By Rick Lawrence
Vibrant Faith Executive Director
It’s our convictions—tied to our passions—that infect those around us… This is really the core of leadership, often obscured by the tips-and-techniques of leadership that inundate us. Our influence is viral; tied to our heart more than our head. This is true, also, of Jesus’ transformational impact on others. The same disciples who remained confused, until the very end, about who Jesus was and what He came to do nevertheless were so captured by His heart that they all died for Him…
Our ability to live out of our convictions and transcend the chronic anxiety that characterizes our world is not rooted in our ideas—it is drawn from the deeper well of what philosophers and theologians call our “ontology.” It’s a more formal way of describing our “core nature” or “the way we’re wired.”
When the ad agency TBWA\Media Arts Lab created the award-winning “Get a Mac” campaign for Apple in 2006, director Phil Morrison used savvy humor to highlight the difference between the ontology of the Mac’s operating system and the ontology of the PC’s operating system. The PC in the campaign is portrayed by a well-meaning but bumbling middle-aged guy in a cheap suit, while the Mac is portrayed by a hip, unflappable guy in a T-shirt and hoodie. The “hard wiring” of the Mac comes off as a relaxed, savvy, creative, confident, and witty best friend. While the PC’s “heart” is translated into a formal, flustered, frustrated, often-clueless, fun-deprived “company man.”
The genius of the campaign is its ability to personalize the core essence of the two competing operating systems, then invite consumers to identify with the more attractive option. Our own journey as ministry leaders is fueled by an interior exploration that shines light on our hard-wiring, following it until we reveal our “core operating system.”
- What words do others close to me use to describe my personal characteristics?
- What words describe the essence of my ongoing struggles in life, and why?
- In what ways do I trust my heart, and why do I doubt my heart?
- When do I feel free to offer my strength in near-effortless ways?
- When do I sense I’m having a good impact on others, and what is happening inside me when I do?
Psychologist Athena Staik, a specialist in helping stuck people move through their anxiety, says: “Based on recent decades of neuroscience findings, it appears, to the extent you become a conscious participant in these processes, you can more effectively direct the changes and parts of you involved in change. In other words, your success in changing any interfering behavior or thought patterns depends on… the conscious you.”
For years I had heard stories about a close friend’s globetrotting, swashbuckling father, Leo. He’d made and lost his fortune several times over, climbed iconic peaks into his late seventies, and piloted his own plane. He was a man full of passionate opinions on politics, social issues, economics, and world history—an overshadowing force in the lives of those who knew him. On a required flight-test to update his pilot’s certification, Leo made a big mistake and smashed his plane into the side of a mountain. He was killed instantly. After this shocking news, my wife and I were invited to Leo’s mountain home, along with 100-or-so friends and family, for an evening of tributes. The last person to speak was a young man who seemed a little out of place. He said: “I met Leo when I was eighteen—I think that was the best age to meet him, when I was young. A few minutes after I was first introduced to him, he looked me square in the eye and asked, ‘What do you stand for?’ I didn’t even know I was supposed to be thinking of questions like that. But that question has dominated my life ever since.”
Leo’s question—“What do you stand for?”—fuels the revelation of our core. It’s an examination of the foundation our life’s “house” is built upon. And when we do this work, we are grounding our responses to fears and threats in our solidified heart, not our limbic system (the part of our brain that controls our mood, instincts, and basic emotional drivers).
In addition to our own interior pursuits, the “Supreme Ordeals” we face in life expose our core, giving us a chance to acknowledge our brutal realities and open ourselves to Jesus, who transforms us by revealing our essence. The Mac ad campaign shows us the immersive impact of our core identity on our environments, and did it in a playful way. We’re drawn to the solid core of the Mac, and are repelled by the diffused core of the PC. We long for others to crave our company because they are magnetically drawn to who we are and what we’re about- our convictions.
Moving into and through anxieties helps us reveal our differentiated core. Fear, because it can drive us into a deeper attachment to Jesus, gives us repeated chances for rebirth—to re-wire our hard-wiring. It’s in Jesus that we find our core. My friend Ned Erickson calls this “The Progression”—it’s a pathway into viral impact:
“Get to know Jesus well, because the more you know him, the more you’ll love him, and the more you love him, the more you’ll want to follow him, and the more you follow him, the more you’ll become like him, and the more you become like him, the more you become yourself.”
Rick Lawrence is Executive Director of Vibrant Faith. He’s the general editor of the Jesus-Centered Bible, and author of 40 books, including The Jesus-Centered Life and the new daily devotional Jesus-Centered Daily. His new book, The Suicide Solution, was just released.