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There’s quite a focus on campus on leadership these days and that’s a wonderful thing. As part of the tiniest fraction of the world who understand the Science of Christianity, we should be leaders. The only question is what kind of leaders?
When we hear the word “leader” – most of us think of one who is perhaps charismatically guiding others to greatness. The only question is – does this leadership happen because one person is trying to set themselves up to lead other people, or does it happen because people lead themselves so well that others simply follow? Which could/should have the emphasis in our lives?
Consider two examples: Bill Clinton’s biographers believe he was setting himself up to be President from a young age, and historians could argue that he got a lot of things done as President. But because he profoundly angered voters with his repeated adulterous affairs, George Bush was elected in year 2000 by the thinnest of margins (about 500 votes in the decisive Florida count). Whatever you believe politically, you could argue that George Bush took things in an opposite direction and, for the most part, reversed everything Bill Clinton worked for. Because Clinton couldn’t lead/control himself, he became an ineffective leader.
On the other hand, there is the well-known example of Mahatma Ghandi who liberated India from British Rule without ever holding any office or title other than “Great Soul.” He demonstrated tremendous discipline with his diet, his sexual life, and with the discipline of no retaliation or non-violence when British soldiers murdered his fellow countrymen. His famous quote about how we should, “Be the change we want to see” in the world speaks volumes about his “Leadership Style.”
But can there be even purer motives for leadership? Throughout the Gospels we come across Jesus’ paradigm of servant leadership which he modeled by washing the disciples’ feet and telling us that we should follow that example. An author named Rick Warren puts that in a beautiful perspective:
“Thousands of books have been written on leadership, but few on servanthood. Everyone wants to lead; no one wants to be a servant. We would rather be generals than privates. Even Christians want to be “servant-leaders,” not just plain servants. But to be like Jesus is to be a servant. That’s what he called himself. Remember, God shaped you for service, not for self-centeredness….You will never arrive at the state in life where you’re too important to help with menial tasks…The race to be a leader is crowded, but the field is wide open for those willing to be servants.”
The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren, p. 258
Sentinel author, Allison Phinney can take this even deeper where he says, “No person or group gave Jesus authority. He wasn’t in a position of authority. But nevertheless he had the innate capacity to act effectively. He told his followers this came from responding directly to what God, Spirit, His Father, was doing, and he taught them they could live from the same basis.”
Never Powerless” by Allison W. Phinney, Jr. in CSS of 12/9/85
Can the motives for leadership be taken even deeper? I think the person we refer to as “our Leader” definitely thinks so. One of her students named Irving Tomlinson puts Mrs. Eddy’s leadership style into perspective:
“Mrs. Eddy’s leadership was a God-inspired leadership. She knew that spiritual power is derived from humility and that in order to qualify as a true leader of mankind one must first qualify as a follower of God.” Irving Tomlinson, Twelve Years with Mary Baker Eddy, p. 124
One the same page of Tomlinson’s book, Mrs. Eddy herself is quoted as saying, “I have not sought leadership. Before the great problems that have been given to me, I have felt myself nothing. There has been a voice saying to me, ‘Mary, take yourself out of the way and let God act through you’” Mary Baker Eddy quoted in: Irving Tomlinson, Twelve Years with Mary Baker Eddy, p. 124.
To me, this blows away the standard human paradigm of leadership where thousands of executives at the top of organizations are trying to figure out how to motivate or manipulate their underlings. Perhaps the current movie in theaters, “Horrible Bosses” would indicate that our culture pretty much hates this paradigm of bosses with big egos and power trips.
The reason Mrs. Eddy has such continuing authority is that she led herself to a profound spirituality that healed and brought great good to others. She wasn’t seeking greatness – only holiness, and progress for humanity. She even puts herself to an extremely humble test when she tells her followers to, “Follow your Leader only so far as she follows Christ” (Message for 1902: p. 4). This is why she hopefully garners more respect in this community than any historical leader we know. When it comes to thinking about how to lead various groups and teams inside the Principia community, why not strive to emulate this example of leading by following God with all of our hearts?
So how does one do this? The late Stephen Gottschalk was a Mary Baker Eddy scholar and his conclusion in his book, Rolling Away the Stone was that, “While moments of communion with God were fulfilling in themselves, they were the only way in which effective leadership could be impelled and sustained.” Rolling Away the Stone, by Stephen Gottschalk, p. 94
Hence, spending more of our lives alone with God – leading ourselves to a deeper sense of God’s guiding love, — might just be the best way to lead mankind out of the enormous problems it faces. It’s perhaps the most powerful and humble example of leadership ever given to mankind. For the largest community of Christian Scientists in the world (that’s us), it seems worth emulating.