“It’s much easier to control people’s dreams than to unleash them.”
Erwin Mcmanus snuck this little quote into a leadership message several years ago and it has been echoing in my soul ever since. This particular quote seemed to really resonate with my life and it occurred to me that I was the recipient of such unleashing.
My church was a long time client of mine and I worked with them on their web technology development and marketing consulting. The senior pastor, Rick Cole, and executive pastor, Doug Reid, had approached me to consider starting a young adult / college ministry. This was an odd proposition because they knew that the majority of my career was being spent in business.
Trusting whatever spiritual intuition they had, they were persistent that I should consider ministry and marketplace together. One of my most vivid memories during this discussion was sitting at coffee with Doug when he slid a piece of paper over the table with the specifics, guidelines and suggestions for how I would start and lead the ministry.
The sheet of paper was blank.
I didn’t have a single day of ministry teaching, preaching or any other credentials for this opportunity. He proceeded to tell me that he and Rick felt called by God to let me start and lead the vision that was in my heart. He said they would fully support whatever I wanted to do. No strings attached.
Something was off…
It would have been completely understandable for them to install some safeguards and keep a short leash around my vision in order to keep everything safe. After all, I was new at this! It also would have been completely reasonable to sign me up for public speaking courses, leadership training, bible courses or the very least –a ‘ministry for dummies’ class. In many ways, those choices would have been the easy route. Instead they unleashed me.
They unleashed me to follow my heart to follow after God’s heart. I launched Epic Life with everything to gain, nothing to lose and no strings attached. Now I see that this was the best thing for me and has taught me everything about leadership.
In this environment, my leadership was able to truly develop because my ambitions and heart were free of the perpetual concerns of always doing things “the right way” or doing things how they have “always been done.” In reality, this would have only suppressed my ambition and vision.
During this freedom we made many mistakes. But our mistakes became the refining process that led us to dreamer bigger and better. It infused in our ministry’s DNA that failure or setback is no big deal. Every idea, decision and ambition is now free from the fear of failure and we encourage everyone to take big risks.
I believe I was given a gift to develop this way. But it makes me wonder how many leaders out there are primarily concerned with protecting themselves from failure by complying with guidelines and following former footsteps instead of following after the heart of God. When is following after God a safe and predictable endeavor? Could it be that much of modern day leadership is teaching people to protect themselves from failure instead of encouraging them to swing for the fences?
It is now my firm belief that the forging of a leader requires great and terrifying uncertainty. I believe leaders need total and utter freedom to fail in order to truly possess victory. Think about it this way… Isn’t a home run only significant because of the great risk of a strikeout? In the same way, there is little personal victory in controlled and protected environments. But by trying and failing we are given the character to contain success when it comes.
Through it all, I learned this about spiritual leadership:
Spiritual leadership is not about everyone following after the leader’s heart, but helping everyone else learn to follow theirs.
Thank you Doug and Rick. Someday soon I will be the one sliding the blank sheet of paper across the table.