Home > Public Events & Education > Conversations > Conversations 2015 > Nurturing Risk Taking Leaders
Jul  2015 24
Nurturing Risk Taking Leaders

Scripture: Isaiah 6:1-8

 At the Disciples’ General Assembly, I told the seminary’s luncheon audience the number one priority at Phillips is student recruitment. “Whom shall we send, and who will go for us?”

The answer depends in part, of course, on what we imagine the work that needs doing. My answer is expressed in three images. The images make sense to me for a world which is, for those of us who have more years behind than in front, ever more strange, concerning, sometimes fear-filled, and full of possibilities beyond imagination.

The first image comes from the Wizard of Oz. After Dorothy and her companions arrive at the Emerald City and have been properly gussied up to see the Wizard, as they skip toward the Wizard’s palace, the Wicked Witch of the West flies over the City and sky-writes “Surrender Dorothy.”

The citizens of the Emerald City rush to the palace because they want the Wizard to interpret what they just witnessed. The doorkeeper proclaims that all is well and sends everyone away. False prophet, declaring all is well.

That would be an unacceptable response for a Christian leader. Whether through community study, preaching, or conversation and argument, interpret the signs of the times we must. Leaders have to risk an interpretation.

The second image was provided by my high school track coach. He told us how he found his pole vaulters. A vaulter must take a long stick, run as fast as he or she can, stick that pole in a boxy hole, transfer forward momentum into upward momentum, be OK with turning upside down in the air while pushing yourself higher than the pole, and then falling into a padded area (if you don’t miss it!) called a “pit.” Not for the cautious.

pole vaulter getting ready to clear the pole

My coach’s search method: he asked the freshman PE teacher to close up the bleachers against the wall and leave the guys alone for 20 minutes (PE in my high school days was segregated into boys and girls). After 20 minutes, the track coach joined the PE teacher and looked for who climbed to the top of the bleachers. Anyone at the top was asked to try pole vaulting.

In ministry today, we need risk takers. Where, in the life of a congregation, a campus ministry, or elsewhere, can we look for those who, figuratively speaking, “climbed to the top of the bleachers”?

The third image comes from those famous opening lines: “Space. The final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its continuing mission: to explore strange new worlds; to seek out new life and new civilizations; to boldly go where no one has gone before” [the “Next Generation” version].

If you were a recruiter for Starfleet, for whom would you be looking? For innovators, for explorers, for risk takers, for community builders, for translators, for those with the capacity to appreciate, understand, and live with diversity. For those who seek diversity and the ambiguity and questioning how I live that inevitably accompany diversity.

One of the many reasons I am a Star Trek fan is because the stories are positive about the future of humanity. After a devastating war that nearly destroyed life on earth, an encounter with Vulcans (really, really Other) began to influence the way humanity saw itself.

Warp technology and encounters with Others greatly expanded human horizons, helped humankind reimagine themselves in the order of creation and their relationships with each other.

Today, we need leaders who are cross-cultural explorers, who reach out seeking not to conquer but with humility to seek understanding, in order that we know better with whom we share creation and how to be neighbor to each other.

Risk an interpretation of the signs of the times. Risk soaring and turning upside down. Risk encounters with Others for the sake of understanding and living as neighbors. How do we in the church nurture those kinds of leaders?

Prayer: We know you do not leave your people without called leaders, O God. Focus us on noticing them, nurturing them, following them—and when appropriate, responding, Here I am. Send me.


Photo by Paul Roberts, Used under Creative Commons License

Browse more posts by: Gary Peluso-Verdend, Phillips Faculty
Phillips Theological Seminary offers Christian graduate theological education
in service of intelligent, just, and compassionate religious and civic communities. We welcome
students to a safe space for truth-seeking conversations about the Bible, Jesus, and faithful living.
Courses available on campus and online for certificate, diploma, MDiv, MAMC, MASJ, & MTS
programs, and on campus for the DMin program.

Phillips Theological Seminary

901 N. Mingo Road
Tulsa, OK 74116

p 918-610-8303
f 918-610-8404

Campus & Directions

Site content © 2005-18 Phillips Theological Seminary

The materials on this website are owned, held, or licensed by Phillips Theological Seminary and are available for personal, non-commercial, and educational use, provided Phillips is properly cited. Any commercial use of the materials, without the written permission by Phillips Theological Seminary, is strictly prohibited.

Site design, programming, and CMS © 2005-18 Verdend Interactive

Like PTS on Facebook
Follow PTS on Twitter
Subscribe to RSS and Podcasts