Learning leadership in the Scottish Mountains

Climbing Leadership

In Scotland, there’s a hobby called “Munro-bagging,” A Munro is a mountain that is over 3000 feet high and “Munro-baggers spend their leisure time “bagging” (climbing) these Munros. They plan, organize, train, buy supplies, enlist friends, rise early, drive many hours, and then they climb…and climb…and climb. After bagging their first Munro, most usually aim for 10, then 100, then 200, until, after many years, all 283 peaks are conquered. And all this while the rest of us are enjoying our Saturday morning sleep-ins.

Positive Christian leaders are Munro-baggers rather than sleep-ins. They are not content with the comfortable status quo nor with managing gradual decline. They are looking out for, planning, or taking on the next Munro.

Helping others climb
I’m not talking here of personal ambition or careerism. No, this Munro-bagger’s passion is to help others climb higher, grow stronger, move onward, upward, outward, etc. in their Christian faith and life.

He doesn’t want to leave people where they were when He found them. He wants to help them “bag some Munros.” He can look back on a congregation’s past achievements and attainments with pleasure, but he doesn’t rest on that. He’s looking for new challenges, new “Munros” to climb with his people.

Moral and spiritual summits
He looks at each individual and family, as well as the whole congregation, and asks how he can help them to progress, grow, and mature. What aspects of a person’s character could be developed? What areas of a family’s life could be improved? What service opportunities can be provided for this person? What unexplored area of Scripture should be studied? What outreach or mission can we attempt? What relationships can be strengthened?

Isn’t that the spirit of Christ’s leadership? And the apostles?

And it’s not just pastors who can do this. Young people and women can do this too to some degree in their own spheres of responsibility.

What spiritual Munros are you planning to bag? For yourself? Your family? Your congregation? Your friends?

Confident Leadership

I once attended a mountain-climbing church camp in the Scottish Highlands where we were trying to bag a number of Munros.

On the second day, we set out on a fairly ambitious trek. About halfway through, the mist and rain enveloped us, separating us into small detached groups going in different directions, and very soon all of us were lost.

At one point, a bedraggled handful of us us decided that the way back to base was over a particular mountain. We started climbing, but when we got about half-way up we could hardly see in front of our noses and decided to re-trace our steps. On the way down, we were relieved to meet our camp leaders on the way up the mountain.

“Oh!” we said, “So we were heading in the right direction after all?”

“I don’t know,” replied the Commandant, “We were just following you. You seemed to know where you were going.”

Lost confidence
Needless to say, we immediately lost any remaining confidence in our leaders, and spent the rest of the week, which was filled with similar disasters, doubting, second-guessing, and double-checking all our leaders’ plans. It was not enjoyable.

A positive leader has to convey a certain degree of confidence. He knows where he’s going, how he’s going to get there, and what he’s going to do when he arrives. Without this, who’s going to be inspired to follow his direction and instruction?

This is not about self-confidence, a confidence in personal abilities, but a confidence founded in the sovereignty of God and the promises of His Word.

Demonstrating confidence
We can build people’s confidence by demonstrating a high degree of consistent competence in our calling (in administration, communication, organization, etc), by living a holy life, and by developing a reliable steady witness. But we especially build confidence by how we react in times of crisis.

When a respected elder falls into immorality and apostatizes, the positive leader doesn’t panic, throw in the towel, and wonder out loud, “Where’s God?” No, while grieving over the sin, and the shame brought upon the church, He expresses confidence in God and His providence. He will say with the apostles, “They went out from us, because they were not of us….There must also be heresies among us so that they who are of God will be approved.” He demonstrates His calm faith in Christ’s promise: “I will build my church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.”

When a little child dies of cancer, of course he sympathizes and weeps with those who weep, but He also directs the distressed mourners to the sovereign, good, and wise character of God, to the sufferings of Christ, and to the sure hope of eternal life. He doesn’t fall to pieces and misrepresent God as helpless, clueless, and loveless.

Doubting, hesitating, prevaricating leaders will replicate themselves in others. But a confident leader inspires confident people, their confidence not being in the leader, but in the One who leads the leader.

See Part 1 of “Positive Leadership”: Cheerful Leadership


Check out: Big God Theology

I usually try to collect about half a dozen links for you to check out each weekday. Today I’ve got one link . Yes, one link. Could have posted another five, but I wanted to maximize the chances of you clicking on this  one link. You don’t have to agree with every single thing Pastor Campbell says to feel the immense and beautiful power of this message preached at the African American Leadership Development & Recruitment Weekend.

Read about the impact of this sermon on Jemar Tisby who describes it as “one of the most memorable worship services of my life.”


The Happy Pastor

Yesterday I gave an address on “Positive Leadership” at a URC Conference for Pastors and Elders. In my first point I argued that “A Positive Leader is a Cheerful Leader.”

When people think of you, what image or picture immediately comes into their minds? When they hear your name, it’s as if a little passport picture of you pops out of their mental files. What does that picture look like? Is it glum, sad, hopeless, and depressed? Or is it happy, joyful, and cheerful? Or is it robot neutrality – a Stoic of the Stoics?

The positive leader possesses and projects a happy attitude and appearance. He’s not Mr Happy-Happy-Happy all the time-time-time; he knows there is a time for sobriety and sorrow. But on the whole he is Mr Optimist rather than Mr Pessimist.

Silver linings
He enjoys his work, he looks forward to each day (or most days), and he tries to find the silver lining on the darkest clouds, a smiling face behind the darkest providence.

He faces problems in the church and in individual lives with optimistic hope, trusting that God’s Word and Spirit can make the most impossible situation possible.

Joy of the Lord
His cheerfulness is not a matter of natural temperament, although most people God chooses to be leaders do have a happier disposition. The joy of the Lord is His strength. He builds His happiness out of His knowledge and experience of God. He rejoices in his own salvation by grace, his own fellowship with the Lord, his knowledge of God’s Word, and his divine calling to the ministry.

A sunny character and joy-filled words attract people and empower them. Much easier to follow such a person than someone whose looks like a Tornado and who speaks like an undertaker.


We’re pregnant!

Well, OK, my wife is.

Yes, 10 years after child number 4, number 5 is on the way and due next Spring (D.V.).

Just when I was getting ready for winding down…

How old are we? Let’s just say I’ll be a Senior the year after he/she is…although at slightly different ends of the spectrum. Shona’s age? Let’s just say she’s as young as the day I married her.

Random thoughts

It’s been a great joy to see so many others rejoice with us. Some of the reactions have been unforgettably priceless. I should have taken pictures and secretly recorded them.

I’m grateful for the chance to put into practice many of the painful lessons I’ve learned over the last 16 years of parenting. This should be just about the perfect child by the time I’m finished with him/her.

I’m conscious of the greater risks at this age for both my wife and the baby. Taking nothing for granted and praying for the Lord’s mercy.

As my wife has suffered with pre-partum depression before, we are working hard to build up her physical, mental, and emotional reserves by ensuring she gets extra rest, sleep, and relaxation. It helps that we don’t have toddlers hanging on to her legs this time.

Glad to have two mini-moms (aged 9 & 10) ready to spring into action with the diapers.

I should have ticked the “Pregnancy” box when I filled out the medical insurance application 5 years ago.

After almost dying last year from blood clots in my lungs, God’s given me not just an extension of life but another life to care for.

People are obsessed with knowing, “Was it a surprise?” (Or as someone said, “Is it an ‘Oops’ baby?”). My best answer so far, “It wasn’t a surprise to God.” Any other ideas?

Comment that left me most speechless: “At least you’ll have something to show for your sabbatical!”


Early Infant Loss

Download here.

In this week’s episode of the Connected Kingdom podcast, Tim and I discuss a difficult subject. Early infant loss is a term that applies to miscarriage, stillbirth, and the death of a newborn. We asked Glenda Mathes to join us to help us understand this issue from a practical and biblical perspective. Glenda is the author of Little One Lost: Living With Early Infant Loss and we ask her about how we can minister to (and how we should not attempt to minister to) those who have suffered this kind of loss, about the guilt that is so often a part of the grieving process, about how the church has too often failed such people, and about so much more.

Glenda has been married for forty years to the nicest guy in the world, David Mathes. They are parents of four living adult children and one little one in heaven, grandparents to five grandsons on earth and one grandchild in heaven. She regularly writes for Christian Renewal and The Messenger and blogs at Ascribelog. She has also written Not My Own: Discovering God’s Comfort in the Heidelberg Catechism, the first volume in the “Life in Christ” catechism curriculum, which is being translated into seven languages; and A Month of Sundays: 31 Meditations on Resting in God, scheduled for release in November from Reformation Heritage Books. She loves watching sun rays pierce clouds, smelling line-dried laundry, and crunching through autumn leaves. Her greatest joy comes from witnessing her children and grandchildren walking in the faith.

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