One Crowded Hour of Glory

I just finished a book on the military history of Afghanistan, from Alexander the Great to the war against the Taliban.  The author, Stephen Tanner quotes another historian of Central Asia, Olaf Caroe, who wrote:

A leader arises, great enough to gather men around him and make them forget their personal factiousness for one crowded hour of glory.  He dies, and with him dies his inspiration.  In the absence of the man who commanded trust, tribal jealousies are reasserted, everything that was gained falls away.”

Tanner adds, “His words could be applied to nearly every stage of Afghan history.”

… and to nearly every season of church leadership.

“Leadership is influence,” John Maxwell likes to say.  Some  believe the axiom originates in Oswald Sanders’ Spiritual Leadership.  In any case, it’s a fact:  When it comes to the success of any organization, leadership is everything.  Just ask the Arizona Cardinals, who are saying goodbye to Kurt Warner, their beloved all-pro, Hall-of-Fame-bound quarterback.

Leadership is the ability to call everyone around you out of the prisons of their own personal agendas into a higher purpose.  Leaders cast vision.  They see future possibilities that aren’t locked in the present moment, and they help those with a lesser perspective to see a  bigger picture and, indeed, to realize that all of us are better for embracing the big picture together.

Paul the apostle put it this way:  “By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder” (1 Corinthians 3:10).  The Greek term translated “expert builder” is the word from which we get our English word “architect.”  An archangel is an overarching angel, an angel over other angels.  An architekton (Greek) is a presiding builder, a head builder, a superintendent.  He or she is someone who must understand the big plan and get all the “subs” to work together to make that plan happen, to complete the building.

When we built our 2000 seat worship center in the late 90s, I remember standing there in the dusty din.  As construction equipment roared, howled and screeched, as dozens of workers scurried about the site, I thought to myself, “All this started in my head: All these people working. Everything this building represents.  The thousands of people who gave millions of dollars to reach our destiny.”

Ok, for those of you who are spiritually anal, it started with God. I understand that.  But I also know that God uses people who have the capacity to see the big picture.

One of the Greek terms for “elder” in the New Testament is episkopos.  We use a  telescope to see objects at a distance (Greek: telios, the end).  A telescope has the end in view.  We use a microscope to see what can’t be seen with the naked eye.  An “episcope” is someone who sees over, or oversees, a supervisor, someone with super vision.

That’s a leader, someone “great enough to gather men around him and make them forget the personal factiousness for one crowded hour of glory.”

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