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Leading With Backbone





Strong leadership takes guts. Are you willing to pay the price?
I recently had the rare privilege of a night off and accepted an invitation from friends to see a movie I hadn't previously heard of called K-19: The Widowmaker. In this true story set during the height of the Cold War, Harrison Ford plays Captain Alexi Vostrikov, who is ordered by the Kremlin to command a special mission on the K-19, a nuclear submarine that was the pride of the Soviet Navy. In accepting this assignment, Vostrikov replaces the vessel's present officer, who is very popular with the crew but has failed to make enough demands on them to keep them qualified for military action. The officer is required to remain onboard as a subordinate to Vostrikov.

The new captain is not well-accepted by his men as he begins making changes in daily routines, proper dress, eating habits and military training. Unhampered by rejection from those he is training, and by the lack of support from his assistant officer, Vostrikov shows the strength and stamina he will need for preparation of his men and successful victory.

It is not long before the previously untested sub's reactor malfunctions, threatening to sink the vessel and possibly causing World War III because of its geographic location. Had this happened under its previous captain, it is doubtless that total disaster would have occurred.

I think it is obvious why I thought about leadership all through this film. Too many have assumed the role of pastor, seeking only to possess a position of authority that grants them esteem and security. They seek to please and become popular with the people. They have forgotten the Higher Authority who arranged for their placement with the sole purpose of readying the "crew" for whatever might be ahead. Being threatened by rejection or the fear of losing their positions, they compromise the very purpose for which they have been sent.

Traveling ministers, too, have a tendency to become people-pleasers. Often they specialize in areas of ministry they feel comfortable with and become known for, rather than being aware of the needs of each church. This awareness comes only when we remain in touch with the Higher Authority.

The movie ends with the second officer in total support of the captain because of the wisdom and caring for the men that is evidenced. Ford's character has shown a willingness to endanger his own life to save the men. His decisions have been difficult--and many--yet he is unrelenting in his duties as a leader.

When the apostle Paul said, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" (Phil. 4:13, NKJV), he was emphasizing the spiritual principle of dependence on the Lord rather than on human help. Yet no one in the Bible makes mention of more helpers than he does. The point: God has not called us to function as loners, but as leaders.

In order to obey Jesus' command to go and make disciples, we must be willing to function alone at times and seem to others to be inflexible, all the while knowing it is for them that we discipline, desire and demand. If we can "keep ourselves in the love of God" as Jude declares we must (Jude 21), our ministries will be successful, and our rewards will be lasting fruit and answered prayer (see John 15:16).

Pick any of the leaders of the Bible and you will find similar patterns for success: (1) They knew that a Higher Authority had placed them in position; (2) They knew the purpose of the placement; (3) They knew they could call on the resources of the Higher Authority; (4) They felt and shared the passion and possibility of their callings; and (5) They kept close and open communication with their Authority.

If we follow that same pattern, our ministries will bear much fruit.


Iverna Tompkins is a well-known minister, speaker and author of many books, including All in God's Time (www.charismahouse.com).

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