Friday, May 28, 2010

Leaders and Followers

When I came to Perkins to visit the campus for the first time, I met a self-proclaimed “Christian comedian.” Apparently, this is an occupation, and some places even host gatherings of Christian comedians who compete for the grand prize of most Christ-like (in the sense that Christ was funny) Christian comedian.

Needless to say, the man was loud and easily noticed just by the way he carried himself or breathed loudly after walking a significant distance (he was a big man, so it usually wasn’t too great of a distance to get this effect). I asked him about his work as a Christian comedian and what it was like to be in a room with a bunch of other people who define themselves as funny people. He said he hated it. “Comedians don’t think other comedians are that funny,” he said, as he looked around to see if anyone else heard him. He turned to me and continued saying something. I don’t really remember what it was.

You can come up with several reasons for this, but it’s there nonetheless.

I asked another writer who took creative writing classes at SMU what it was like to be in a room with a group of other writers. He said everyone tries to talk and muscles their way into conversation to say what they think. Of course, no one is listening to each other. We can be long-winded. This is true.

In a similar vein, Perkins also showed me how critical pastors are of other pastors, and how disastrous it can be when you gather a group of people together who define themselves as spiritual leaders. At seminary, people both minister to you and preach to you willingly; often when you never asked for it in the first place. I saw many of my own flaws flaunted in front of me, like a thief watching a surveillance camera immediately after his arrest. “Yes, officer, that was me putting the Dr. Pepper underneath the shirt.”

You can guess how both humbling and troubling it was to receive the same lines I’d use, and the overbearing advice-giving. Guess who the police officer is in the analogy.

What’s they problem in these scenarios? Everyone is playing the same role. The comedians are all trying to be funny, the pastors are all trying to care for people, the writers are all trying to say profound things to amaze people. Chaos ensues when everyone plays the same role. It becomes stale or overly competitive.

This is one reason I’m not a huge fan of group projects. Democracy tends to fail in group projects if there isn’t one person singled out to be the leader. One person who, at the end of the meeting, makes the final decision.

However, the wisdom and discernment of a leader must be coupled with patience and loyalty from her followers. This is the only way it will work.

Sometimes it’s best to have someone in front calling the shots. The comedian, the pastor, the group-appointed leader of the project. Jobs can be delegated and criticism can be corralled by the leader, which makes it all so much easier.

Having a leader also helps to quell the people with bad ideas or “with something to say” that goes from a lecture to a rant to people squirming in their seats as the person “with something to say” starts waving a gun around, shouting, and weeping uncontrollably as everyone else is wondering if that thing is loaded and if Taco Bell is still open.

We can all do without that.

Oh, and leaders usually should be armed.

And yes, Taco Bell is still open.

No comments: