Leadership Letters
Leadership Letters

Writings on Christian leadership and leader development by Malcolm Webber

November 2009
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Loving God with Our Minds

Malcolm WebberMalcolm Webber

This Letter introduces a new model of transformational thinking.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. (Mark 12:30)

To “love God with all your mind” means to fully explore and use the thinking capacities He has given you, in a manner always proceeding from, and subject to, His indwelling Presence.

This will result in true, self-giving love toward others:

…Love your neighbor as yourself… (Mark 12:31)

The Fall and Rise of the Mind of Man

God created man to be a brilliant thinker. After his creation in God’s image, man had the ability to know His Creator – to look at Him, to fellowship with Him, to love Him – and to serve Him with highly complex thinking capacities.

When he sinned, man died spiritually (Gen. 2:17; Eph. 2:1, 5), becoming alienated from God’s life and truth (Col. 1:21). The image of God in man was deeply marred, and his thinking became “futile”: empty and worthless.

…their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools. (Rom. 1:21-22; cf. Ps. 94:11)

Consequently, even though fallen man is still capable of complex and sophisticated thinking, by virtue of his creation in God’s image, it is but a faint and distorted shadow of his original thinking capacities. Thus, man can split the atom but builds atomic bombs, he creates the internet but disperses pornography and violence on it, he produces intricate pieces of art that are idolatrous and blasphemous, he shapes brilliant analysis but uses it to deceive others.

…out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. (Matt. 15:19)

Thank God, He did not abandon us to our own corrupt and futile ways! Through Jesus’ death and resurrection, we can be reconciled to God, and restored to union with Him. From His indwelling life, through the power of His truth, our minds are then progressively “renewed” (Rom. 12:2) and our thinking capacities restored to the true image of God (Col. 3:10).

As we daily choose to walk in “new life” (Rom. 6:4), counting ourselves “dead to sin but alive to God” (Rom. 6:11), we can have the “mind of Christ” (1 Cor. 2:16)! Thus, our thinking is transformed and God can use us as His agents of transformation for others.

How Leaders Think

Essentially, leaders do two things: they think and act. To be successful, they must do both well.

Many writers on leadership (ourselves included) have appropriately focused on the leader’s many and varied actions, such as communication, leading change, team-building, conflict management, collaboration, delegation, building leaders, and so forth. This model of transformational thinking focuses on the inward life of the leader – how he thinks – the fountainhead of his actions.

While it is vital to give attention to the content of thinking (what we think), we must also attend to the processes of thinking (how we think).

This model identifies ten critical thinking capacities of a healthy Christian leader. These behaviors are distinct from each other, but there is much overlap and interaction between them. Usually, integrated clusters of them will work together in various situations.

In our next Letters, we will examine these ten habits of transformational thinking:

1. Looking at God. The continuous experience of inward union with Christ is the source and center of all other healthy thinking behaviors.

2. Passion for the Highest. The leader must always strive to grow, to solve, to build, to overcome – always pressing on to fulfill God’s purposes.

3. Love of Learning. Transformational thinking explores, questions and continuously learns.

4. Learning from Mistakes. The leader must be resilient, flexible and adaptable, able to learn from his own mistakes.

5. Thinking about Thinking. Reflection and evaluation help the leader maintain accurate self-awareness and avoid self-deception and unnecessary limitations.

6. Embracing Ambiguity. Leadership is rarely straightforward and clear, so the leader must be willing and able not only to tolerate ambiguity but actually to embrace paradox and uncertainty as the indispensable authors of new insights, solutions and opportunities.

7. Thinking Interdependently. Together we are complete. The leader must value, and be sensitive and accountable to, those around him. To think well, he needs to think in cooperation with others.

8. Engaging Deeply. Healthy leaders fully participate in the world around them. To understand joy, sorrow, beauty, pain, victory and divine life, the leader must experience them.

9. Integrating Science and Art. Healthy thinkers develop and use both discipline and creativity – both logic and innovation – to solve problems and explore opportunities.

10. Thinking Holistically. A key leadership capacity is to see the big picture, integrating spiritual and practical, identifying and analyzing both internal and external patterns, and recognizing how each part relates to the whole.

This is transformational thinking! Such internal habits can transform our lives and the lives of those around us.

Our hope is that this model will present these thinking behaviors in a clear, unified, Christ-centered framework that enables us to more systematically and comprehensively nurture and use these habits as we live (thinking and acting well) out of Jesus’ indwelling life for His glory.

The next Letter will consider the first habit of transformational thinking: looking at God.

Comments 1
  • Jason
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    Jason Jason

    Reply Author

    As a young – or to put it another way, immature – leader, I find #4 – learning from mistakes to be a rich and relevant part of my growth. A recent conversation I had revealed my weaknesses and insecurities in the context of ministry, and while I am glad I had the conversation it left me reeling from the weight of my self preoccupation. The conversation puts all of my mistakes and insecurities on the table. Without the ability to learn from my past mistakes, I would truly be useless.

    As a new creature, I am excited by the indwellling life of Christ, which calls me to run the race set before me. I am thankful for a champion, who ran the race with strength and grace. And I am hopeful for what this conversation promises: a future filled with challenge and struggle along with the “great cloud of witnesses” who have declared and are declaring the Kingdom of God in our broken and desperate world. Glory to God!!!