The One Thing Our Country (and Every Organization) Needs
If someone was to come up to me and ask, “What is the one thing, apart from salvation, that our nation needs at this particular moment” or if someone was to ask you that question – “If you were to give our nation one gift or this world one thing apart from a relationship with God, what would that one thing be?”
For me, the desperate need of America and the desperate need of the world today is leadership – wise, humble, principled, competent leadership. The greatest need today, indeed the greatest need in every age and in every organization, is leadership. I know that this is the greatest need at Vineyard Columbus, and it is the greatest need in every church. Churches need great leadership – godly, faithful, Spirit-led, servant leadership.
Our problems today, and in every age, are the result of a failure of leadership. Virtually every week the news carries a story about an individual who has been removed from power in a church, a company, or the government because they’ve either been caught in a web of deceit, or they lack the ability to effectively address the problems faced by their particular organization. There is an annual study done of CEO succession at the world’s 2500 largest companies. Forced resignations at the world’s largest companies was up 300% in the last decade.
It is not by any means a stretch to say that the single most troubling aspect of life today is an absence of great leadership – in politics, business, and religion. It seems that there are fewer and fewer leaders who possess vision and strength, and who are living lives of integrity based on eternal values. Think of your own work history, or even your own church history. If you’ve worked only for great bosses, or great managers, if you’ve only been in churches with excellent pastors, thank God because you’ve experienced a rare gift of strong leadership. But most organizations just kind of muddle through.
For those of you who enjoy history and politics, you may wish to read Martin Meridith’s The State of Africa: A History of Fifty Years of Independence. The question asked by the author is this: why are so many African countries in such a desperate state?” Certainly, part of the answer has to do with the lingering impact of colonialism, which drew national boundary lines that made absolutely no sense. Tribes were divided across multiple countries and nations were cobbled together in ways that made economic and political viability nearly impossible. And certainly, part of Africa’s condition can be laid at the feet of natural catastrophes – droughts and disease that have regularly struck parts of Africa.
But according to the author, an enormous issue for many African nations – seen in short life expectancies, high infant mortality rates, the lack of public services, terrible infrastructure, illiteracy, the absence of adequate healthcare, the inability of countries to feed themselves – is summarized by the great Nigerian novelist, Chinua Achebe, when he wrote about Nigeria saying:
The trouble with Nigeria is simply and squarely a failure of leadership.
He went on to say:
There is basically nothing wrong with the Nigerian character; there is nothing wrong with the Nigerian land, or the climate, water or air, or anything else. The Nigerian problem is the unwillingness, or inability, of its leaders to rise to the responsibility, to the challenge of personal example, which are the hallmarks of true leadership.
The failure of leadership is not just a Nigerian problem or an African problem. It’s an American problem and an English and German and any other nationality you can think of problem! Every single follower of Jesus Christ ought to want to be a leader. I’m not suggesting that everyone ought to aspire to become a pastor. Few are called to be pastors or church planters or serve God overseas as missionaries. God is certainly not calling the vast majority of people to paid ministry.
But if you are a follower of Jesus Christ, I believe that God is calling you to leadership. By leadership I mean each of us is called by God to influence and impact whatever environment we find ourselves in for Christ. Our workplaces, our extended families, our teams, our dorm floor, our roommates, our neighborhoods, and our coworkers ought to be influenced toward the purposes of Christ for that particular group.
If you have a relationship with Christ, God has put you in your particular environment, not simply to occupy space, but to influence your environment toward the purposes of Christ – to do your work with grace and integrity, to model Christian virtues, to pray for those around you, and to bear witness to Jesus.
Years ago when I first began pastoring, there was a young art student, a diminutive teenage girl named Paige, who came to the church. She was a freshman at CCAD (Columbus College of Art and Design). One day, Paige came up to me very meekly and said, “Pastor Rich, I’m thinking about starting some teas in my dormitory at art school. I was going to invite some of the other girls in my dorm. I wonder if you would pray a blessing over my teas.”
I saw this little girl and I thought, “Oh, my goodness! Poor thing! Paige is going to be eaten alive by these other art students.” She was so innocent and so sweet. I thought that the other art students were going to devour her. But I prayed blessing on her. Over the next six months to a year, nearly every other week Paige brought to church another young woman or another young man. She would introduce them saying, “Pastor Rich, this is someone from my class. I wonder if we could sit down and talk with them about Jesus.” Over the course of the year, Paige must have led 15 fellow art students to Christ. I used to think, “How in the world is she doing this?”
Years later another young woman named Sue came to the church. Sue came to Christ at Vineyard Columbus. We began talking and I discovered that Sue had been the roommate of Paige. She said, “Years ago I was Paige’s roommate. Back then I was tough. I was drinking and I was mean. I remember Paige was having these teas. I told everyone else in the dorm, ‘You better leave her alone! You better be nice to her, because you will have to deal with me otherwise!’” God provided an unlikely supporter for Paige.
Sue said, “I used to hear Paige praying for me at night. We had bunk beds and I could hear her in the middle of the night praying that I would come to know Jesus. A decade later I’ve come to know Jesus.” That’s influence! That’s leadership! And that’s what our world desperately needs – leadership that moves people toward God’s purposes for their lives!