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01 October 2013

Liberated to lead: dealing with our idols

Liberated to lead: dealing with our idols

by Tracy Cotterell

It wasn't obvious – to me at least – that idolatry was the issue. Patience has not been one of my virtues. Over the years I've become more alert to the impact my impatience to 'make things happen' might have on those I work with. Of course, trying to 'make things happen' is not necessarily a bad thing. But I knew there were times when uncontrolled emotion resulted in words or body language that was disrespectful or discouraging for others. It was poor leadership.

But the connection with idolatry had eluded me. Until, that is, I linked my impatience with the seduction of success.

Tim Keller writes: "More than any other idols, personal success and achievement lead to a sense that … our security and value rest in our own wisdom, strength and performance."Do I really prefer my own wisdom to God's? My desires to God's will? My timing to His?

Naming the underlying idolatry that found expression in inappropriate impatience has been liberating. For I know that Christ gave his life that I might know and serve the one true God. As one version of the prayer of confession puts it: "I have lived by my own strength and not by the power of Your resurrection. Lord, forgive me and help me."

Discerning this idol has opened up a fresh pathway to encounter God in the midst of meeting with people and making decisions. It's one that increasingly brings me joy and peace as I slowly learn to live out of my identity in Christ. It's one that I trust will help others flourish.

Dealing with idols isn't often on the leadership curriculum. Yet leadership touches on deep matters of significance and identity. Idols – not only the commonly-cited idols of money, sex and power – are those things that we use to meet legitimate needs at the core of who we are. Often we are unaware of their influence in our lives and leadership. They impact our relationships, our decision-making, our creativity, our organisational culture. Allowing them to shape us means we miss out on much of the joy, energy and confidence of leading.

That's why we're focusing on idolatry in the next CEO Forum in October, hosted by the Evangelical Alliance and Global Connections. It's an opportunity to explore this theme biblically and remind ourselves why this is central in God's concerns today. It's a safe space to reflect on 'which gods we're serving' and the impact on people and organisations. It's a context to plot some liberating pathways forward so that we can make sound decisions and wise choices and experience deeper joy and confidence in leading for the sake of others. Might this serve you?

Tracy Cotterell is MD at The London Institute for Contemporary Christianity  (LICC) and on the steering group for the CEO Forum

Liberated to Lead: dealing with our Idols, CEO Forum, 2-3 October 2013 at High Leigh led by Bishop Graham Cray (Fresh Expressions) and Andy Wooding Jones (World Prayer Centre) Further reading - Tim Keller, Counterfeit Gods, 2009 

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