Everyone’s a leader. What kind are you?
A haggard-looking man sits hunched over and smoking a pipe. He appears to be engrossed in his own thoughts — but then he sees a fire at the top of the mountain in front of him.
He springs up. He runs through a village, up a set of stairs and into a great hall, where he exclaims, “The beacons are lit! Gondor calls for aid.”
As some of you probably recognize, the man is Aragorn from Peter Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” film trilogy. When we first meet Aragorn in “The Fellowship of the Ring,” we think he’s just a “ranger” leading the hobbits to their next stop. But he has a far greater destiny than that.
Initially, Aragorn fears he’ll be like his ancestor Isildur, who failed to do the right thing when it mattered most. (In fact, if Isildur had taken care of business, none of the deaths or arduous journeys of “Lord of the Rings” would have been necessary.) Aragorn doesn’t want to fall short, so he’s almost too afraid to try.
But by the time he bursts into the Golden Hall at Edoras, he has started to embrace his role. And only a moment passes before Theoden, the king who rules at Edoras, agrees to help Gondor. All Aragorn had to do was say the word.
In real life, leadership usually isn’t that easy.
Old Testament prophets Isaiah and Ezekiel compared Israel’s spiritual leaders to watchmen. They were supposed to be on the lookout and report what they saw coming — good, bad or ugly. Like the scene in which Aragorn sees the beacon and springs into action, passages about the good watchmen of Jerusalem shouting out the news have always struck my heart.
But God’s truth is offensive to those who don’t want to hear it. It can be hard to proclaim.
Telling people the “bad news” that precedes the good news of the gospel is never easy. Neither is asking them to do something sacrificial. Aragorn knew as he ran into the Golden Hall that Theoden could have said (as he basically did earlier in the trilogy!), “Gondor hasn’t helped us. Why should we help them?”
It’s easy to avoid confrontation. It’s easy to imitate the spiritual “watchmen” of Isaiah’s day. If they ever saw warning signs for Israel, their response did not look like Aragorn’s:
“(The) watchmen are blind; they are all without knowledge; they are all silent dogs; they cannot bark, dreaming, lying down, loving to slumber.” – Isaiah 56:10.
Why were Israel’s spiritual watchmen acting like blind, lazy dogs? The answer may lie in the next verse: “The dogs have a mighty appetite; they never have enough. But they are shepherds who have no understanding; they have all turned to their own way, each to his own gain, one and all.”
When leaders seek their own comfort instead of the good of those they’re leading, they grow spiritually blind, fat and ineffective, unable to sound an alarm even if they wanted to.
But we can’t just point the finger at Old Testament priests, fictional kings, or present-day politicians. Each of us is a leader, whether we intend to be or not. Why? Because our actions influence the actions of others. So we are all called to lead well.
I’m no leadership expert and I don’t have three quick tips for success. All I can say is, if we want to lead well, we need to follow our own Leader: Jesus.
He is our ultimate Watchman, looking out for our good. He is the ultimate Servant leader, dying in our place to pay for our sins. (See John 10:1-18, where Jesus says He is the “good shepherd” who lays down His life for the sheep. What a difference between Him and the “shepherds” of Isaiah 56!)
If you haven’t put your trust in Christ, or if you haven’t been pursuing Him with everything you have, start today. Yes, leading like He does will hurt. It will require sacrifice. But He will always help us, and He is worth it.
• Our cover story on our 2020 Christian Leaders of the Future (page 29)! These Mississippi high-school seniors are finalists for our yearly scholarships, which will be presented on March 3. Follow us on Facebook to see who wins!
• H.E.A.L. Mississippi’s column on how to use our “freedom” wisely for our health (page 14).
• Barbara Martin’s “Tough Questions” column on how to love a spouse suffering from depression (page 46).