by Harry Banks
by Harry Banks, May 29, 2014
In the summer of 1969 I took a discussion class from Gladys “Elaine” Giddings, who was the chair of the Andrews University Communications Department. The topic for the discussion class was leadership. At the time I thought it should have been a required class for everyone, but it was optional, and only seven of us gathered around the table that first day of class. Elaine entered the room, stood and looked directly at each of us in silence and announced sternly, “Gentlemen, the mantle has fallen.”
As a young inexperienced seminarian I was stunned. How could she be so certain? Did she have any idea how inexperienced we were? She began to explain. . . . We were preparing to take on positions of leadership. We learned that no matter where we were, or what positions we held or were assigned, we would in fact be leaders. Leadership would be a function of what we did, questions we asked, how we said things, and what we said. The titles held, the appointments received, were not really how leadership was achieved; what mattered was what we did. With the skills we were learning in the class, no matter where we went, we would be leaders.
On the church payroll, and off the church payroll, I have learned that Elaine was right! She was symbolically referring to the mantle that fell from Elijah to his protégé, Elisha, when Elijah was taken up in his chariot of fire. And, like it or not. . . . whether good or bad, I did end up leading in some form or another. And just in case you thought you were out of the conversation about E leadership: Don’t forget that 1 Peter says that we are all spiritual stones, a royal priesthood (I Peter 2:5). Sooo . . . you too, whether you like it or not, . . . are a leader. . . . The mantle has fallen. . . . Just sayin’.
Francis Chan and In His Steps
Each Sabbath I meet with the In His Steps Community Fellowship, a gathering which includes former atheists, Baptists, Methodists, Adventists and nondenominational seekers. How we all came together for Sabbath morning Bible study is another story. A few weeks ago we were studying Francis Chan’s “Crazy Love” session 9, “Who Really Lives That Way?” Chan calls attention to James 5:17: “Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. 5:18, Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops” (NIV). He notes the unbelievable line. . . “Elijah was a man just like us. . . .”
Hmmm. . . . You gotta be kidding. . . . Really? What was James thinking? So this has gotten me thinking about E(lijah) Leadership. Since so many things these days start with “e”, like e-mail, I’m going to use E as a symbol of the Elijah person spoken of in scripture. The first obvious question that popped up was, if E was a man just like us, how come we aren’t like E? Huh? Huh? Of course, that is our Western syllogistic sort of construction, which frequently does not make sense, but we tend to play with it and ask that kind of questions anyway. It does allow us to look at things from a different perspective.
Over the years I’ve had opportunity to fellowship with several different brands of Christian faith, and serve on several pastoral search committees. It seems that no matter which brand of faith one might deal with, at the administrative level nearly all governing bodies have similar concerns. Are the leaders stable? Do they avoid alienating the local or national government? Do they foster good relationships within the congregation? Will they take direction from their superiors?
So I have often wondered if there is any administrative level of church government that would hire E? He alienates the highest levels of government. He causes a national crisis by praying for a drought. Just to name a few items on his resume. . . .
But we are not done yet. . . . There is more. . . .
Turn the Hearts of Fathers to the Children
What about that passage in Malachi 4:5: “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. 6 And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the earth with a curse” (NIV).
Is anybody out there turning the hearts of the children to their fathers? What would such a person be doing that would lead to that kind of reformation and healing?
Has Anybody Seen E Lately?
So I’m still wondering: has anybody seen Elijah out there lately? Seems like he should be showing up one of these days. . . . If we take a hint from James, very likely he will be just like one of us. . . . He may or may not be on an official payroll. . . . but he will have such influence that the very basics of family integrity will be restored.
Have you ever noticed that most of the time the standard expectations of society are seldom where God chooses to work? His Son as a babe from unremarkable parents. His society was looking for a king.
Moses out of a river, a murder and a wilderness. . . . Who would have thought?
Are we looking for E in denominational employment? Or would E be independent? If E was independent how would we relate to E if it really was E? Would E be young? Old? Male? Female? North American? Asian? How would you recognize E when you saw E?
So where will E come from? Are you E? Has the mantle fallen on you? Elijah is a man as we are. Are you a person like Elijah? What’s keeping you? What are you praying for?