PRAYER, listening and humility are on Brisbane Archbishop Mark Coleridge’s list of “dos and don’ts” for Christian leaders. Read on for the entire list by Archbishop Coleridge.
IT was suggested to me recently that I might compose a simple list of “dos and don’ts” for someone new to the episcopal ministry.
Partly to satisfy my own curiosity I did it in a very simple and straight-forward way; and I offer it here because elements of it may be of interest and even helpful not just for a new bishop but for anyone in a position of Christian leadership:
- Set prayer at the heart of your life, the (largely biblical) prayer that keeps the focus firmly on Jesus crucified and risen when other things can crowd him out.
- Keep reminding yourself that God is in charge and will provide, even if not in the ways you expect.
- Keep reminding yourself that there’s more to the Church (the Body of Christ) than meets the eye, more than just another seriously flawed human institution.
- Always keep looking beyond the Church, even though you ponder the Church’s life intensely; remember you are missionary and that God has an eye not just for the Church but for the world.
- Listen to others, especially the wise and those who see things differently from you.
- Learn humility and beware the pride which comes across as self-containment and complacency; always be ready to learn.
- Have a deep understanding and wide embrace of human weakness, including your own; be slow to condemn.
- Get the right people around you.
- Don’t allow the financial people, however good and important they are, to have the final say.
- Don’t allow politics or ideology to hem you in or drive your decisions.
- Don’t be afraid of decisions or too quick to make them.
- Learn patience; don’t rush, but keep turning the prism in an attempt to see more aspects of problems, situations and people before making a decision.
- Be prepared to explain what you decide and do.
- Don’t be afraid to change course; acknowledge a mistake when you’ve made one.
- Know what you can and can’t control, and don’t lose too much sleep over what you can’t control.
- Distinguish between what does and doesn’t really matter and don’t anguish too much over what doesn’t really matter much.
- Cultivate a sense of humour; don’t take yourself too seriously, even if others do.
- Distinguish between the flak that’s personal and the flak that’s institutional; don’t take everything personally.
- Keep asking what’s the right thing to do rather than the expedient or self-serving thing.
- Don’t get imprisoned behind a desk but get out among the people.
- Keep your eye firmly on the most needy, vulnerable, marginalised.
- Be prepared to live simply, which doesn’t mean on or below the poverty line.
- Don’t be too protective of personal space and free time.
- Don’t be afraid of hard work and do what you can to ensure that your energy levels are what the job requires.
- Distrust power and the powerful but don’t be afraid of it or them.
- Keep calm under pressure; distrust anger and never let it be what drives you.
- Don’t reply to letters and emails if it will achieve nothing or do more harm than good; sometimes silence is best.
- Know when to fight and how.
- Know when to compromise and how.
- Don’t try to please everyone all the time.
- Don’t become cynical but do keep your wits about you.
- Accept that conflict and division will always be there, but never accept them as simply “the way things are”, as things about which nothing can be done.
- Don’t be imprisoned by your own expectations.
- Let nothing become routine.
The list is by no means exhaustive; no doubt I’ve omitted things that should be there.
Nor are the points in any particular order of importance.
Much more could be said about each of them; each would warrant an article in its own right. But that would mean writing a big book, which will have to await my retirement.
For now, I leave it to you to add more as you respond to what I’ve offered here.