DBU Oxford Seminar Post-Trip

Before landing in England, I noted the “largely twenty-first century phenomenon of distributed power does not invalidate people’s attention and attraction to strong, individual leaders . . . people groups still look to a person to represent or personify their cause and values and at times accomplish it for them.” Having focused thoroughly on the concept of incarnational leadershipin light of a handful of notable English figures perhaps I might offer an explanation as to this human tendency. I alluded to the reason briefly by mentioning the people’s inclination to find those who “personify” their cause. Perhaps leaders emerge, and fewer those leaders whose legacy spans centuries, because they are those few persons who incarnate the work people desire to see accomplished.

Conceivably, even, there is a correlation between the magnitude of a leader’s legacy and the level to which he incarnated the cause. I might be able to offer a verygeneric scale of some sort:

Magnitude of Legacy = Level of Incarnation

Appreciated presently in a singular community = 1. Served the Cause

Appreciated presently by two or more communities = 2. Initiated the Cause

Appreciated in historical anthologies = 3. Employed for Cause, “Model the Way”

Glorified through tales and fables = 4. Lifelong Invest. to Cause, Sweat/Tears

Appreciated in common social dialog = 5. Life Invest. to Cause, Incarnation, Blood/Life

 I recently heard psychologist Jordan Peterson argue in response to some questions on socialism and collectivism that “if you are going to pursue things of value in a social environment you’re going to [unavoidably] produce a hierarchy.”[1]I would make a similar case for leadership. Regardless of the occurrence of the distribution of power, we will never see “the end of leadership” or the human attraction to strong, individual leaders because as a society who places value and emphasis on certain causes and goals, we will inevitably become aware of and lionize those individuals who partially or fully embody – incarnate – those values.


[1]Peterson, J. Accessed July 12, 2018 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E1PeOfbT_q0

DBU Oxford Seminar Day 8

Key themes encountered:

London

St. Paul’s Cathedral 

            Faith cannot be separated from the fabric of a nation. It cannot be separated from the very fiber of man. Even though St. Paul’s Cathedral is surrounded by buildings grander in size, it stands as a much more important icon in the city of London. Perhaps today it stands more as a monument to yesteryears when faith and religion were at the core of civil life and the foundation of wars and political reformations in England’s history. Nonetheless, this site attracts thousands of visitors each day who climb its narrow steps past the Whispering and Golden Galleries to catch a breathless view of London and who might also find time to recollect on the magnitude of Christianity’s place in the shaping of England.

            Another site that attracts thousands of visitors a day is the theatre district where musicals and plays like Hamilton, The Phantom of the Opera, and Aladdin are showing year round. Along with visiting Borough Market and Camden Market, my wife and I caught a matinee performance of Les Misérables at the Queen’s Theatre. As a Christian I cannot help to concentrate on the redemptive theme throughout the production which is rooted in the forgiveness and redemption found through Christ. Faith is a major theme in the Les Misérables and is a main reason the show sees visitors throughout the year.

            The reason faith is encountered in national icons and literary classics is because faith remains a constant source of meaning and purpose for people everywhere. If I can relate this to leadership ,without hopes of it sounding like humanistic pragmatism, I would suggest there is a spiritual aspect to individuals, innate, which leaders must be aware of and have the ability to effectively, and ethically, tap into to initiate reformations and create a lasting movement. Strong reasoning, a five-point platform, and a great speaking voice may get you an audience but it will not hold their attention for long. My prayer is not necessarily that I will discover what moves people, and accordingly champion a cause that speaks to their concerns, but that I would discover what God is desiring to accomplish. Why? Because if I am engaged in his work then I am engaged in a truly spiritual and God-inspired work. If this is so, then I can anticipate that what I say and do will speak to the heart and faith of those who hear my words and see my actions.

DBU Oxford Seminar Day 7

Key themes encountered:

Cambridge

Incarnational Courage

Reformers

Charles Simeon; Patience and Perseverance, Raising Up Leaders

            It is quite a conundrum that we Christians who are called to live so humbly can spend so much of our energies concentrated on leadership. I am not saying that humility and leadership are incompatible but that often an individual who has been given high levels of leadership is tempted by conceit and pride. How refreshing, however, to have heard the story of Curate Charles Simeon who, though some would argue was forced to embrace humility seeing that he was never promoted to greater levels of influence, never endeavored for more than what God had given him. As he noted:

            A servant of the Lord should not strive.

            What a difficult concept to consume nowadays when notions of personal initiative, resilience, hard work, and efficacy prevail. It is easy to read the narratives of the Bible and interpret them through our lens. We see David confront Goliath and we say he was brave and strong-willed; we encounter Elijah with the prophets of Baal and declare he was confident and daring; and we see Peter step into the sea and conclude he was a man of initiative. Yet in all these instances, and in a hundred other stories in the Scriptures, there is a more umbrella-like theme which could be argued moved our Hebraic heroes to action: obedience.

            Obedience. Obedience to the will of God, to his request, to his motives and to his heart. What greater reason exists as to why I should step into my calling? What other motive must move me to perform faithfully in all my duties? What grander cause could I ever suggests as a fairer and nobler justification as to why I should and as to why I am able to endure danger and hardships, hunger and poverty?

            Let God bring me low. Let God exalt me. Whether I lead 10 men or 10,000 cannot be determined or brought about by anything I could do except one thing: to obey the will of the Lord. When he asks me to pray, I will pray; when he requests of me my wealth, I will give; and when there is some fleshly part of me that he desires of me to relinquish, I will die to myself. But let me not strive for any goal no matter how noble it appears to me. As a leader, may I strive to do one thing alone, to follow and obey the will of the one who sends and the one who commands. 

DBU Oxford Seminar Day 6

Key themes encountered:

Windsor Castle

Incarnational Initiative

            As we stood in front of St. George’s Cathedral within the walls of Windsor Castle we gazed upon a military music presentation which evolved into a parade of Windsor Castle guardsmen exiting the castle in a show of pomp and regality. We came to a collective consensus of the kinds of elements of hard and soft power present in this passing military formation, especially when an eager tourist intimated at getting in the way of a moving squad of guardsmen and was met with a show of force and an intimidating cry of “Make way for Windsor Castle Guard!” It was comical to see what was once a harmless photo-op turn into a threatening moment for tourists who expected to get a head-on shot of marching men in large black books.

            These remnants of a once powerful monarchy are used to England’s advantage in exporting to the world a royal image we “commoners” could only dream of experiencing. It attracts tourists and a large revenue as visitors get to tour castles, walk on the graves of kings, and witness the performances of ceremonial guards. Nonetheless, the monarchy, although more a figurehead when it comes to the United Kingdom’s legislative processes, is still a head of state. The castles are their residences, a line of princes stand ready to inherit the throne, and the Windsor Castle Guard are primed to not only use force in their duties but to give their lives in service to the queen.

            When we consider the types of power able to be wielded, I would argue leaders should not be so quick to elevate the preference or virtues of soft power versus hard power, rather, leaders need to be prepared to demonstrate both as the Lord leads and enables. No two people are alike and conditions always differ; as such, leaders can hope to find understanding from the leadership successes and failures of others, however, wisdom in using influence requires guidance by the Holy Spirit.

            Depending on which we use, different tactics may produce the same outcome but consequences beyond that outcome may be different. For example, if I say to an individual, “May I pass, please?” I will likely get the same desired result from the individua by yelling, “Get out of my way!” But there will likely be a stark difference in the lasting impressions I leave. Yet, I can think of situations in which yelling “Get out of my way!” may be entirely appropriate and not harshly received; i.e. riding my bike down a crowded sidewalk when I’ve lost the ability to brake. For secular audiences they might perceive the use of power in leadership to be both science and art, and there is much reason to consider the validity of this assessment. However, for the Christian it is neither science or art, but as Scripture so aptly demonstrates, it is only Spirit-led. 

DBU Oxford Seminar Day 5

Key themes encountered:

Rest

Reflect

Library

Independence Day

            Today my wife and I had tea with Dr. Ida Glaser, the former director of the Centre for Christian and Muslim Studies in Oxford, who this past year was a guest lecturer in Houston for my wife’s PhD program. She invited us into her home in the afternoon where we enjoyed fruit, crumpets, jam, and conversation. Being in England, particularly Oxford, religion and politics are always “on the table” for discussion. Of particular interest in our tea-time conversation was the American evangelical understanding and characterization of Muslims and its impact on the church’s ability to coexist with Muslims, let alone effectively connect and minister to this growing population.

             Oxford is a remarkable place to be when contemplating themes such as globalization and cultural intelligence. The city is predominated with Christian chapels and relics, not at all by coincidence, yet it attracts individuals of all cultures and religions and incubates the serious discourse of competing and converging ideas that ultimately transpire. The result: a university world-renown for producing many of our world’s greatest writers, researchers, and political leaders.

            If this is the result of bringing together and discussing various and often antithetical concepts, I cannot help but wonder how much America is deprived of when faith and political leaders deploy the demonization and mischaracterization of immigrants and non-Christian sects. There are without question individuals and groups who seek to forcefully subjugate other peoples and their beliefs, these we must not allow to garner even a foothold, but many more are the individuals and groups who would seek to live in peaceful discourse with one another if today’s leaders would demonstrate gestures of civility and respect, such as talking tothose of different beliefs rather than ator pastthem. Leaders must help their followers cope with the uncertainties and fears that come with being introduced to vastly different culture groups, and unless there be a legitimate threat to life and liberty not exacerbate their angst.

DBU Oxford Seminar Day 4

Key themes encountered:

Incarnational Excellence

C. S. Lewis

Humility

             We sat where he sat. We walked where he walked. We ate what he ate. C. S. Lewis, a man of simple language and profound insight, many would argue has been the foremost leader in the defense of Christian thought in the twentieth and twenty-first century. His ideas and portrayal of spiritual realities through storytelling gave Christians and non-Christians a new way of looking at the gospel and understanding God’s truths. After the Bible, I would argue, I have heard more quotes from Lewis from behind the pulpit than from any other Christian author. 

            Yet, in all his fame and notoriety, as Dr. Nelson pointed out at the Kilns, Lewis’ humility was another defining characteristic of his legacy. Traditionally a leader’s character is an aspect which followers demand be of a worthy standard and of which there is often little forgiveness when it comes to shortcomings. No one is perfect – we all know this – nevertheless, how often do we see the reputation and lifelong work of some of our most respected spiritual and moral figures become tarnished at the onset of rumors, accusations, or discoveries of impropriety? Lewis lived in humble situations and handled money charitably (many would also argue ineptly). We learned that he was careful to guard himself against the image of impropriety and was known for taking care of those who were his family and closest friends. 

            These great moral characteristics by which many of our most profound Christian leaders are identified, naturally, are in high demand and often non-negotiables for positions of pastoral and ministry leadership. The standard for Christians is the Bible and so we have this as a ruler by which we measure our leaders. With leaders on non-religious institutions, however, to what do we hold them accountable to? To what standards are CEOs, foremen, supervisors, shift-leaders, and statesmen accountable? If Christians are not called to these positions then there is no standard of morality and conduct required of such people, but if Christ-followers are summoned to fill such roles then there is no reason why such individuals should not exemplify the most noble disposition. 

DBU Oxford Seminar Day 3

Key themes encountered:

Incarnational Strategy

Commons, Lords, and Monarchs

            How will leaders and individuals in America affect political change 20 years from now? Is there a specific route or strategy by which reformation will come that is unlike the paths and political maneuvering we take today? Throughout England’s history political reformation was brought about in various forms. Its most notable form being royal edict and slowly evolving into more republican and democratic forms emulated in documents such as The Magna Carta and The Bill of Rightsand now manifested in the legislative actions of the British Parliament. Of course, English political reform was not without the more violent and aggressive forms of upheaval and dissention evidenced by such acts as the beheading of King Charles I which resulted in the appointment of Oliver Cromwell as Lord Protectorate.

            The manner in which British citizens shape the laws of their country today is not the same manner we would have witnessed political reformation happen in the sixteenth century and certainly not akin to how these shifts would have happened much earlier in the eleventh century. In America, as in other countries, the recognition of individual rights and the all but abandoned idea of the “divine right of Kings” influenced a distribution of power among all socioeconomic classes and began to blur the lines between social and political stratum. Political processes have always changed; why should we expect for this to cease now?

            Republicans have long been frustrated with the increasing amount of executive powers in the hands of the President. With the results of the 2016 Presidential Election, Democrats are now calling into question the validity of the electoral college. The Declaration of Independence wisely notes, “all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, then to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.” There comes a point when individuals demand a change in their political institution and it comes when the displeasure is no longer bearable. We can expect that America’s political system will be different years from now. How different and how soon will depend on the ability of leaders to leverage the population’s discontent of those things with which we have been accustomed to for years.

DBU Oxford Seminar Day 2

Key themes encountered:

Incarnational Love

Incarnational Obedience

Incarnational Redemption

Heart Religion

            Three individuals were the focus of our stops in Moulton and Olney, William Carey, John Sutcliff, and William Cowper. A common thread connected them with each other and at the same time set them a distance apart from those immersed in the religiosity of their day; this thread can be said to be the heart. Of the three incarnational themes which were our focus this day – obedience, redemption, and love – “the greatest of these is love.” While studying leadership it may be tempting to reduce these individuals’ success in ministry to a list of theoretical principles and practical decisions, but this Christian element – the heart – which cannot be manufactured in any way, is the indispensable element without which no great task of the Lord could be accomplished.

            I could not help but experience a cheerful disposition when we discussed the transformative experience John Wesley had when the Morovians introduced him to the idea of a “heart religion” with Christ. In William Carey’s Baptist Church, after a simple slide show, a profound question had been submitted to us of which I took note: “What is on the heart of God for today’s world?” Conceivably, the hearts of Carey, Sutcliff, and Cowper were devotedly tied to their ministries because their ministries were devotedly tied to the heart of God.

            Today, so much of a leader’s work is fettered to a political party, economic ideology, religious denomination, or personal vision, and as such what can we anticipate our labor to amount to but earthly recognition and popular praise. But if we should desire to hear chiefly the applause of an audience of One, may God’s chosen leaders ask of Him to unshackle their hands from such vain toil so that they may be tethered to a new service and industry, one tied to the very heart of God and of eternal reward. If one’s work be surely of the Lord, may the manifestation of his ministry reflect the heart for which the laborer and leader toils. 

DBU Oxford Seminar Day 1

Key themes encountered:

“Just keep moving”

Ancient and modern at the same time

Incarnational Sacrifice

            In Oxford. Just two days before, we were sitting in the basement of Nation Hall at Dallas Baptist University discussing ideas of globalization and its manifestation in relation to leaders and concepts of leadership, and we discussed English reformers as a “foreign” concept. Not ironical, it is the very ideas and narratives that flowed from England’s most notable reformers and off her soil to the other side of the world that bring us to this European island to dive into these ideas with a lens of global and incarnational leadership. Yet we are not naïve to the fact that ideas from our side of “the pond” – cultural and political – have had their own influence on the culture and politics of the United Kingdom.

            Aside from concepts of culture and politics which are often carried over to different regions of the world via the waves of globalization, concepts and figures of leadership find their way over too. We can all think of someone from our own town and community who we admire; yet, is that person admired or even thought of in a different part of the globe? It is not an insult to anyone who has never been featured outside of a local newspaper, but there are individuals, those who have completed and embodied some idea of a nobler task, whose fame and admiration transcend boundaries of time, language, culture, and geography. Individuals such as Hugh Latimer, Nicholas Ridley, and Thomas Cranmer who faced intense persecution to the point of death so that they might be true to conscience, more so, true to God.

            Did their complete allegiance to the Law on the hearts mean more to them than “body and blood?” Body and blood; I imagine this is how we begin to frame a concept of incarnational leadership. It is an image of a person whose sweat and tears, life and toil, are the price paid to see the complete fruition of their assignment. Body and blood are not so much valued less than the object of their faith, rather it is of equal value and the full expense of obtaining that object.

            Usually one’s understanding of sacrificing for the greater good is the concept of losingsomething in order to get something of more value. Perhaps this notion is wrong and a simple shift of nuance can bolster our understanding. The nuance being that sacrifice is givingsomething, but not only something, giving what is required – the full price – so that we, or others, might enjoy an item worthyof the price paid in flesh and blood. 

            Leaders of such caliber who embody their beliefs and cause to the fullest are rare, but they are always remembered. Fame, of course, is not the noble aim of a leader, yet the full expression and personification of a leader toward his cause is sure to bring about that which is noble and worthy, such as greater expressions of love, joy, peace, justice, and truth on God’s green earth. My prayer is that I can be such a leader, one who incarnates a God-given vision, a Spirit-inspired word, and a Kingdom-centered mission. 

DBU Oxford Seminar Pre-Trip

            As we fly over “the pond” having read introductory information on the history of England, Oxford, and many of its historical figures, it is quite evident the amount of influence single, particular individuals had in the formation and suppression of reforming movements. Unlike the situation most democratic and republic nations are in today, throughout most of England’s history power was not distributed, rather it appeared most concentrated in the hands of those situated near the top of religious and political hierarchies. Institutions were shaped, decisions made, mostly without the consultation of the general population, such as through vote or representation, and by edict of bishops and monarchs.

            Today many reformative developments within nations cannot be accomplished or accepted without the consent of the general population. The U.S. cannot commit itself to war or to funding its citizen’s healthcare without elected representatives of the people giving their vote. Also, at times the general population wields informal, soft power by way of marches and social media campaigns that bring forth large scale focus and changes to the issues they feel most pressed with. For example, the outcry of many citizens in the U.S. regarding the separation of illegal immigrant children from their captive illegal immigrant parents along the U.S. border pushed President Trump’s hand to soften his executive guidance about laws related to captured illegal immigrants.

            However, this largely twenty-first century phenomenon of distributed power does not invalidate people’s attention and attraction to strong, individual leaders. This detail here is what intrigues me most about leadership in the twenty-first century. With the ability that our world has to collaborate, garner soft power, and influence large-scale change across regions, people groups still look to a person to represent or personify their cause and values and at times accomplish it for them. Without a doubt the English reformers we will examine will embody some, if not all, the values we look for in those we want to follow. The question for the newly empowered general population is whether or not we will begin to fully epitomize what we value and become the leaders we and many of our subjugated ancestors have admired from afar. Will we solely offer our support, sign a petition, and cast our vote, or will we become the incarnational agent of all we value and believe and lead a reformation, a revolution, in our world’s dire state?

            During this trip my goal is to appreciate the leadership and reformative actions of English and Christian heroes throughout history. I hope to appreciate them for what they did, why they did it, and in their historical context and not offer judgements of them, whether negative or positive, but grasp the magnitude and limitations of their influence. I then want to look at my current historical and cultural context to understand not only which potential leadership opportunities the Lord may be guiding me towards but also what values, principles, and causes I will be most prepared to embody so that I can become the incarnational leader God requires of me.