Monday, 3 May 2010

Awkwardness, Anger, Grumpiness - and the call to leadership

By this time next week we might well have a new government or at least the haggling between the parties in the event of a hung parliament will be well under way.

The efforts of Christians who want to mobilise their faith community to influence national affairs has been admirable; I was one of tens of thousands who signed the Westminster Declaration.

I think, however, that as we enter the final phases and then the aftermath of the election campaign we should reflect on what sorts of things we should be doing if we really want to have an impact on our communities.

One thing that I believe is important is that we think again about the whole concept of leadership, especially in the political sphere - though what I say here applies to other apsects of life as well.

When you read the cvs and backgrounds of the leaders of the main parties, one of the first things to strike you is how incredibly clever they all are. And they often come from well-connected backgrounds. It can leave you with the impression that you have to be a high flyer at university or in business to be an effective leader. I would suggest that this is reinforced in Christian circles because we add to the mix an undefined but intense sense of calling and destiny. For most people that sets the bar way above anything they could ever aspire to, and therefore they disqualify themselves from taking an active part in the affairs of their community.

Perhaps we need to think about leadership in terms of a determination to get things done for the good of the people amongst whom we live. That is why I have posted the above video. Councillor Jenkins might not ever become leader of the Liberal Democrats. He might not hold high office in national politics. But it's peple like him who actually get things done in local communities. And to my mind he has highlighted some of the qualities needed to get those things done. Awakardness, anger and gumpiness aren't the most attractive qualities in the world, but sometimes they belie a real concern about the bread and butter issues of every day life. A career in local politics might just be a way to redeem them!

Sometimes as Christians we take on huge issues - sometimes in a very confrontational way - and whilst we might bring a prophetic dimension into the politics of the nation, our influence is often minimal and ultimately we change very little. Certainly, some people are called to that kind of role and I for one would not try to dissuade them. However, if we were to encourage people to become involved in local politics in the mainline parties and begin to build a reputation for getting things done, maybe, just maybe, we would position ourselves better to discuss some of the bigger issues that concern us. It is often the case that what really does concern people are things like the state of the pavements, or the lack of children's play facilities in the local park, or drug dealing taking place in the local church car park after hours (not by the church members, one hopes). Dealing with such matters certainly helps create an environment in which we can live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness (1 Timothy 2.1).

So if you've been feeling a bit negative about the whole political process, why not at least consider what you could do to translate your frustration into something positive. You never know, what you thought were a clutch of negative emotions might be a call to local politics.

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