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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

John Ortberg on Managing Hope / My Thoughts on Barack

I enjoyed this article from Menlo Park Presbyterian's pastor John Ortberg on Christianity Today's website. John brings up some great points about the need for leaders to cast hope in the face of challenges.

As I read and reflected on this article I thought about the Obama campaign and his current momentum. I've looked at the platforms of both candidates on the Democratic side specifically, I see little real difference between the candidates on the major issues. However, I feel a clearer message of hope coming from Obama more than Clinton and certainly more than McCain. I'm not trying to make a statement here on what candidate I endorse or oppose, I just sense a general optimistic spirit around Obama. I don't think it's an accident - especially when you consider the stellar team of speech writers Obama has including the young upstart, 27 year old Jon Favreau and the legendary Kennedy speech writer Ted Sorensen who is bent on resurrecting Camelot.

It struck me about the power of hope. Hope's message may just defeat the Clinton legacy and perhaps overcome bigotry and racism to elect an African American man with an Islamic name. Similarly, we who follow Christ are mandated to share this great message of hope, grace, redemption, love and forgiveness. John Ortberg eloquently writes:
"In the middle of a Great Depression, or World War II, or a capital campaign, or a staff crisis, people inevitably wonder: "Can we get through this? Is it worth all the effort and confusion? Can we really overcome this challenge?" They inevitably look to the person at the core; the man or woman leading the charge, the one who sees the big picture. When people see a leader with this kind of vital optimism, who radiates a sense that together we can do what needs to be done, then people tend to decide not to waste their energy wondering about "if" but focus their energy going after "how."
On the other hand, when Eeyore is at the helm, the whole ship is in trouble. Eeyore may be the most intelligent, gifted, attractive, educated, credentialed person in the room. But if he or she is easily deflated, sensitive to defeat and criticism, and de-motivated by setbacks, the whole community begins the long slow spiral downward.

The church is in the hope business. We of all people ought to be known most for our hope; because our hope is founded on something deeper than human ability or wishful thinking. Martin Luther King was fond of citing Reinhold Niebuhr's distinction between hope and optimism. Optimism believes in progress; that circumstances will get better. Hope, however, is is built on the conviction that another reality, another Kingdom, already exists. And so hope endures when hype fades.

And yet, even ministry can be hope-draining. Churches can become places of cynicism, resistance, and pessimism. Spiritual resistance, my own sinfulness, and the sheer gravitational pull of the status quo can drain away the power to dream. Both hope and pessimism are deeply contagious. And no one is more infectious than a leader.

For this reason I've realized that I must learn the art of hope management. I must learn about the activities and practices and people who build hope, as well as the activities and practices and people who drain hope."

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