waiter. In century 21, good things still take time.
Currently, I’m finding myself in a season of waiting. Personal health challenges have really battered me over the last 6 months. The medical people are still trying to get to grips with what’s going on. The main symptom has been serious fatigue which has resulted in me having to pause a large portion of my life, including postponing my teacher training course.
I’m still serving at church every Sunday. See, being planted in God’s house is a non-negotiable, even in this tough season. For me, it’s all the more important since this is my community which I absolutely love. Yet because my energy levels have been badly depleted, some of my responsibilities are currently on hold. I just thank God for pastors who love me and stick by me no-matter what, behind the scenes where no-one else really gets to see. I can tell you, the Junction Church is seriously blessed with the best of the best.
Yet, for the first time in my previously energetic life, I have found myself in a period of waiting. Waiting for a miracle, waiting for the doctor’s report, waiting for recovery. I didn’t choose this struggle. But this is where I am.
So instead of denying the wait, here are 4 lessons I’m learning to embrace. I hope my reflections help you:
1. Patience is a virtue.
You can’t always do a lot about your circumstances. However, you CAN control your response. Patience is the manifestation of self-control, which is part of the fruit of the Spirit.
2. Prayerfulness needs to be a priority.
In order to manage the tension of waiting, prayer must take a precedence. In periods of waiting, anxiousness can quickly develop. Yet when we pray, we exchange our apprehensions for the peace of God. This is a peace which transcends understanding. It’s a life saver!
3. Perspective is crucial.
What has really helped me develop perspective in my season of waiting has been to focus on God. I remind myself of what God has done, can do and will do. When we focus on Jesus, we recognise that waiting is a season, not a destiny.
4. Pain is part of the process.
The truth is, waiting hurts, especially for a guy like me. It’s frustrating not knowing what’s actually going on with my once fit and healthy body. It’s arduous sleeping 3/4 hours in the day, 10 hours a night, waking up and feeling exhausted. Waiting for your miracle hurts. Yet the pain of the process reminds me I’m alive. Waiting is a refiner of character. No, it’s not pleasant. But it makes us better. Read a great blog about this HERE http://junctionchurch.net/2017/06/07/god-wounds-roy-todd/
Whatever you’re believing for in your life, lets learn the art of patience. God is at work. Have the courage to trust him. We’re gonna get through this. Keep going!!