If I am to bring transformation into today’s world why not learn from those who have done it? If I am to persevere through difficulties, raise up other leaders and finish well why not look to those who have?
The problem which often blocks us is a general sense of dislocation. We live dislocated, disconnected lives. This disconnection also manifests itself in theological institutions, as many do not consider the great leaders of the past worthy of careful, detailed study and attention. Looking back over the 16 years of my theological education in many different settings I am sad to realise that none of the schools encouraged me to study the lives of great missionaries of the past. The great leaders of the past are often considered irrelevant, their books and journals gather dust on the bookshelves of libraries and the academic looks down on them. And yet surely they are to be our mentors?
Someone once said that young people follow footprints better then blueprints. Theological education has stuffed its students with blueprints while what is needed is a rediscovery of the footprints of those who went ahead of us. We have forgotten the great cloud of witnesses, their wisdom, and the opportunity to be mentored by them.
In looking at the lives of Hudson Taylor, John Wesley, Amy Carmichael, William Carey, Andrew Murray, E. Stanley Jones, we notice that some of them had official theological education and some did not. What they did have however was not only a strong sense of vision, but also a strong sense of their own identity and acceptance by the Father. They had mentors and were mentors to others. They led and were able to equip those they led with little resources and much less opportunities than we have on our doorsteps today. We must not forget that they too were global leaders; their world was not much less complex than ours is today. They understood their times and the people they served, their impact will echo to eternity. One of the incredible things is that they did not lose momentum; they mastered the art of perseverance.
When was the last time you reached out for a real life story of transformation? When was the time you opened a book to find out how the greatest did it?
If you haven’t for a long time or if you never had an opportunity, now may be the best time in your life to start. Be careful not to ‘rise as a rocket and fall as the stick’… and one way to help you is to get connected to these amazing stories.
Joanna has a passion for mentoring female leaders to become mentors for a new generation. She is a founding director of One Rock, a board member of Renovare UK, and is studying for a doctorate with Asbury Theological Seminary. In her spare time she loves taking photographs of nature, and playing with her cat Chester.