“…who errs, who comes short again and again.
Because there is no effort without error and shortcoming;
but who does actually strive to do the deeds;
who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions;
who spends [themselves] on a worthy cause…”
I sat in the Clinton Presidential Library, amazed by the beauty of the space, and a view that demanded my attention through the floor to ceiling windows. I was overwhelmed with a sense of awe.
As I started to focus closer, I found my name plate customized with the Presidential Library Seal perfectly placed above the dinning service that was laid out and set for a multi course meal.
The room was a buzz with leaders and innovators that were selected to be part of the same program that my teammates and I were. It was an opening to a “conference” like no other I had ever been a part of, and one that would take me on a spiritual and personal journey over the next 2.5 days.
Theodore Roosevelt landed in Paris on April 23, 1910; he had been out of office since 1900. During the year prior, he had been hunting in Central Africa before embarking on a tour of Northern Africa and Europe in 1910, attending events and giving speeches in Cairo, Berlin, Naples, and Oxford, among others.
It is here that he would give what might be his most impressive, passionate, and historic speech. While at Sorbonne, around 3:00 in the afternoon, over 2,500 people would gather, including Army and Navy Officers and students attending University, that he gave his speech titled Citizenship in a Republic.
This speech offered insight and thought, based on his own family’s history, about war, human rights, property rights, and responsibilities of citizenship. The speech railed against cynics who looked down at those who were trying to make the world a better place.
Full disclosure, I had not heard of this speech before Monday of last week. However, it grabbed my full attention. In this quote, Theodore Roosevelt speaks about the power of the cynic; that many times too much power is given to those that take away our joy, our passion, our excitement, our motivation, and even our achievements.
While this speech was not written with the Church in mind, I believe there is great wisdom that can be learned from it. In the Church, we so often, especially those who have a leadership role or have been called into full time ministry, have been crushed spiritually, emotionally, and mentally from individuals who continually fill our space and time with pettiness, selfishness, and negative behaviors.
I, for most of my life, have given much energy, wasted much time, and experienced too much stress by giving these cynical behaviors too much of myself, my soul, and my spirit.
During my time at Launch 2.0 last week, I realized that this is the time to be led more by the presence of God, leading with my heart, and accepting that I do not need the approval of the cynic. That I, too, am worthy of being loved by God. That I must remain strong while experiencing the cynical and harmful actions of others.
While this is a spiritual journey for me, there are many things the church can learn as well. The church is a community of individuals that must respect and love others. The church must step up and move past the way that church was done 10, 20, 30, or 50 years ago. That the church must innovate and allow room for the Holy Spirit to work in new ways. That the church cannot minimize God by the works that God has done before, but to prepare the way for God to work for new generations.
It sounds like a huge task, and it is. One that should not be taken lightly. The works of Jesus and the power of the resurrection still are worthy to society today. The church must continually be creative in new ministries. The church must be willing to innovate our insider culture and allow ourselves to be led by the Spirit to collaborate with others outside our culture. The church cannot afford, spiritually or financially, to refuse to offer new ways of worship, news ways of studying, new ways to provide for our siblings in Christ. It is time not to feed the cynic, but to feed our community, whether that be locally or globally, with the love of Christ.
My journey, in many ways, is just starting. As I innovate my own ways of ministering, it is important for me to remember where I was last week in Little Rock, Arkansas.
I was experiencing the stories of the Little Rock 9, I was looking at the ways we show hate toward people who are different than us, I was understanding that I must be the alternative from those who spew bigotry, and I have to lead in a way that brings enthusiasm and allows room for failure.
For the church we must be the person in the arena, who’s pointing the way of the future while realizing that the cynic does not count.
“It is not the cynic who counts;
not the [one] who points out how the strong [person] stumbles,
or were the door of deeds could have done them better.
The credit belongs to the [one] who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood;
who strives valiantly;
who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming;
but who does actually strive to do the deeds;
who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotion;
who spends [themselves] on a worthy cause;
who at the best knowns in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if [they] fail, at least fails while daring greatly, so that [their] place shall never be with those old and timid souls who neither know victory or defeat.”President Theodore Roosevelt