Leadership as Story
Brent Crowe | November 07, 2018
It all begins with a storytelling God
God has told a story. Correction—God has told the story, and he is a masterful storyteller. It is the story that determines all others. No matter how hard anyone may try, no matter how dark or perverse a story may be, inevitably it can only be understood in light of God’s story. The darkness and perversity can only be understood in light of the Fall. Any redemption that may or may not take place inevitably exists because God’s story has a redeemer. Likewise, any resolution, clarity in the end, or finality that a story may present is only offered because this mess of a world will be restored. Yes, God has told the story, and all of life’s meaning can be found in that grand narrative we call the Bible.
Stories within The Story
The story that God has told, and is telling, gives definition and meaning to the story that is my life and leadership journey. You were created for narrative, born to tell a story. That’s why all children see themselves as artistic and creative, because we are all born artists. The problem is that somewhere along the way someone or something causes us to think differently about our lives. But consider this, at this very moment you are writing the autobiography of your soul. Your life is a story, the real question that we should wrestle with is: what kind of story do I want to tell with my life and leadership?
Leadership as Story
You see, leadership happens, or maybe is the result of, a story being well told. And leaders are simply those committed to maximizing the moments of life in an effort to write their soul’s autobiography. Therefore leadership, for our purposes, can be defined as a disciple of Jesus who intentionally makes the most of the moments of life in an effort to tell the type of story with their lives that has redemption as the central theme and the Redeemer as the central character. If you buy into this notion of leadership as story, then our focus turns to that which makes for a compelling and God honoring story. And to accomplish this task we turn to two characters in Scripture.
Daniel: A storyteller true to his name
The book of Daniel opens on a violent note. Daniel’s homeland is being assaulted by the Babylonian army and the only reason he is spared is that the pagan king had given orders to bring back some of the most promising young people to serve in his courts. Young Daniel was to spend the rest of his life as a slave serving in the courts of a Babylonian king. During the early days of his enslavement he, along with other young men taken from his homeland, would endure a three-year training. The idea was that they would emerge from this experience hard-wired with a worldview compatible with this new culture that worshipped foreign gods and idols. Part of this process was to trade out their Hebrew names with Babylonian names. Thus, Daniel was given the name Belteshazzar.
There is just one problem with all this enslavement and brainwashing, from Daniel’s perspective. You see Daniel had purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself…I’ve often wondered what it meant that he had ‘purposed in his heart.’ A few years ago, I discovered that if one reads the story of Daniel in its entirety, he always refers to himself with his Hebrew name! Think about it this way, for the rest of his life no one called him Daniel, but when he put pen to paper, he wanted everyone to know that he viewed himself as Daniel… i.e. his Hebrew name. The name he had been given by his family communicated to all who would hear it that he was a follower of the one true God. Daniel never embraced the name Belteshazzar because it was inconsistent with this identity. The decision that Daniel made that would impact so much of his life is simply this: he purposed in his heart that the decisions of his life and leadership would be consistent with his name and identity as a follower of the one true God. Furthermore, that is why almost seventy years later, when another king came to power, he sought to promote Daniel over the entire kingdom because an excellent spirit was in him… (Daniel 6:3)
Barnabas: A storyteller true to others
The first time we meet Barnabas he has just sold his property and donated the proceeds to the apostles to be used for the Christian community. From our introduction to him in Scripture, we see a willingness to sacrifice earthly comfort for the movement of Christianity.
Yes, Barnabas sacrificed his resources for the cause (Acts 4:36–37), but he sacrificed a portion of his life to help the former hitman for the Sanhedrin who had recently converted to Christianity. It would be difficult to overestimate the influence and encouragement Barnabas had on Paul in the early days. He vouched for Paul with doubting Jewish Christians. According to Acts 9:27, he was the one who introduced Paul to Jesus’ disciples in Jerusalem. And when the church in Jerusalem commissioned Barnabas to minister in a prominent city, “he went to Tarsus to search for Saul, and when he found him he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church and taught large numbers. The disciples were first called Christians at Antioch” (Acts 11:25–26).
Barnabas saw something in Paul that no one else seemed to recognize. He believed in Paul when no one else would. He vouched for him to the men who had followed Jesus so closely. He decided on his own to go to Paul’s hometown of Tarsus and bring him into the movement of advancing the name of Jesus. Through Barnabas’s sacrifice of money, reputation, time, and energy, he helped launch the greatest leader the church has ever seen. His was a story that helped others tell their stories, no wonder the name ‘Barnabas’ can be translated ‘Son of Encouragement’.
God is a masterful storyteller…
He has provided us with some incredible examples of leaders who maximized their narrative…
Leaders have been given the opportunity to tell a compelling and impactful story with our lives…
There is only one question left, what kind of story will your leadership tell?