On Leaders Learning with Passion

I read this news of a meeting of Nobel Laureates (all in Physics), and there’s some observations I made about learning that I could generalize to just about anything. But, for my purposes, and quite likely yours, there’s some salience here for the mission we’re in with Christ.

The piece begins and ends with a concern for passion: or as my good friend, Jovin, once told me before I was about to preach, “You better bring it!” Even physicists love their research; not only do they have a driving interest in “how things work”, they also remain doggedly committed to their particular patch of the physical world by keeping and developing skills to fulfilling that commitment.

I love my days of student ministry, and I love the students I’ve gotten to follow Jesus with over the years: it’s just that, now, I have a different patch to fulfill that love. Like so many of my colleagues, I am eager for the students I serve to deepen their discipleship with Jesus, and to take on his mission and intent for creation with a joy and zeal that comes from His Spirit. But, in this season of life, the skills and the tools I need to sustain and deepen that commitment are, of course, more of the academic kind. For me, those investigations into the kinds of decisions students are making require different sets of inquiries and approaches that most of my previous experience did not host. Yet, the passion for Jesus and his Gospel is what keeps my engines fired and directed toward the development of those tools.

The article goes on to identify the need for mentors- even Nobel Laureates have them!- and risk-taking and humility. The best, though, I saved for last: It’s the item that I would re-label as “You can’t do it all by yourself.” The quote that follows is the best:

“The first time I heard a Mars geologist talk about their results, I thought, ‘I wish I was a geologist,'” says John Mather (2006 Laureate). “I guess, even having a Nobel prize, I still wish I were really familiar with what they do, and was able to participate.”

I love that passion: For one thing, Mather loved both the topic and the learning. But, the other thing is: he knew had his own patch to work in, and do well at, even as his passion for physics splashed over into other areas of science and caught his eagerness for learning in its wake.

When I read and hear about research in systematic theology, I’m a bit envious and excited. I’m sure that we under-utilize the fruits of so many women and men in systematics: the whole discipline has improved in quantum ways from 25 years ago, it’s hard to believe the wholesale changes, such as taking context and culture with a seriousness and a rigor that was formerly held for only philosophy in service of the theologian. Yeah, well, that gets me excited for what the Lord might do in the church’s mission.

No regrets here: I’m delighted to be and become a missiologist: it’s where the action is with Jesus (I know: self-serving comment), and it’s research that is desperately needed in the West and within the Western church. And, while my learning continues within my discipline, I also am aware, much like Mather, I get excited reading systematics, and wish I “was able to participate.”

That leads to an all-important matter: Mather and I need others with passions for Martian geology and systematic theology. No, I won’t achieve any parallels in awards that Mather has! But, we need others to learn from and collaborate with as we continue within our respective missions: We can’t do it all by ourselves, especially on just our own passions. Leaders all learn this last lesson: typically the hard way!!! 🙂

(HT: Daniel Pink)

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