Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Leader on Fire: What The Hunger Games Series Teaches About Spiritual Leadership

My new favorite book series is a popular YA series.

I'm sure you've already guessed from my title and the above pic -- it's The Hunger Games.

Before the first Hunger Games movie debuted, my teenage son Kalin told me I needed to read these books. Haughtily, I thought, "I'm not into YA books. And I'm definitely not into books that involve children killing other children -- for entertainment, at that."

But after watching - and loving - the first movie, I decided to read the series. I've thoroughly enjoyed them. I've pondered much. And they've made me think a lot about leadership.

I thought I'd pass on a few of these insights from The Hunger Games regarding SPIRITUAL LEADERSHIP:

I. Leaders seldom feel qualified

The greatest, yet most humble, leaders in history often began their rise to leadership feeling grossly inadequate.

In Book Two of the Hunger Games series - Catching Fire - 16-year-old Katniss Everdeen rejects her calling to leadership for this very reason. Her words from Chapter 9:

"We need someone to direct us and resassure us... And I don't think I'm that person. I may have been a catalyst for rebellion, but a leader should be someone with conviction, and I'm barely a convert myself. Someone with unflinching courage, and I'm still working hard at even finding mine. Someone with clear and persuasive words, and I'm so easily tongue-tied."

Sound a little like someone you know? Moses?

And just take a look at other great leaders of the Bible.

Gideon. Esther. Timothy.

Even Isaiah protested his qualifications before his great proclamation -- "Here am I! Send me."*

His previous words were "'Woe to me,' I cried. 'I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips. And I live among a people of unclean lips.'"**

Oftentimes, a leader looks around at the smarter, stronger and more talented people around him or her and says, "There she is Lord. Send her."

And yet, for reasons beyond our understanding, God wants us.

He chooses us.

He empowers us to do His work.

And He uses us. In spite of ourselves.

II. Leadership is seldom glamorous

When I watch documentaries on famous leaders, I feel a rush inside, admiring their charisma and impact on others.

I imagine what it would be like to be him or her.

In recent years, I'm not nearly as enamored as I used to be. I realize the life of a leader has many dark days. The weight of leadership can be crushing.

While others watched the Hunger Games on live television, marveling in the bravery of its contestants, reveling in the drama of it all (much like reality television in our world), Katniss and her fellow contestants fought one another to the death. 

When the Hunger Games end, Katniss is deaf in one ear. Her district partner Peeta has suffered an excruciating leg injury that leads to amputation. They have suffered starvation; dehydration; dangerous storms; extreme cold at night; extreme heat during the day; fierce, genetically-altered wildlife - all while fighting for their very lives.

And they actually won the Hunger Games.

As leaders, we will face storms and opposition and trials. Some will dislike us and disagree with our decisions.

Many days will feel glorious. Some will just feel hard.

As leaders, we will carry heavy burdens.

We need the Lord to help carry the weight of our burdens. We need Him to help carry our loads.

And we need community as well.

We certainly can't do it alone.

III. Leadership requires great sacrifice

In Book One - Hunger Games - Katniss makes a decision that will forever change her life. When her 12-year-old sister Prim's name is drawn at random, naming her a contestant in that year's Hunger Games, Katniss volunteers to take her place.

In one moment, Prim is no longer a contestant of the brutal, sadistic televised "game" that would have most certainly meant the end of her life.

All because of her sister's great sacrifice. Her sister has given her life to save Prim's.

Sound familiar?

Over 2000 years ago, our Savior sacrificed His life for you and for me.

There has been no greater sacrifice. There will be no greater sacrifice. EVER.

And yet, when God calls us to lead others, He calls us to sacrifice our lives as well.

He calls us to give up the life we would have lived for the life that He has chosen for us.

At times, that life is uncomfortable.

Many times, that life is vulnerable.

Most times, that life is lonely.

Katniss sacrificed much for her dear sister.

Jesus sacrificed much, much more for us.

What will YOU sacrifice for the sake of others?

* Isaiah 6:8b
**Isaiah 6:5

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