In researching and working on some leadership development material for an ongoing writing project, I came across the following:
Christianity is a religion of change. Jesus’ call in Mark 1:15 (the kingdom of God is at hand) was a call to change – change of mind and heart, of conduct and character, of self and society. By its very nature Christianity is a religion for a changing world and has always had its greatest opportunity during times of upheaval.
The Christian leader has no option; he must face a changing world. If the leader is to render maximum service, he must both adjust himself to the phenomena of change and address himself passionately to the business of producing and guiding change. Here are some elements that constitute the changed world in which the Christian leader today is called to fulfill his ministry.
Changed world outlook
Changed economic philosophy
Changed social consciousness
Changed family life
Changed community conditions
Changed moral standards
Changed religious viewpoints
Changed conceptions of the church
Changed media for molding public opinion
Changed demands made upon the leader
Pretty good list, right? Dead on. Taken from today’s headlines.
The author was Gaines S. Dobbins, distinguished professor of Religious Education at my alma mater, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, in Louisville KY.
Written in 1947.
As the introduction to the book “Building Better Churches: A Guide to Pastoral Ministry.”
Dr. Dobbins retired before I was born, but while in seminary in the early eighties I had the privilege of sitting under a couple of professors who were students of Dr. Dobbins and spoke of his great influence on their development and career. There is a chair named for him at SBTS, and of course I recognized his name and influence. When I came across this book in a used bookstore, I bought it on impulse. After flipping through it, I realized it was a treasure of leadership wisdom.
At Auxano, we talk about a concept called “vision equity.” It’s realizing that the history of a church is a rich resource for helping rediscover what kinds of vision language past generations have used. That language is very useful for anticipating and illustrating God’s better intermediate future.
As I read Dr. Dobbin’s book, I think there is also a concept called “wisdom equity.” It’s realizing that there have been some great leaders and deep thinkers over the past decades and centuries whose collective wisdom would be a great place to start as we struggle with the new realities that face us every day.
It’s why I love history – I see it not as an anchor that holds us to the past, but as a foundation to build a bridge to the future.
History is not just books and information stored about the past. It can also be found in living beings – those around us, family and friends, who have lived through events and learned lessons my generation – and the ones following me – need so desperately to learn.