Sargeant John Ordway, a key member of Lewis and Clark’s Corps of Discovery, had little to say. The mountains towering before them were totally unexpected and daunting.
According to Tod Bolsinger (Canoeing the Mountains: Christian Leadership in Uncharted Waters), Meriwether Lewis and William Clark had to move beyond their past experience. Nothing had prepared them for this kind of adventure. The quest for a North West water passage to the Pacific Ocean would not materialize—ever.
They had brought their dependable canoes, but canoes were worthless for charting the Rocky Mountains to the West.
Bolsinger uses the Lewis and Clark expedition as a metaphor for Christian Leadership today. He continues, “In every field, in every business, in every organization, leaders are rapidly coming to the awareness that the world in front of us is radically different from everything behind us.” This has serious implications for anyone seeking to embrace the mission of God in the world.
Leadership into the future will require the church to adapt and venture into the unknown. This can get complicated, especially if our methods are inseparable from our message.
Bolsinger poses a way forward.
First, as Christians, we must “reframe this moment in history. God has put before us adventure, hope, and discovery.” At the same time, we must embrace the anxiety and fear of potential loss that comes from the call toward the future. It’s not easy. Many of us have settled for familiar maps and tools.
Next, we must affirm our call to be a church on mission in the world. As Hebrew Scripture scholar Christopher Wright proposed, instead of saying “God has a mission for the church today,” we must embrace that “God has a church for His mission in the world.” Church, are we ready?
Last, Bolsinger says we must discover an adaptive stance to transformation. We change from the inside out, and this may be the hardest truth of all to embrace.
Every encounter, every book, every contemplative moment is building our change capacity to move effectively into the future.
Take a deep breath and ask yourself, “What tools must I leave behind as I lead myself and those around me?”
As God’s ambassador, a pleasant canoe ride to a beautiful land is unlikely. Stay alert, even today, for the prodding of God as he leads you still further into the uncharted future. Stay nimble, light, and always teachable.
And, you might want to brush up on your mountain climbing skills.
Dennis Nichols serves as Lead Faculty for the Master of Arts in Leadership program at William Jessup University.
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