There’s a story in the Bible, and if I were to present that story in a slide format, I would probably use two different slides.
One slide would be of Jesus going with Peter, James and John up to the Mount of Glory — what we call the Mount of Transfiguration. While up there, they would meet with Moses and Elijah. It was such an awestruck time for people like Peter that he said, “Lord, I don’t want to ever come down from here. I’d like to build a shelter and let’s just stay up here.”
It was a time of glory, a time of confirmation. Everything that Peter hoped was true turned out to be true. He saw visible evidence of it. There is Jesus and there’s Moses and there’s Elijah. Of course, he’s not really paying attention too much to the conversation because the conversation isn’t really about glorious things. It’s about the impending death of Jesus. It didn’t matter. They were all together and Peter wanted to stay there.
Slide two is of the disciples that didn’t go with Jesus up to the mountain. They are down in a valley and a father comes and brings his son. The son is convulsing. He is on the ground rolling, foaming at the mouth and his eyes are rolling up into his head. The father turns to Jesus’ disciples in the valley and says to them, “Can you make this go away? Help us! Do something!”
There they stand, seeing the agony of the child and the agony of the father and they can do absolutely nothing. They are paralyzed. Jesus and the disciples, who went with him, came in shortly after. The father said, “Help my son! Your disciples are absolutely worthless, they can’t do anything.” Of course, Jesus offers the healing.
I learn in that story what leadership really is all about. Leadership lives in two realities. You have to live in the reality of hope and you have to live in the reality of anguish.
Hope and anguish always hold hands. When we are leaders, we have those moments of passion — of believing and seeing what could be. But that isn’t kept if we aren’t offering something to the world that is hurting. If all you’re doing is caring for a hurting world but you don’t take moments to be refreshed and get that vision of hope again, your service won’t last very long.
Leadership walks between the message of hope and glory and real anguish in the world. Those two, for us, have to always hold hands. That’s when we are truly leaders for the gospel.
John Upton ([email protected]) is executive director of the Baptist General Association of Virginia and the Virginia Baptist Mission Board. He also is president of the Baptist World Alliance.