Click Map for Details

Flag Counter

Monday, September 3, 2012

One Critical Moment

How does one become part of its solution [an issue caused by poor or evil leadership] instead of the problem. (Serendipity Bible 10th Anniversary Edition, page 935).

Let us say that a young college student is chosen as president of an on-campus religious group. [This student was actually myself as president of the Wesley Foundation in the mid 1960s. Of course leadership issues apply equally to females as well as males, though for simplicity I refer to “he” in the following.] If he is painfully shy due to profound misgivings about himself and therefore lacks self-confidence and self-assurance; then whatever the official designation of position held, he will not be an effective leader for a leader must be willing “to make the call” time and again in all sorts of ways. He must also be willing to “standout”--to make a statement intended for notice in behavior and manner. Certainly, a young college student heading a religious group on campus can be forgiven for some misgivings. If attending a secular college, there can be a substantial atmosphere of skepticism, even coldness or ridicule directed at religion. Since religion itself is a field of study with tremendous breadth and depth of learning, the young student may sense his own severe limitations even in the area of interest that his group represents. He may also feel “a fish out of water” if from a rural area and now in an intense urban setting. He may feel outclassed and intimated by a sophisticated, intellectual environment. Though the student may like people, he may (being shy) lack the social skills to express it. And if he came to his position almost by default, then he may lack a sense of driving purpose or vision—or (out of a personal blindness due to past familiarity) even an awareness of the vital contribution religious organizations make. In short, if our leader had self-confidence, liked people and the skills to express it, and was energized due to a driving appreciation for the vital role of religion; he would have a major portion of the qualities necessary for leadership in his position as president. If these qualities were combined with a well-wrought temper of character (strength and elasticity drawn from experience) and effectual humility (democratically open to input from various sources), he would be an almost ideal leader.

I think if I were a college chaplain for the group, I would take the student aside and go over in some detail the above mentioned attributes of leadership and the issues involved. I would tell him that since he is the choice of his peers, then there's prima facie evidence that they sense a certain leadership promise in him. I would review the fundamental purposes and vision of the religious organization and remind him he no doubt has shared the same values, purposes, and vision over his development years. I would warn him not to take the blessing of religion for granted. Many on campus were not so fortunate as he to grow up in the faith. Finally I would remind him that his present position in the group is an invaluable learning opportunity and a challenge that he will look back upon as having met or failed to meet. I would play for him “Once to Every Man and Nation” reminding him that he will have other opportunities in the future, but that this is a critical one for the present moment.

Words: Once Every Man and Nation by James R. Lowell, in the Boston Courier, December 11, 1845. Lowell wrote poem protesting America's war with Mexico (source:

Music score: Ebenezer, Thomas J. Williams, 1890

Once to every man and nation, comes the moment to decide,
In the strife of truth with falsehood, for the good or evil side;
Some great cause, some great decision, offering each the bloom or blight,
And the choice goes by forever, ’twixt that darkness and that light.

Then to side with truth is noble, when we share her wretched crust,
Ere her cause bring fame and profit, and ’tis prosperous to be just;
Then it is the brave man chooses while the coward stands aside,
Till the multitude make virtue of the faith they had denied.

By the light of burning martyrs, Christ, Thy bleeding feet we track,
Toiling up new Calv’ries ever with the cross that turns not back;
New occasions teach new duties, time makes ancient good uncouth,
They must upward still and onward, who would keep abreast of truth.

Though the cause of evil prosper, yet the truth alone is strong;
Though her portion be the scaffold, and upon the throne be wrong;
Yet that scaffold sways the future, and behind the dim unknown,
Standeth God within the shadow, keeping watch above His own.

Print Page