Leadership from Below – II

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”  (Matthew 5:5, ESV)

Looking Up 2On a beautiful dry day in September some years ago, my wife and I took the kids up to Mount Saint Helens for a day hike. With the volcano looming ahead of us as we drove up the highway, we turned a switchback around a hill and came to a place where paragliders were launching. The pilots who flew them would open their chutes, lean back while they filled, and then walk forward on the sloping ground until they walked into the sky. They drifted quietly over the 1000 foot cliff at the end of the slope.  We stopped and watched them as they glided up and up, riding the rising high-pressure thermal currents beneath them.

Here’s how it works. As the sun heats these deep mountain valleys the ground heats the air above. The air expands like a bubble and forms a fast-moving upward column as low pressure air rushes in beneath it. This heated air can rise at rates over 1,000 feet per minute. The glide appears effortlessness as the pilot follows the current, but there is a lot of skill involved. Gravity alone would cause the glider to plummet to the Earth, but he has a good understanding of where the current will rise and where sudden edges of the column will give descent. He reads the terrain as much as he reads the currents.  On a cushion of air he rises thousands of feet above the ground.

This blog is about leading from below. Leadership from below, as I said in my previous post, requires us to consider the plans, hopes, vision and expectations of someone who is in positional leadership over us and find ways to bring every possible part of that vision to fruition; in our assigned responsibilities and in our areas of influence. It means leading from a place of vulnerability, sacrifice and courage.

Like gravity, downward pressure will naturally fall upon a leader. Positional authority comes with responsibility. Leaders change things and the world’s patterns do not yield easily.  People’s lives are affected by the decisions they make. Course corrections can mean the difference between making it work and seeing it fail. Such a leader depends upon those who will create the high-pressure columns that lift them to see the terrain from above.  This is why leadership from below is so important.

In Jesus’ day the people of faith lamented that they did not have the positional power they needed to resolve issues of injustice in their land. Biblically, that makes no sense. Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Joshua and David, to name a few, all influenced the world from humble beginnings.

Jesus, in His incarnation, gave us the example. Could He have come more vulnerably? Could He have entered this world in any more humble human circumstance? Though He could have come with the ultimate positional authority (and He certainly did so), He nonetheless condescended to live a very human life. He brought the Kingdom of God to this world and invited us to do the same. By the power of the same Holy Spirit he invites us to pick up our crosses and follow Him.

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”  (Matthew 5:5, ESV)

Do we believe that? Power displayed is impressive, but power restrained is so much more so. That is what it means to be meek. It is not about being a victim, but being triumphant in Christ, faithfully trusting Him to lead us in our circumstance. What worldly power do I have to set aside in order to be meek?

I once heard of a man who had escaped Ceausescu’s Romania. After several years, he decided to return to minister to the needs of his people. His friends begged him not to go. “You are going to be killed,” they said, “you are entering a den of wolves.” He responded by saying, “Maybe to demonstrate lambness, it is necessary for me to feed myself to wolves.” He understood the power of the Kingdom, even unto death. His freedom was not dependent upon place, but heart.

“…God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:27-29, ESV)

I am in Alaska as I write this working with a team of men and women who are serving with Native Alaskans as they restore cultural landmarks that were destroyed in a previous generation’s attempt to assimilate them by force. Missionaries came with the power and authority of the state. Perhaps well-meaning, they nonetheless provided the downward current that did untold damage to the native people of Alaska. We have come very differently. We are not the dominant culture here in Klawock – we are the minority. We came with a heart of service. We want to participate with these friends in work that seems good to us and to the Holy Spirit. We come in love and in the power of meekness.

The Kingdom of God is a high-pressure thermal current lifting the world around us, whether those in positions above us or those struggling around us. And it doesn’t depend on the character or kindness of those above or around us. It depends on us and our genuine love for them. Unless they ask us to participate in evil, we are to serve them and to find a way to love even the hardest of them by seeing through the eyes of the Kingdom.  If we look carefully, we will see a brokenness we can love, because it will resemble ours.

About marknicklas

Mark Nicklas is a husband, father, son and follower of Jesus Christ. He is a pastor at Beaverton Foursquare Church and an adjunct professor at Multnomah University, where he earned his doctorate in Cultural Engagement. Like Jacob wrestled with God at Jabbok, this site is a place for talking about the identity of the church with respect to the cultures we live in. You are invited to share the journey.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Leadership from Below – II

  1. Pingback: Leadership from Below – the other side. | Washed In Tears

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s