John Ewart on Historical Biographies and Leadership

I enjoy reading historical biographies. I especially appreciate those written about men who became what we consider to be a leader. I love to note the opportunities and challenges that shaped their path and how they responded to each one of them. It often amazes me to learn how they came to be known. Many began their lives in very humble circumstances.

I am currently working through David McCullough’s behemoth work on Truman. It has been fascinating to learn about his background, rise to fame and political opportunity. I was moved to read how much he struggled with major decisions during wartime and during peace. It is interesting to learn how he dealt with others and had to choose when to bend and when to stand firm. When Truman was first elected to the U.S. Senate a senior member saw his dazed look as he stared at those in the chamber and told him, “The first six months you wonder how you got here. The next six months you’ll wonder how we got here.”

It is fascinating to see how leaders “got there.” I am humbled to serve in the area of leadership development and training. We are trying to help potential leaders “get there” under God’s grace and direction. It is exciting to watch God raise up a generation of men and women who will first serve well so they might lead well.

For churches to be healthy, strong missional leadership is required. Kevin Mannoia writes, “The church rises and falls on leadership. Ninety percent of what happens in the church is attributed to leadership. Priorities of strategic implementation are determined by leadership. Leaders must lead the way in declaring the priority, developing the momentum and dismantling the obstacles.”

God’s people need to follow God’s leader. Will Beal states, “A universal principle is at work in groups of people, the desire of the group to have a leader.”   If the senior leadership places priority, intentionality, and focus upon the mission and vision of a strategy, the possibility is much greater that the people will follow with enthusiasm. Together, pastors and people can impact a community.

Biblical church health requires effort and time, however. It is a journey not an event. People need examples to follow as well as exposition. Unfortunately, far too many churches have leaders that are, “maintenance-minded, fearful of change, and desperately clinging to the status quo. A museum mentality prevails throughout their ministries,” according to Aubrey Malphurs. Robert Lewis and Rob Wilkins state this truth in another fashion, “Often as engineers of churches, pastors and lay leaders desperately desire to bridge the gap, but when measuring the gorge with the world’s mathematics, they come to believe the span is simply too vast.”

In another historical biography, John F. Kennedy once said, “Some people see things the way they are and ask why; I see things the way they could be and ask, why not?” I pray we can be church leaders that experience Zechariah 8:23, “…in those days ten men from all the nations will grasp the garment of a Jew, saying, ‘Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.’” May we be such leaders that the church follows our example and the unchurched cling to us and come with us because they know God is with us and we are with Him!

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