No Man Is an Island: Communion As a Leadership Principle
An Afghan proverb says; “if you think you’re leading and no one is following, then you’re only taking a walk.”
It was never God’s intent for us to live isolated or alone. The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him (Genesis 2:18).”
In his book Leadership Gold, author John Maxwell says “If it’s lonely at the top; you’re not doing something right.” We were meant to be in community, or better said, in communion with one another. Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 (NLT) says:
"Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble."
Alan Fiske, a cultural anthropologist, believes that most of the time, people in all cultures use just four patterns for relating and organizing the aspects of our social lives. One pattern, communal sharing, focuses on how people live together in trusting relationships.
Communal sharing builds upon the concept of “communion.” The term “communion” comes from the Latin term “communio,” which means “sharing in common.” It is described as a “close relationship with someone or something” (Merriam-Webster) such as in community or society.
I believe that expressing communion, especially in our faith, occurs in two ways: through prayer and through our relations with other. I wish I could take credit for these pearls of wisdom but Matthew 22:37-39 (MSG) says: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.’ This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’ These two commands are pegs; everything in God’s Law and the Prophets hangs from them.’’
What's in it for Me?
What if trust weren't the foundation of communion? What if relationships were motivated by self-interests? The notion of self-interest is dominated by a perspective that people are best motivated toward compliance or cooperation when it is favorable to them. This is commonly referred to as "WIIFM" (What's in it for me?).
Could you imagine what our relationship with God might be like if He operated from the WIIFM perspective? Luckily for us, we will never need to worry about this. God's communion with us is motivated by our best interests and His love for us:
"For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future." (Jeremiah 29:11, NIV)
“For God expressed His love for the world in this way. He gave His only Son so that whoever believes in Him will not face everlasting destruction, but will have everlasting life.” (John 3:16, Voice)
Two Expressions of Communion
With a foundational understanding of God’s communion toward us; let’s take a closer look at our two expressions of communion.
1. Communion is expressed in our relation to God. One of the primary ways we establish and maintain our relationship with God is through prayer. I have to confess that prayer was an area in which I was challenged. I didn’t know how to pray and didn’t understand it. I read about prayer and its different forms. I found books, article and websites; but, it just seemed so complicated, scripted and ritualistic.
I tried to pray, but it just didn’t feel right. Then I read Before Amen. Max Lucado, explains that “prayer is simply a heartfelt conversation between God and his child. We speak. He listens. He speaks. We listen. This is prayer in its purest form.”
My light bulb went on. I had been trying too hard. Prayer is not a ritual; it is just an honest, heartfelt conversation. The kind of conversation you might have with a friend, spouse or your “Father.” It is a personal relationship.
"This personal relationship with God is not as hard to find as we might think, and there is no mysterious formula for getting it. As soon as we become children of God, we receive the Holy Spirit, who will begin to work on our hearts. Trusting in God to get us through each day and believing that He is our sustainer is the way to have a relationship with Him." (www.GotAnswers.org)
2. Communion is also expressed in our relation to others. We establish and maintain our relationship with others through the practice of community, such as our faith.
“As followers of Jesus, we are members of the Body of Christ. We share a common bond with all other Christians, regardless of background, race, or ministry. This makes for harmony among the members, so that all the members care for each other. (1 Corinthians 12:27, NLT).” (www.GotAnswers.org)
If you think these common bonds are shared only by Christians, you’d be mistaken. You can see common bonds in our sports teams, music, movies, books, and the clubs we join; certainly there is no limit to the ways that we are interconnected.
In 1624, English poet and himself a Christian, John Donne wrote the poem “For Whom the Bell Tolls.” Donne wrote of his near death experience and his lessons from God, one of which was about the “interconnectedness of humanity” captured in this excerpt:
“No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.”
We have seen that “trust” is required in our communion. We build our communion with God through prayer; but how do we build our relationship with each other?
We can see that the WIIFM perspective will not serve this purpose, but the alternative is found in 1 Corinthians 10:24, which says “we should stop looking out for our own interests and instead focus on the people living and breathing around us (VOICE).”
We know there are no shortcuts to relationships built on a foundation of trust, but an honest and heartfelt conversation is a good place to start. Incorporating the communion principles will not only change your leadership style, it will change you.
Take the next two weeks as a trial period. Incorporate the communion principles into your daily routine. Spend time with God. Just have a conversation; don’t worry about form or structure.
Make it a point to meet the need of at least one other person daily. You can do something to help around the house, say something to encourage someone, buy someone a cup of coffee. It does matter what you do; just do something.
Finally, try to keep a journal of your experience. Writing about whatever comes to mind. What did prayer feel like? What did God say to you? How did it feel to do something for someone else?
At the end of your trial period; if you like what happened, you can renew your subscription.
By Gilbert Camacho
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