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

  • Wesley

    Excellent thoughts sir. Appreciate this very much (as well as learning some new terminology ;) )
    God’s peace -

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  • St. Steve of Northern Lights

    Dr. Murray,
    Thanks for your stories and writings on this topic of Pastor’s leadership. All the gifts of a Pastor’s leadership, represent Christ to us in differing hues of radiant beauty.

  • David Murray

    Thanks Wesley and Steve. Glad it’s been helpful.