Hopeful Leadership: Our Most Important Calling

By: Christopher Rutz

In 1985 Marty McFly broke the time/space continuum and traveled back to 1955 and revealed a world so inconceivable to Doc Brown that he could scarcely believe such oddities like Ronald Reagan – the actor – was president of the United States. Of course, time travelers from this era of politics would say, “Ronald Reagan? Ha, that’s nothing, wait until 2016!”

Now we are approaching 40 years after Back to the Future’s release, for those of us old enough to remember it, imagine transporting to the year 2023 and I think we would find the world to be equally bizarre. We could not have imagined the implications of inventions like the cell phone, the internet, social media, and artificial intelligence, nor could we have imagined sociopolitical movements like woke progressivism and Christian nationalism and the polarization those ends of the spectrum represent.

In many ways it is true that the world has changed in our lifetimes more dramatically than perhaps any previous generation, but in other ways it has always been true that society and culture change from generation to generation in such a way that forces people to adapt to the times. And amid these changing times, there are two truths for Christians:

1.) That we must change and adapt with the times in a way that allows us to be deeply engaged and influential in our national cultural conversations, and

2.) That we must maintain timeless practices and truths that are rooted in the eternal relationship we enjoy with God.

These two notions are central to what we do because they inform how we lead our schools in such a manner that produces an environment where students are exposed to ideas, drawn to the Truth, and inspired to live influential lives for Christ by using their God given gifts to produce good and beautiful things. In the Christian sense, this is what it means to be an influencer (ah, the influencer – another unimaginable new profession that would have blown our time-traveling minds).

One of the things I enjoy doing is reading books that are written from wildly different worldviews than my own. As thinking Christians, I believe it’s almost an imperative to do so because it shows the world that we are not close-minded, unthinking, relics from a bygone era, and it allows us to better understand how non-believers see the world. Right now, I’m reading Yuval Harari’s brilliant reflections on the future entitled, Homo Deus, A Brief History of Tomorrow. Harari is an Israeli professor, historian, philosopher, and author who has been featured on 60 minutes and in many other major public forums. Homo Deus and its preceding work Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, serve as a sort of two volume tome on how homo sapiens came to be and where we are going.

These books explain from a strictly evolutionary and atheistic perspective how humans have become what we are today and concludes with the prediction that we will cease to exist as a species as most people will become superfluous as we are replaced by a technologically enhanced version of sapiens that will relegate us to obsolescence at some point in the not-so-distant future. If that sounds like science fiction, when you read the book, it does not seem nearly as implausible as you might think.

In Homo Deus, he posits that since God is now definitively nonexistent (he writes this as a matter of fact that the world has come to understand), humankind will seek to attain three great achievements:

  1. Happiness
  2. Immortality
  3. God-status

You might think this sounds like a humanist manifesto of sorts, but he spends a great deal of time unpacking how humanism is just another religion with multiple sects that have replaced the outdated god-centered religions with the worship of ourselves. Instead of humanism, he sees us replacing our very species to become god-like through our immortality and ability to control our destiny.

And this is the way of thinking increasingly for many millions of people, which is evidenced by the growing percentage of westerners who identify as religiously unaffiliated. So why do I suggest that in this environment we Christians hold a corner on the market of joy, peace, and hope? I think sometimes brilliant people create their own blind spots because they are too smart for their own good. I know that intelligence and wisdom are different things, but I think the scriptures in 1 Corinthians are applicable here when it says the wisdom of the world is foolishness in God’s sight.

The folly of humanist or atheist or any secular thinking about the nature of man is that they believe because science has not revealed the existence of the soul, that one does not exist and therefore we are merely an accumulation of cells set in motion by electrical currents that have no meaning. By this standard we are nothing more than a series of bad algorithms, and there is no meaning to life except that which we socially construct within the rules we create as the current civilization inhabiting the earth.

As Christians we can shake our heads and say that’s absurd, but that’s not enough to stop this from happening if indeed it is true. But the evidence for our Creator, the evidence of our Savior, and the inner knowledge that exists throughout humanity that our consciousness has a source, and that we have purpose, that we are designed and created beings by a moral and loving Creator, and that we are broken but beautiful, sinful but made in God’s image – these things are known innately within humanity far and wide in such a way that has survived the hedonists, survived the enlightenment, survived the humanists, scientists, and new atheists because God is alive and is moving in powerful ways – always – sometimes in perceptible ways and many times in imperceptible ways. As believers we have experienced the power of Jesus in our lives – he has been our strength when we have none, our hope in times of despair, our joy in times of abundant blessing, our peace in times of tumult, our light in the dark times of human history, the hope of nations, the embodiment of truth, the judge who metes out justice, the way maker for the directionless, the answer to our deepest questions and longings, the provider of our every need, the gatekeeper to eternity, and the perfector of our souls.

In Him we have everything we will ever need and He gives us purpose to instruct and guide the days He gives us here on earth. And beyond that, we have the hope of eternity – that someday all this human brokenness will be no more. Yes, we have this hope by faith, but we also have it by the evidence of His life and the historically reliable record of His life and teaching, his death, his resurrection and all that comes with those realities.

So when we observe our present times and it feels like our nation is being torn apart by polarization, the threat of global wars, the deconstruction of social constructs, and a hundred other great human challenges, we get to be the ones who lead our shining cities on hills, the places where our people experience the joy of fellowship, the grace of God, the gentle call to repentance, and the fullness of life promised and delivered by our Savior. We are raising a future generation of young people who will remain faithful, who will create beautiful families built on the rock of their faith, who will influence their communities and places of work and of worship.

Undoubtedly things will get worse in many ways, but our hope is not in our present circumstances, but in God’s promises, and until they are fulfilled, we do our work with steadfastness to uphold truth and grace, beauty and goodness in our schools – we love our kids well and partner with our families to fulfill our calling to educate with excellence and love God and others with all our hearts, minds, and strength.

That is the leadership we are called to provide – Joyful leadership, positive leadership, enthusiastic leadership, optimistic leadership, hopeful leadership, all this wrapped up in the hope that comes from our Lord Jesus. Just as Marty McFly couldn’t imagine what he would have discovered had he traveled forward to 2023, we can’t possibly imagine what life will be like forty years from now, but we can find joy in the knowledge that the work we did in providing hopeful leadership for our schools is still shining brightly in shaping future generations to become the powerful influencers of tomorrow and beyond.

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