Every now and then you receive an unexpected gift from an unanticipated source or encounter. I recently received such a gift.
I have been randomly joining congregations for worship in order to get a better sense of who we are as Mennonite Church Canada. I have found this very inspiring. There is a lot of strength and vitality in our congregations. I have been impressed with the creativity. Our people love to worship. They value community. They long to be faithful followers of Jesus.
During one of these congregational visits, someone approached me with a gentle smile, extended a welcoming hand and asked; “Excuse me, are you our Willard?”
The inquiry humbled me. The question reflected endearment. It communicated belonging. It was a statement of possession revealing a shared identity.
This incident has caused me to reflect on the relational nature of leadership. The bond between a community and its leader is one of trust and affiliation. There is a common cause. There is a shared longing. It reminded me that the task of a leader is not as much to create a compelling vision, as it is to reflect a corporate yearning. Effective leadership is when a community feels led to where they want to go.
God does not empower leaders to be strong individuals. Instead, the Spirit of God wants to permeate a leader to empower the deep internal yearning already within each individual. Effective leadership finds a way to be aligned with that yearning, and elicit responsive movement to that yearning.
Every leader possesses an element of belonging. Leadership is a function of the community. It is an exercise of the corporate reality. Leaders belong to the cause.
I took this realization with me in a meeting with the Department of Foreign Affairs. As General Secretary I was invited to a discussion on the establishment of an Office of Religious Freedom. As I sat around the table I had a renewed sense of responsibility to reflect the community who claims me. I belong to a community who longs for increasing freedom to faithfully reflect the elegance of God’s encompassing grace.