“The closer you can get the divide between your day-to-day and your faith, the more effective you will be for the Kingdom – and the greater joy you will have in your work.”
– Mike Baird, Premier of New South Wales, Crusader Business Breakfast 29 October 2014
Today I stood in Church Street Mall Parramatta and asked people what they thought leadership meant, or other questions to that effect. For sharing what they thought leadership was on social media using #ithinkleadership, I gave them a voucher to get free food. It’s all part of ‘Food for thought‘, a brand activation for a current campaign at work.
I must have spoken to at least 400 – 500 people today, reading or listening to them as they explained what they thought leadership was. There was the expected answers: an ability to listen, honesty, charisma, understanding etc. Being in the heart of a labor electorate, the critiques of Tony Abbott were frequent and far from positive: not Tony Abbott, he’s a liar, he doesn’t listen, he changes his mind. There were the ill-thought out responses and a good number of complete uncertainty.
It is a great question and I think it’s a great concept.
It is also an extremely labor intensive concept to explain.
My mind wandered as I stood and waited during the lulls of engagement. I looked around the (nicely renovated!) square and saw the faces of people who had no basis for understanding good leadership and no reference point of a great leader. As they sat on seats, benches, under trees and milling about the area I realised the huge opportunity that square was for sharing Jesus. I realised the huge potential to turn the conversations I was having to Jesus. The remark to shift the direction of the conversation was in the deep of my heart and on the tip of my tongue: “What if i could tell you, I know the perfect leader?” “I agree listening is a good attribute, the greatest leader I know listened to even the least of men.”
I realised this was the divide – the divide between my faith and my day-to-day. The yearning to share the good news, but the reality I was not there to do so. What would it look like to do that? If my heart is there, why shouldn’t I pursue the direction that would enable me to evangelise?
About halfway through the day a middle aged man came up and I explained the process to him. He was wearing a Moore College polo shirt and keen for an 8-hour slow roasted beef sandwich with fancy ingredients that essentially make up coleslaw. As he stood to the side and crafted his thoughts, I waited in expectation. He gave me a little pick me up – the hope of a meaningful response. A few minutes later he showed me his post – it was as generic and vague as the rest. Looking to engage and also a little deflated, I said: “Oh I was expecting something about Jesus?” He looked up with confusion: “Sorry? Why did you expect that?” I pointed out his Moore College shirt. We made a few more words of small talk before he left (a little embarrassed, i think) to collect his sandwich.
A few hours in and I was exhausted. It was 30 degrees and I couldn’t handle another gripe about needing to actually do something before receiving free good. My colleague and I dismissed our other colleagues and volunteers for the day and started to mentally pack up for the day, while in reality waiting for another hour to pass and in hope of a post-school crowd that we had promoted the activation to.
My mind digressed again and I started to think about what I needed to do when I got home when a young couple and an adorable little boy wandered over. In classic small talk style, an art I still need to perfect, I spoke to the little boy in the pram first – way too young to actually respond – before turning to his parents and start explaining the concept. The conversation flowed and the man started to explain what he thought leadership was. I quickly noted the John 3:3 tattoo on his arm and started to the trawl through my bible knowledge to narrow it down. The man’s response was one that I by and large agreed with, so I decided to ask what the reference was in hope of a fruitful conversation. “…Jesus explaining you must be be born again…” He didn’t need to finish before my acknowledgement was enough for him to realise I knew what he was talking about. The conversation flowed and we introduced ourselves – much like long lost family members do – jobs, home church, how we came to know Christ, similar circles etc. I was very aware of my colleague behind me likely listening to our conversation but continued to engage. I shared my angst in wanting to shift the leadership conversations I was having to Jesus. He shared that he and his wife had previously done walk-up evangelism in the square and thought I was perfectly placed to do so: undercover working in the activation and a great lead in question. “Except that I may lose my job,” I remarked. Appreciation of that reality, the conversation came to an end. I realised they were hungry and I probably should do my job. The conversation played on my mind for the afternoon.
My job today was to raise the profile of the university amongst the people of Parramatta within an overaching framework of leadership. Closing the divide between my faith and day-to-day could not look like the exercising the yearnings of my heart to shift the conversation to Jesus. Closing the divide today looked like being patient with the men and women who knew little English and had no understanding of the overall concept. It was responding graciously to those who grumbled to themselves after determining it was too hard to participate and we were unreasonable in not just giving away the food. It was listening (via his friend and makeshift interpreter) to the depressed Irani-asylum seeker who had been waiting jobless and homeless for a permanent protection visa for more than five years and understandably had little respect for the Australian leaders who kept him in this holding pattern. It was then responding with a brightness of spirit, giving him a voucher for free food and from afar praying for him while he ate it. It was letting my colleagues eat lunch first, despite my shared and equal hunger and exhaustion. It was working with integrity (not leaving early and going straight home) and generosity in staying to the end of the day, working through blisters and an aching back when there was an option to leave. It was praising God for meeting a brother and sister who could and did do what I was unable to do today.
As Mike Baird found himself, closing the divide may not look like what you expect but rather living and persevering faithfully in all that you do – whether it’s leading a state or giving away free food raising the profile of an institution.
“For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 2 Peter 1:5-8
A shout out to the lovely Dave and Sam Jensen – I trust we’ll meet again one day!
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