Thoughts on CANOEING THE MOUNTAINS: CHRISTIAN LEADERSHIP IN UNCHARTED TERRITORY – by Tod Bolsinger
By Dr. Rob Blackaby
A month in advance of the COVID-19 health crisis that has shaken our society, and likely our culture as well, I was reading and thinking through the book by Tod Bolsinger, Canoeing the Mountains: Christian Leadership in Uncharted Territory. Though authored in 2015, I believe it speaks to us at this moment in time. Based on the famous expedition of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark in early nineteenth-century America, Bolsinger extracts five lessons that must inform ministry in our oftentimes unexpected and uncharted twenty-first century context.
These five vital lessons that provide the structure of his book are summarized:
1. The world in front of you is nothing like the world behind you;
2. No one is going to follow you off the map unless they trust you on the map;
3. In uncharted territory, adaptation is everything;
4. You can’t go alone, but you haven’t succeeded until you’ve survived the sabotage;
5. Everybody will be changed (especially the leader).
I recognize that the uncertainty of these sometimes-chaotic and trying days, coupled with ordinary (and many new extraordinary) stresses of our jobs, layered with often-undisclosed personal stresses have created for each of us difficult and weighty circumstances as we continue to engage with our ministry assignments. I am mindful that Christian leaders are each shouldering a significant load as we navigate through the disruptions caused by events that are unprecedented in our lifetimes (really, unprecedented in several lifetimes).
We are at a crossroads. In the future, the history of our churches and Christian institutions will be told with this event as a watershed moment. And what did we do? We better be intentional about orienting or re-orienting God’s people toward God’s purposes and ways. We have to emerge with absolute clarity as to God’s agenda. Bolsinger agrees (p. 45): “Transformation is the goal of leadership.” In fact, he argues (p. 42), “Leadership is energizing a community of people toward their own transformation in order to accomplish a shared mission in the face of a changing world.” This is a sacred task embedded within a divine moment.
For a more thorough discussion of Bolsinger’s book, I invite you to enjoy the book review recently posted by our CSBS&C Chancellor Dr. Richard Blackaby, president of Blackaby Ministries International.