“Authority naturally flows to those who take responsibility. Authority routinely flees those who seek to blame others.” Douglas Wilson
I heard it said once by a wise, old church elder that authority and responsibility are like train tracks. Like the two iron rails they run parallel and if they are separated there will be disfunction.
Assuming authority without taking responsibility creates tyrants. All authority will be illegitimate and turn to bullying.
Likewise, if responsibility is taken – if the buck stops with someone – then their authority should be honoured. True authority does not need to be demanded.
In our day, information comes so quickly in blog posts and sound bites. But real reflection takes a long time. No one has reflected longer about Church, calling, and the pastoral vocation than Eugene Peterson. In these four 1991 lectures, from Acadia Divinity School, Peterson reflects in a way that is convicting, inspiring, and deeply personal.
Watch. But it will take some time.
* Best as I can tell, these 1991 lectures form the basis of Peterson’s book Under the Unpredictable Plant (1994) which I had to read in seminary.
My family and I just returned from being away doing ministry for a couple of weeks. I immediately was asked to sit on a committee out at my old seminary. It was an interesting meeting but one of my old professors gifted me with a new definition of leadership. Are you ready? Here it is:
Successful leadership is disappointing people at a rate that they can safely absorb.
How do you get people to go somewhere with you?
How do you guide them in a common goal?
As a pastor I struggle the most with these types of questions. Some wisdom that captures the imagination of this old seadog:
“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.” – Antoine de Saint-Exupery (author of The Little Prince)*
It’s not about getting people to do stuff, which is a relief because I’ve never liked being a task manager. I’m actually quite bad at it. Instead, it is about inspiring a common love which becomes the telos for a common journey. (and I’m a sucker for nautical imagery)
* I discovered this little gem while reading James K A Smith’s magisterial Cultural Liturgies Volume 2: Imaging the Kingdom. (page 7)