Why do we lead the way we do?  How does that impact disciple-making?

For Christian leaders to respond to the lack of discipleship/disciple-making in the Church (what Dallas Willard referred to as The Great Omission), we’ll need to think critically and carefully about our own leadership framework.  It may be helpful to consider the cultural symbols that shape our understanding of power and influence.  By pulling back the curtain on the symbols that shape us, we may be able to lead in a way that is more conducive to developing a culture of disciple-making (living out the Great Commission). 

Erwin McManus reminds us that, “Cultures sing their own songs, tell their own stories, and carry their own aromas.  A culture is a beautiful art piece that uses people as its canvas… In every culture you’ll find essential metaphors that define and shape its ethos.  Your symbols hold your secret stories.  The metaphor causes an eruption of images, ideas, dreams, beliefs, and convictions all at one time.  The story of an entire people can be contained in one symbol.  A culture often has two or three symbols that are fundamental to the identity of the people.” (An Unstoppable Force, 112-113)

When I think about cultural symbols that shape an American ideal of leadership, Mt. Rushmore looms large.  The faces of these ideal Presidents were carved in stone on the side of a mountain – a good indicator of how much we value and honor their example!  I’ve had a goal over the last few years of reading biographies about each of the Mt. Rushmore Presidents to help me better understand how they shape our image of ideal leadership.  While I’m certainly not a historian and have more reading to do, I’d like to share an admittedly half-baked hunch to see if unpacking this symbol can help us lead more effectively.  Reading about these four Presidents’ leadership styles, it seems that each of them hold a symbolic place in the American imagination as an ideal leader in a particular way: Washington has been idealized as having the proper heart; Lincoln is the soul of America; Jefferson’s intellect and his role as the architect of the Declaration of Independence are the standard for the mind of a President; while Roosevelt embodies something of the strength we value most in a leader.   The U.S.A. has carved her greatest leaders in stone, the ones who model for her people what leading out of heart, soul, mind and strength are all about.

Now… is my simplistic interpretation of how Mt. Rushmore matters for our cultural perceptions of leadership shaped by what Jesus has to say about the greatest commands in Mark 12:28-31? Certainly.  Could this viewing of that national symbol potentially aid us in choosing who to vote for in an upcoming Presidential election – helping us evaluate our candidates based on how well they lead out of heart, soul, mind and strength?  I hope so.  But, more important than that, is my conviction that churches should take their leadership cues from the one who lived out a life that best honored God with heart, soul, mind, and strength.  A King who knew that there would be no crown without the cross.  A King who made disciple-making the crux of his work.  A King whose leadership focused on empowering those he discipled, entrusting them to take his Kingdom project to the ends of the earth. By unpacking the influence of national symbols, like the stone images of Mt. Rushmore, on our conceptions of leadership, we may begin to see how Christ, the living stone (1 Peter 2), calls us to put disciple-making at the center of our leadership strategy.  If a symbol like Mt. Rushmore matters for the shaping our leadership ideals, how could we lift our eyes to our Savior, who offers an even better leadership framework, and let that guide our own identity and influence?

2 Responses

  1. Alan Howell writes, of Mount Rushmore, “The faces of these ideal Presidents were carved in stone on the side of a mountain – a good indicator of how much we value and honor their example!”

    Yet none of the faces depict Restoration Movement figures. Washington was a lifelong Anglican (Episcopalian, following the American Revolution). Jefferson was a Deist, who famously edited out the supernatural elements, such as miracles and claims of divinity, from the New Testament in preparing his Jefferson Bible. Lincoln was unchurched, though he did invoke the name of Providence, along with plenty of religious imagery, to a largely protestant Christian audience. Theodore Roosevelt was a member of the American branch of the Dutch Reformed Church in America, a protestant denomination, with denominational polity.

    I know of no evidence that any of the four men, enshrined on the side of Mt Rushmore, were ever baptized by full immersion for the conscious remission of sin. That fact, under ordinary circumstances, would firmly place each of those men in your crosshairs, as Church of Christ ministers, as deserving of and expecting of an eternity of torment in the Lake of Fire. I attended Church of Christ services for 20 years, and have continued to follow the movement for 30 years since then. I know well how red your faces get, how your mouths seethe with flying spittle, how you make the rafters ring with your condemnation of every soul on Earth except the 1,000,000 or so of you that have undergone water baptism for the conscious remission of sin.

    None of those Presidents qualify as anything but hell bound in your oh-so-Biblical mandate to tell the rest of the world’s 7,999,000,000 souls EXACTLY where we will all spend eternity. And yet, somehow, in Alan Howell’s missive above, these four Presidents escape the vitriol that you all spend your entire careers on? Of course, I hear you protest, it’s not YOU who hate the rest of us and the mess we’ve made of God’s simple word, it’s GOD.

    You’re just the chosen few who, alone upon the planet, know exactly what God thinks about everything, what God hates, and it’s almost everyone who isn’t you.

    Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and Roosevelt’s legacy belong to human beings who bothered to transcend, at least in part, the bigoted ignorance of the religious times in which they lived. With mixed success.

    Washington and Jefferson were unrepentant slave owners. I’m sure that’s one of the few things a Church of Christer would admire about them, since Exodus 21:20-21 absolutely guarantees every Church of Christer, as the one and only chosen people of God, to own human beings and even kill them if they disobey: “And if a man smite his servant, or his maid, with a rod, and he die under his hand; he shall be surely punished. Notwithstanding, if he continue a day or two, he shall not be punished: for he is his money.”

    How dare you spew the hateful, world condemning bile that is your chief export as Restorationists, and then cherry pick four of us worldly, ungodly heathen (Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Roosevelt) to make any sort of positive theological point? FOR SHAME.

  2. Alan Howell goes on to write, “Could this viewing of that national symbol potentially aid us in choosing who to vote for in an upcoming Presidential election – helping us evaluate our candidates based on how well they lead out of heart, soul, mind and strength?”

    The only Restoration Movement figure who is prominent in Washington at the present time is Kenneth Starr, the former dean of the School of Law at Pepperdine University, and we know where his allegiance lies, since he spoke on the Senate floor on behalf of the incumbent President less than three weeks ago. And what a President, for a Restorationist! You will not find any of his challengers insisting on the subjugation of women, as the New Testament enjoins (the readers of this comment will have the relevant proof texts far more ready to recollection than I do). You will not find any of the incumbent’s challengers asserting that it is a shameful thing for a black person to shake hands with a white person, even as your own Foy Wallace Jr. does. The incumbent President, it has said, has paid for, or at least paid hush money for, up to seven abortions, and is on his third marriage, having cheated on each of his spouses in turn. But he will say that he is anti-abortion, he will promise the Moon to Christian fundamentalists, and he will get your votes. He will point out that he’s still putting children of refugees into cages, not even bothering to create a paper trail that might one day reunite them with their imprisoned parents. That fits nicely with your “hate his father and his mother” theology, your “I come to bring not peace but the sword” platitudes, and he will get your votes. Every stinking one of your stinking votes. He will continue to gut programs for veterans, to gut funding for public education, and that will to the lot of you smack of “fiscal responsibility”, the same austerity that your elders preach from the pulpit every quarter, when your pitifully shrinking numbers result in your having to cut back your expenditures. Why shouldn’t the entire country suffer the same fate as your own congregations? You will vote for this evil man, this man who brags of his bravado in looking at women and, based on his own fame, imagining himself just the perfect man to “grab ’em by the pussy”. Women like your daughters, sisters, and wives. And that’s just fine with you too, because they’re garbage to you, painted Jezebels and sinning Eves, the lot of ’em.

    There’s a quotation in your Christian Bible that says “Not everyone who says, ‘Lord, Lord’, etc.” I have even heard it preached from the pulpit in a Church of Christ, once or twice. But you can never put it into practice. That would involve using your rational faculties, and you long ago ditched those for Young-Earth Creationism and the denial of science, since to you the story of Noah and the Ark means that the earth is completely safe until the longed-for moment when Jesus comes to burn up the whole shooting match.

    Church of Christ preachers are great at triangulating the basic outline of what sounds like a moral approach. That it sound moral is all that matters. When all is said and done, you will, as long as the Churches of Christ breathe, turn around and do the most vile, reprehensible thing you can possibly conceive of. And count yourselves the one and only elect of God.

    At least you’re all doing it in public on the Internet now. Good. Let the world see your hatred, and your lies. It’s good for the tree to be known by its fruits.

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