July 9, 2007
The Master's Program
The Point of View - A Weekly Commentary by Bob Shank

Dear Marketplace Friend,

    What time is it? Pretty common question, among friends. If you ask me, I'm likely to stall before giving an answer. My "bod" is not quite sure: since June 16th, I've been in Hong Kong, South Korea, Southern California, Ecuador, New York and Kiev, Ukraine... in that order. Fly 31,000 miles in 16 days, across most of Earth's time zones? Why? All of it on assignment for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.
    Many Americans will jam into stadiums over the Fourth of July weekend to watch fireworks; Cheri and I will be in the (hopefully, jammed!) Olympic Stadium in Kiev to watch God work. Franklin Graham & Team (that's where I fit in) will have three nights here - and, by live video feed, 100 other sites around this region - to introduce people to the Christian faith, and invite their immediate response to that Gospel.
    Say "Kiev" to most people today, and they're likely to say, "Orange Revolution." For Americans, our government hails from a Revolution that was time stamped 1776. For Ukrainians, the date is far more recent. It was November 2004 when the popular election for president was declared, by international observers, to be corrupted by the authorities. Massive peaceful protests ensued - at one point, a crowd estimated at 1 million gathered in Independence Square (just down the street from my hotel, as I write) to demonstrate their demand for a voice in their country's political outcomes. A new election was scheduled a month later, and - the day after Christmas, 2004 - the majority finally ruled. Despite the efforts by Russian manipulation to control their destiny, the voters in Ukraine elevated Viktor Yushchenko as their fourth President, since achieving their independence from the former Soviet Union.
    Does leadership really matter? It must; people go to great lengths to establish the systems under which their leadership will be established (evidence: America in 1776) and to clarify, under their systems, who rightfully deserves to lead (evidence: Ukraine in 2004). The authority of leadership must be important: people put their lives on the line - literally - to determine who has it.
    Leadership, however, has two distinct manifestations. The first is the one that has most of the "sizzle;" it's leadership through authority. Authority is always attached to a position, perched at the top of an organizational chart somewhere. When authority is the issue, the available seats are always limited. People spend a lifetime jockeying to climb the ladder that will land them in positional leadership; some make it, most never do. Even those who land at the pinnacle are not guaranteed longevity. Stays in the position of authority are always tentative, frequently fleeting.
    The second expression of leadership is less obvious, but, in many ways, more powerful. It exists when leadership is exercised by influence. While authority is official, it can sometimes be illegitimate, if gained through inappropriate means. Influence is a decidedly different phenomenon. Not limited to those with lofty titles or apparent acclaim, influence can be leveraged by anyone who understands its legitimate development. Authority is obvious, while influence is most often below the official radar.
    Interesting thoughts: when Jesus was here, he was the paradox of leadership. In the visible world of human affairs, he was a nondescript carpenter's son from a backwater village in Galilee. If authority was the measure, he was at the bottom of society's totem pole. The God of Heaven - in whom all authority resides - chose to come undercover...
    Why? Rather than demanding his rightful place, he would - instead - establish his entrée into the affairs of men through the portal of influence. Authority can always be questioned... but influence can never be denied. He lived a live of intentional progression: 30 years of obscurity, three years of growing grassroots attention, 40 days of resurrected confirmation... and 120 praying followers in the week between Ascension and Pentecost. How much influence could that produce?
    Well, here we are 2000 years later. Millions claim allegiance today, worldwide... but most have yet to fall under the influence of his still-compelling message and appeal. That's why we're in Kiev: to extend his influence to those who have yet to be exposed. Happy Independence Day... while living under the influence.

Bob Shank


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