Fresh Thoughts on Leadership


We first begin to achieve our potential when we give God an undivided heart. ~ United States Senate Chaplain Dr. Barry Black

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways, acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6.


This month marks our ninth year in partnership with Belhaven University honoring an outstanding group of twenty high school seniors—our Christian Leaders of the Future. One of my favorite things about the way this program has evolved is that each year we meet a new class and we also go back and locate a few of our past finalists for an update. Many have now completed their college years and found their “real” jobs in the area of ministry or ministry-related organizations. Some have entered the professional world and find they are called to represent the love of Christ to their patients, clients, students or customers. As 3 John 1:4 says, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in truth.” We, at Mississippi Christian Living, feel exactly that way about these high school seniors we honor each year. They continue to encourage us as they gradually take their places as Christian Leaders of the Present!


Francis Chan, pastor and the author of Crazy Love, said, “Our greatest fear should not be of failure, but of succeeding at things in life that don’t really matter.” What a profound thought and one especially meaningful today when pop culture and celebrity more often than not stand in loud opposition to a Christian worldview. Never has there been such a conundrum when it comes to the question, “What do leadership and success really look like?”


Marilyn, husband Charles (left) and Senator Roger Wicker (right) at the National Prayer Breakfast on February 2.

Charles and I attended the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C., last month. It is called a “breakfast,” but there are actually two days of dinners, lunch, and seminars in addition to the breakfast. At each are impressive figures, well-known names that have earned recognition in sports, letters, diplomacy, politics, or the performing arts. Rick Warren, author of The Purpose Driven Life, was one of the speakers. MercyMe performed their song, “I Can Only Imagine.” Ben Zobrist, 2016 World Series MVP of the Chicago Cubs, gave an invocation at one event and a testimony at another. Mark Burnett, film and television producer and husband of Roma Downey, introduced President Trump.


But the keynote address at the breakfast, given by Senate Chaplain, Rear Admiral Dr. Barry Black, USN Retired, was by far the speech above all speeches that we will remember forever. It was his own testimony of how a powerful, loving, and omnipotent God took a little African American boy from the inner city, son of a mother with a fourth-grade education, and led him to a place and position that would seem to be impossible—except for a supernatural hand. To know that he prays weekly before the U.S. Senate was more than a little encouraging to me since I wring my hands frequently over the state of my country. I cannot imagine sitting before this godly man with his booming authoritative voice, hearing him quote the Word of God, and not being moved to want to know the God of the Universe as intimately as Dr. Barry Black seems to know Him. You might just put Barry Black on your prayer list—that his influence would go farther and wider than we could ask or imagine.


My point in telling you this is not so much to impress you that Charles and I got to rub elbows with the elite as it is to point out that leadership is not dependent on who you know, or the schools you attended, or what your family name happens to be. The leaders that make a difference and inspire others to follow are authentic; their message is real because their words aren’t empty. They live what they profess to believe, and their genuine love for others leaves a lasting impression. Like ripples in the water, the concentric circles continue to widen as one person’s influence touches another, and then another. That strange and ancient method that Jesus himself used—face-to-face and person-to-person—still works in 2017. Who is in your circle of influence? Everyone is a leader to someone.


There are several personal stories in this issue that highlight different leaders. Read this one cover to cover. Cornelius and Angelique Gray, graduates of the U.S. Naval Academy had planned a career military life where all of their needs would pretty much be provided. But then, God called them to the mission field, and so their heart’s desire was completely rearranged. Ben Hutton was an outstanding high school football hero, widely recruited. He had his future on a silver platter until drugs intervened. His is a story of the prodigal son and God’s relentless pursuit of his own.


As always our “regulars” are must-reads. “Modern Motherhood,” “Live Life,” “Food for Thought,” and “Let’s Talk It Over” will not disappoint.


And even if you aren’t sending an 18-year-old off to college this year, do read “Education Connection” because Mandi Stanley offers up some wise advice that even us oldsters will find useful.


Happy March! Enjoy the stories! We surely do!