Visionary Leaders Vs. Masters Part Five

dedicatedWhat do Visionaries & Masters Invest Into?

I once knew a woman who was starting up a new NGO project in S.E. Asia. When speaking of her work she said, “I’m a starter. I like to start things. Then I like to work myself out of a job. Once things are up and running, I get bored, so I hand the work over to someone else and go off and start something else.”

There are truly gifted visionaries out there who can do just what my friend described above, and the project they begin does indeed continue on under new leadership for many years. But, in my experience, more often than not, when someone says, “I’m a starter and then I’m gone…” what they’re really saying is, “I like to be around when things are new and exciting. Once the novelty wears off and things become more mundane (and difficult), I leave.”

Visionaries tend to invest into the New! and Exciting!; into a fleeting glory which quickly fades. The Visionary invests into what makes him look good in the here and now and into what the masses focus on and get excited about (and pour resources into) in the here and now.

The Master, however, invests into an undying glory which never fades, but is often hidden in dark places in the days of small things.

Visionary projects start off big, but that’s mostly an illusion. It’s like a sugar rush — lots of energy rapidly infused into a body, but then just as rapidly leaking out. There is nothing wrong with starting big, in fact it’s probably the better way to go, but is there a sustainable system ready to take over once the initial momentum dissipates?

When a Master invests into a new project, he does not think, “Okay, let’s throw a whole bunch of money at this thing, hype it up big, and add it to the list of our great accomplishments (regardless of wether it works or not).” No, a Master says, “I am investing into this project for the life of the project. I want to see this thing flourish, not just at the beginning when everyone is watching, but in the middle, and the end, after most initial investors have lost interest.”

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Read Visionary Leaders Vs. Masters Part One; Part Two; Part Three; Part Four

 

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How the Bible Actually Works by Peter Enns (Book Review)

How the Bible Actually Works: In Which I Explain How An Ancient, Ambiguous, and Diverse Book Leads Us to Wisdom Rather Than Answers—and Why That’s Great NewsHow the Bible Actually Works: In Which I Explain How An Ancient, Ambiguous, and Diverse Book Leads Us to Wisdom Rather Than Answers—and Why That’s Great News by Peter Enns

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

For every mile of highway there are two miles of ditch. With biblical theology the right side ditch is to treat the bible as though it fell out of the sky last week. The left side ditch is to believe that because the bible is so old and written in such a different culture, we can not know what it truly says. Peter Enns, driving a bus full of evangelical straw men, veers dangerously close to the left side ditch, if he hasn’t gone down already. The sludge at the bottom of the left ditch is a mixture of postmodern philosophy and liberal progressivism. Enns calls it wisdom.

Peter Enns makes too much of the fact that the bible is ancient and written in different cultures. I agree that we must always take that into account when studying the bible and searching for the true meaning of the text. I too get frustrated when Christians act as though a passage was written by some western author only a few years ago. We always must ask what the original intention of the author of the text was and then apply the principle of the text to our lives today. Enns goes too far though. He writes as though we could never understand those ancient authors. We are just too different now. We think entirely different from them.

I disagree. Consider this text…

Imagine what a variety of noises reverberates about my ears! I have lodgings right over a bathing establishment. So picture to yourself the assortment of sounds, which are strong enough to make me hate my very powers of hearing! When your strenuous gentleman, for example, is exercising himself by flourishing leaden weights; when he is working hard, or else pretends to be working hard, I can hear him grunt; and whenever he releases his imprisoned breath, I can hear him panting in wheezy and high-pitched tones. Or perhaps I notice some lazy fellow, content with a cheap rubdown, and hear the crack of the pummelling hand on his shoulder, varying in sound according as the hand is laid on flat or hollow. Then, perhaps, a professional comes along, shouting out the score; that is the finishing touch.

When do you think the above text was written? Is it difficult to understand? Is it too culturally odd for you to know what is being spoken of? Is it written by someone who is so different from the modern man that he might as well be from another planet? No, I don’t think so. This text was written almost 2000 years ago in Rome by a man named Seneca. This text could easily appear in a 19th century British novel and not look out of place at all. I realize that the original was written in Latin, but that does not change the fact that a man living 2000 years ago is more like a man living today than he is different.

In regards to culture, I have visited many countries and ten years ago I moved from the west to East Asia. Very different cultures. But one thing I’ve seen over and over again wherever I go is that we humans are the same — same dreams, same desires, same fears, same hopes.

Enns pushes strongly in this book that our idea of God changes with the times. Why did the early Christians change so much the beliefs of Judaism, out of which Christianity arose? To fit with the times. Why should our views on homosexual behaviour and gender be different from what is written in the New testament? To fit with the times. Enns holds to this way of thinking so strongly that it steers him to faulty conclusions. Did things change radically from Judaism to Christianity? Yes! Because of what Jesus accomplished. Not, as Enns writes, because the times were a-changing and a new belief system was necessary.

Enns writes some interesting things about the resurrection in this book which is similar to what N.T. Wright would say. I do appreciate the way Peter Enns asks difficult questions and I do believe he genuinely wants to know the truth of God and the bible.

Related reading…

Inspiration and Incarnation (Book Review)

Postmodern Jesusism

Sinners in the Hands of a Loving God (Book Review)

Jesus and Covenantal Righteousness

In the Fullness of Time

View all my reviews

Subjected Will

homerThe idea of free will is one often thought and debated about. But I think the concept of free will is often oversimplified. The argument is presented as though you either have 100% free will or you 100% don’t.

In reality your will is neither 100%-free nor 100%-not-free. Your will is subject to more powerful forces and, whether conscious of it or not, you will always make decisions, you will always do what you want to do, under the influence of these other forces. Your will is subject to your desires, and your desires are subject to your nature. You will always do what you want to do (your desires), and what you want to do is always driven by who you are at a fundamental level (your nature).

Some might argue: “I always do what I want? No. I do things I don’t want to do all the time. I don’t want to exercise in the morning, but I still do it.” But that argument assumes that one can only have one desire at a time. I assume you would never want to run into a burning building. No one wants to be burned alive and die from smoke inhalation. But what if your child was trapped in that building? Suddenly your desire to not die in the fire is outweighed by your desire to save your child. There are two desires, but one overpowers the other, and the overpowering desire determines your willful decision. Which desire is more powerful in your life? The desire to spend an extra hour in your comfy bed? Or the desire to be healthy?

One would have to be a pretty big scumbag to not want to save their child from a burning building in order to avoid getting burned themself. One’s nature would have to be seriously flawed to do that. And yet, there are parents who intentionally hurt their own children. Where does this flawed nature come from? Do we all have it?

Because of our fallen nature we are all subject to evil desires, which then lead us to do evil things. Only with a new nature is there any hope we can become good. Only when the old nature dies and a resurrection occurs can a new nature be born.

Some would argue: “I’m already good!” Okay, but compared to who? Compared to Hitler? Or compared to God? The standard matters. Your will is subject to your desires, your desires are subject to your nature. Who is your nature subject to?

Related reading: Predisposed to Rule; On Free Will

 

Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy Quotes #21

“The disappearance of war threatens us with the loss of the ability to distinguish between play and seriousness. Let us admit openly: war is the prime example of deadly earnestness. Any action in which I am prepared to risk my life resembles war. Even love sinks to the level of a game when there is no risk of life involved.”

~from Planetary Service: A Way Into the Third Millennium, page 5

Visionary Leaders Vs. Masters Part Four

goal-vs-vision-1024x732I recently finished reading How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big by Scott Adams. In it, Adams makes a good suggestion which goes something like this: Don’t set goals in your life, rather, build systems.* And that got me thinking about the difference between Visionary leaders and Masters — Visionaries set goals, Masters build systems.

As I wrote about before, a Visionary leader does not have much to offer other than his vision. To follow the Visionary you must celebrate his vision, but after that, you’re mostly on your own. And if you do not celebrate his vision you become a pariah. In fact, you could be very good at what you do, but if you don’t celebrate or connect to the vision you’ll be ignored. And vice versa, you could be terrible at what you do, but if you do celebrate the vision you will be promoted.

Visionary led movements which never transition to Master led movements usually die with the Visionary. I grew up in the Christian Reformed Church (CRC). The CRC was founded in 1857 and has roots going back to the Reformation. I don’t doubt that the CRC will still exist 100 years from now. I also know of Christian church movements which are only 40 years old. These movements are Visionary led and I don’t see them lasting another 40 years. Once the Visionary dies, the fuel feeding the movement burns out.

So I agree with Scott Adams, but I will change the wording: Don’t rely on vision, rather, build systems. Systems will outlive the Visionary. You can start with a Visionary, but don’t die with the Visionary.

A system does not mean a bureaucracy. It’s true that can happen, but a Master won’t allow it. A Master creates a system in which everyone can operate freely and not be bogged down by unnecessary rules. Systems are not void of progress; they create an environment in which progress is normal. For example, a friend of mine is trying to lose weight. In the past he would always set a goal of how many pounds he would like to lose. He would reach that goal, but never sustain the new weight. Now, he has abandoned the goal setting and is creating a system instead. The system is not pushing toward a specific weight but rather is creating a lifestyle in which a healthy weight becomes normal.

Christian Visionaries love to quote this Bible verse: Where there is no vision, the people perish… See how important vision is? It’s in the Bible! But, it’s funny because they don’t quote the whole verse. In fact, they don’t even quote the full sentence. The whole verse is this: Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he. (Proverbs 29:18 KJV) The word vision in the passage is the Hebrew word châzôn, which refers to a prophetic vision. The prophetic vision here is not some scheme conjured up by a leader, but rather it is a divine revelation from God instructing us how to live our lives. What is that divine revelation according to this verse? It is the law. And what is the law? It is a system.

A system sustains life and is superior to anyone’s vision. A system is intergenerational whereas a vision is only held passionately by the originator, and maybe by his immediate successor… maybe.

Forget the vision. Be a Master and build systems.

Read: Part One; Part Two; Part Three

DilbertGoals

* “A goal is a specific objective that you either achieve or don’t sometime in the future. A system is something you do on a regular basis that increases your odds of happiness in the long run. If you do something every day, its a system. If you’re waiting to achieve it someday in the future, it’s a goal. If you achieve your goal, you celebrate and feel terrific, but only until you realize you just lost the thing that gave you purpose and direction. Your options are to feel empty and useless, perhaps enjoying the spoils of your success until they bore you, or set new goals and reenter the cycle of permanent presuccess failure. All I’m suggesting is that thinking of goals and systems as very different concepts has power. Goal-oriented people exist in a state of continuous presuccess failure at best, and permanent failure at worst if things never work out. Systems people succeed every time they apply their systems, in the sense that they did what they intended to do. The goals people are fighting the feeling of discouragement at each turn. The systems people are feeling good everytime they apply their system. That’s a big difference in terms of maintaining your personal energy in the right direction.” ~Scott Adams (from the book)