“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” – Theodore Roosevelt
When I read this amazing quote by Theodore Roosevelt it reminds me of what Paul said in I Corinthians 9:22-23 (MSG), “I’ve become just about every sort of servant there is in my attempts to lead those I meet into a God-saved life… I didn’t just want to talk about it; I wanted to be in on it!” I do not want to be a follower of Christ who never entered the arena or one who never knew victory or defeat. I want to have the courage to be in on it!
A couple weeks ago, I had the opportunity to make my annual trip to The Willow Creek Leadership Summit in Chicago, IL. At that event, it had been exactly seven years since Bono had shared a challenge that led me and my friends to Kenya and then to start CARE for AIDS. At this year’s event, Bill Hybels shared a talk called “The Courage that Leadership Requires.” Courage became a theme that continued throughout this year’s Summit. I’m going to unpack Bill’s talk over five posts because it was so rich and so relevant in my journey these last seven years. At times, what some may have interpreted as courage in my journey, I now see as recklessness or naivety. Regardless, if I had chosen the safest and most comfortable route, I would have missed out on one of the greatest adventures of my life.
Bill’s first point in his talk was that we as leaders must have…
“The courage not to abort the cool visions that God gives us.”
That may not be word for word, but that was what I wrote down. He also said, “Every significant vision will test the leader’s courage. Don’t abort a vision in silence and secrecy.”
On my first trip to Kenya, as we were winding down after three weeks of filming, Duncan told me that he and Cornel had a vision and strategy of their own for addressing this HIV/AIDS crisis by mobilizing local churches. I told Duncan that I desperately wanted to see this document. He told me that it was across town in his apartment. With only a few hours to spare before our departure, I convinced him that we needed to go get it. So, about two hours later, after multiple rides in matatus (public transportation) we arrived at his place. He proceeded to dust off this document that contained all the collective knowledge and experience that Duncan and Cornel had acquired the previous five years. It outlined a very well-thought-out plan to launch a ministry, which they had named “Oasis of Endless Hope.” I quickly vetoed that name! In that moment, I felt God nudging me and stirring something inside me, so I told Duncan that I wanted to help, and we went on our way.
After that experience, I had a choice. I could have gotten on that plane and never mentioned to anyone about my conversation with Duncan. The vision would have slowly faded, and I would have been off the hook. And guess what, I know for a fact that Cornel and Duncan would have still accomplished that vision, and God would have appointed someone else to partner with them. God doesn’t need us to accomplish these visions, but when we accept them, we are in for a journey that will be the most uncomfortable and testing yet rewarding and exhilarating rides of our lives.
Don’t be silent with the promptings or whispers that God gives you. Share them so that you can be encouraged and held accountable. A great place to start would be to post it here on this blog.
What is one cool vision that God has given you that you haven’t acted on yet?