Runs on the Board

athersWriting in Thursday’s Times (19th January 2017), Mike Atherton (above), their cricket correspondent and ex-England Captain wrote a piece about leadership. It’s worth a read if you can get behind their pay wall. Apparently the English Cricket Board (ECB) has enlisted the help of an ex-Army Officer now Management Consultant, Gemma Morgan to help them develop new leaders.

In doing so, they assess potential leadership candidates in four areas;

  1. their impact within a group,
  2. their ability to make things happen,
  3. their interpersonal skills and
  4. their thinking skills.

That’s not surprising. It’s what you might expect. But what’s striking in the article is her insistence on character being key. The overriding message at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst is that leadership is service. Their motto ‘serve to lead’ is everywhere. Now that’s remarkable. It’s almost the polar opposite of how things ordinarily work in the world of sport. Normally captaincy is about having ‘runs on the board’. As  Morgan, an ex-international lacrosse player, observes,

‘Coming from the sports field initially this turned leadership on its head for me, because until then I understood leadership as hero-based: am I the best player, the leading goal scorer, the go-to player that kind of thing’.

Many of us in church planting and  pastoring resonate with that kind of thinking. But our competencies have to do with preaching, evangelistic effectiveness, theological knowledge and strategic thinking and so on. But, she goes on,

‘At Sandhurst I came to understand that it was not about me but about duty and service to others. It opened my eyes. Before they teach you any technical stuff, they underpin everything with values that are uncompromising. Integrity, for example, if you breach integrity you’re gone and you won’t be invited back. Once you’ve got these anchors in place, they add on the technical bits. In sport and business it is the other way around. In the army, they will not take a risk on character’.

In recent months, the England One Day Captain Eoin Morgan decided not to tour Bangladesh citing security risks as his issue. He copped a fair amount of flak for that. This was interpreted as a leader choosing to abandon his men when faced with hardship. It looked self-interested. It may not have been if he was making that decision in such a way that it gave implicit permission for others to follow suit. Interestingly Alex Hales decided not to tour as well. When pushed for her verdict on this decision Gemma Morgan would not be drawn because she simply didn’t know the rationale and motive behind Eoin Morgan’s decision. But she did say this, ‘You have to lead by example and my experience is that people will follow if you think you have their best interests at heart’.

It turns out that leadership is not so much about having ‘runs on the board’. And England’s own history bears that out because one of the most respected and most successful Captains was a man who arguably wasn’t good enough to get in the 2nd XI. He was the man who got the best out of Bob Willis and Ian Botham in the 1981 Ashes series. His name is Mike Brierley and he’s written a book called ‘The Art of Captaincy’. It’s on my Amazon wish list!

For those of us who suffer under the delusion that we might still be the hero every church needs, Morgan did close with this encouragement,

‘There is a time for autocratic and direct leadership but to get people to follow unquestioningly you have to have invested a lot of time in the relationships. If you’re selfish you will get found out. If you get a combination of a brilliant player, a charismatic leader, and someone with the interests of others at heart? Then, great. But they don’t come along very often’.

The odds are that most ofus are not in that category. And neither are our leaders. And so character really matters. And self sacrificial service is paramount. Who’d have thought it?!

In Mark’s Gospel Chapter 10 verse 45, we read this, ‘the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many’. That’s leadership. And it’s runs on the board. Just in a different kind of a way.

Staff Training

PoliticsYesterday evening Radio 4 reported that the Archbishops of Canterbury and York have called for an end to income inequality. That was the headline at least. I’d imagine there’s more to say than that. But the intervention of these Senior Anglican clerics into the world of Government and has apparently irked some politicians. Can they reasonably expect Christians not to have something to contribute to wider debates about policy decisions?! Though they may wish it so, the Bible simply cannot be kept out of the public square. But, the ensuing debate on the radio served to highlight how ill-equipped I felt to be able to contribute very much to the discussion.

And so, last Monday afternoon’s staff training day on Government and Politics was well timed. At the start of the church year we’d taken the decision to introduce termly staff training. Of course, as part of a network of churches like Co-Mission, we’re big on training. There’s Co-Mission staff training as well as the weekly Apprentices’ Workshop and so on. It’s a pretty training-tastic environment to be in. But we wanted to do something just for those us at CCB, equipping us for our particular context.

And so this term we decided to ‘do’ Government and Politics. We’ve got an election coming up in this country in May. And we wanted to be prepared for it. And we wanted to be able to prepare the congregation for it as well. And so I asked a few trusted friends for advice, surfed the interweb and put together a realistic package to accommodate the diversity of our staff team.

We listened to a talk on the Gospel Coalition website on Romans 13 by Richard Coekin. We wanted to begin with biblical exposition. It’s not everything you’d want to say on how Christians are meant to relate to government, but it’s not far off. For anyone familiar with Richard’s preaching, the opening ‘stab points’ are pure gold as he sets the discussion in the wider biblical context. It’s certainly a great place to start thinking about these issues.

We read an article from The Kirby Laing Institute for Christian Ethics by Jonathan Chaplin. It’s entitled ‘How shoukld Christians vote in 2010?’ It stimulated helpful discussion about the nature and significance of voting, especially in a context where no one party adopts a biblical position on all the issues.

We watched a DVD recorded talk by Wayne Grudem, available from the Christian Institute, on Christian influence on Government. It’s long. Just over an hour. But it’s good. It’s essentially the first few chapters of his book ‘Politics’ condensed. The talk is entitled ‘Does ‘political’ involvement distract from the gospel?’ As we discovered that’s somewhat miselading. It’s only a part of the talk. Nevertheless, the talk is well worth listening to.

As a result of the afternoon, I don’t think we’re sorted on the issues. But we are at least engaged with them. And we’re probably clearer on what questions we’d like to find biblical answers to. And so we’re not done. It’s encouraged us to read some more and to think some more. And we’ll have some ‘Thinking about an Issue’ slots for evening church that will force us to do both!