[This article is part of the “spiritual leadership today” study/discussion going on this year. For all articles in the series, click the Spiritual Influence tab at the top of the page. To have them delivered, subscribe to The Brook Letter]
Today there are a hundred reasons to live superficially. It is the easy way. The convenient way. The common way.
But when we go to a deeper place, using the minds God gave us to get below the surface of things, we discover ways for all of life to be rationally connected. And so spiritual leadership means helping people think more deeply.
People don’t need us to take complex issues and make them black and white, or cut and dried. Biblical convictions give stability and strength to our decisions because they give us more insight and a finer-tuned view of reality. But that very vision is more complex than if we approached life without biblical truth.
Some critics of faith think that the more “spiritual” a person is, the dumber. They understand spirituality as a choice to be anti-intellectual. They cannot understand how anyone would prefer the vague and ethereal to the empirical and scientific. But if all human beings are spiritual because they have been made in the image of God who is Spirit, then “spirit” will never be set against thought and rationality. Instead, “spirit” is the apex of mind and order.
People committed to spiritual leadership should be the smartest people around because they know that the mind is an extraordinary gift of the Creator, whose mind surpasses all other minds. And they are enthused about and committed to the growth of understanding. They see life experience and education, research and simple reading as the way they feed their hungry souls.
They know that the active mind is a way to love God:
“‘Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?’ Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment'” (Matt. 22:36-38; emphasis added).
In the aftermath of some of the worst leadership decisions there is often a chorus of voices saying: what were they thinking? The truth is, the decision-makers may not have been thinking at all. People with no wit and no wisdom are placed in positions of major influence all the time. The masses who sometimes put them there look for results–they don’t necessarily care about rationale if they get what they want. And so we end up with monstrous national debt, impulsive business decisions, and church ministries with no grounding in theology or even principle.
There are powerful cultural currents today which devalue deep thought.
Our impatience and looking for the quick fix make deep thought unattractive. It takes too much time, too much effort. We don’t have margin for conversations or deliberation. We’d rather not have to read books.
The blessing of the vast body of information available to us is also a curse because it is chopped up into bite-sized pieces. It is also scattered in containers that hold vast quantities of digitized thought. Our reporting of knowledge today does not have the discipline required by printed books and journals. String a few words together–email them, blog them, or tweet them–and you’re on the record. And someone a hemisphere away may consider your words as authoritative as someone who has spent a lifetime accumulating expertise.
We call our doorway to the internet “browsers,” which trains us to skip from one information source to the next darting from one voice to the next, not listening deeply. We merely flirt with some of the greatest thinkers of our day.
We spend less time reflecting on what we read and watch because there is always another channel to turn to, another website to land on. We are like fish darting from one shiny object to the next.
Today anyone can be a publisher. There are upsides to the democratization of opinion–where Mary the Homemaker’s views are as accessible as those of a columnist in the New York Times. But the question of credibility is often ignored. Mary’s comments about a country on the other side of the world are not balanced against a career journalist who has lived in that country.
This is not a harangue, and it is not a criticism of the tools of mass communication today. Tools are just tools. Radio, and then television, and now the internet are amazing tools. They are vehicles conveying massive loads of intellectual cargo. But we must steer the vehicles, not just passively go along for a ride. Let’s admit it: we are all inclined to choose the easy path.
The mind is hungry. But what will be the diet?
What do you think?