If you’ve been around the ELP long enough you know that we can’t use John Maxwell’s
quote often enough: “Everything rises and falls on leadership.” Leadership holds great responsibility and it wields sobering power, for good or bad. It has the ability to shape ideologies and cultures, influence the destinies of people, and rally people around a common cause or organize people to accomplish huge things. Ken Blanchard’s definition of leadership is still my favorite: “the capacity to influence others by unleashing their power and potential to impact the greater good.” Of course leadership can impact the greater bad as well…and that’s what we love to see at Teen Challenge, a person’s leadership capacity re-directed from a negative influence to a positive influence through Christ.
This year in the ELP newsletter we’ll be exploring the awesome potential of leadership to unleash the capacity within people, impact the greater good, and bring glory to God! And we’re going to look to a tree as our example. Not just any tree, but the giant Redwoods of northern California. If you’ve never seen these trees you’ve probably heard about their staggering size and seemingly eternal life-span. But this isn’t just about the American tendency to get caught up in the “biggest” and “oldest” and “best”, this isn’t about leadership impact based on the number of people you lead, the size of organization you run, or the length of time you’ve been a leader. This is about the God-given capacity each of us has been entrusted with. This is about wanting our lives to impact the greatest good and bring God as much glory as possible by unleashing this capacity to its fullest. So there’s no comparison game here, we’re only responsible to develop the unique capacity God has measured out to each of us. So if you don’t know a lot about Redwoods, let me attempt to paint the picture.
I had the opportunity to visit the Redwoods in 2006 and had an encounter I wasn’t expecting. These trees were grand beyond description, like the Queen of Sheba going to visit Solomon and saying, ‘the half had not been told.’ I felt I had truly entered another world, another realm or another time. I couldn’t take a walk among these trees without constantly pausing, jaw dropped and imagination conflicted, contemplating the girth and mass of the trunks, neck strained in an unsuccessful attempt to view the tops of the trees. It is impossible for the literature to exaggerate in their descriptions of an encounter with these trees. Writers liberally borrow architectural, religious and mythical vocabulary which still seems to fall short in communicating their “other-worldliness”. R. A. Rasp says, “The hushed atmosphere of a cathedral redwood forest engenders feelings of awe and reverence. An ambience of gigantism humbles the mind but enriches the spirit.” These trees can grow more than 350’ in height (that’s like a 35 story building…) and up to 22’ in diameter, and somewhere in these forests are trees that were seedlings when Jesus walked the earth.
When I returned home after my time in the Redwoods, it hit me that what I once would have considered to be a mature stand of trees now looked like mere shrubs! An old oak tree, a giant relative to its setting, was no longer as impressive. The thought came to me: what if the lives we are living are mere shrubbery as well? Suppose God intended something far grander for His creation? While learning about these trees at the various National Park visitor centers, I felt like I had read about this place somewhere before. These trees were flourishing in a landscape that sounded very similar to a landscape described in the first few pages of Genesis before the account of the flood in Chapter 6. Walking among these trees felt like a glimpse of Eden, felt like you could once again literally walk with God in the cool of the day. In the wake of Adam and Eve’s fall, as they were escorted to the county line of Eden, certainly the reality must have hit hard when they saw the sign that said, “Leaving Eden, Now Entering Shrubberyville.” We’ve had a sense of restlessness with Shrubberyville ever since, but we’ve settled because it’s all we’ve ever known, all we ever thought there was. Maybe we’ve convinced ourselves to be content with lives that only seem big because we had no other reference point. In the book Rising Above, Wayne Cordeiro says, “God is not concerned that we will dream too big. He is more concerned that we will settle for far too little.”
The Redwoods tell me that we haven’t yet envisioned the fullness of what God intended for us and what He intends to accomplish through us. He knows us so well, has created us so uniquely, and has a journey that is hand-tailored for us, for our joy and His glory! Join me as we learn leadership lessons from the mighty Redwood and grow in our capacity and unleash our potential and the potential of those we have the privilege of influencing. Let’s let Jesus get all that He died for!
They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them. Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.” – Psalm 19:3-4
Article contributed by: Karissa Corpeny (Director of Corporate Training, TCSE)