Where have all the cowboys gone?

Published 10:20 am Monday, February 20, 2017

by Nathan Decker

“No one wants to be president anymore.”

I was talking with a school teacher recently. She was making an observation about the dreams, hopes, and people the children in her class looked to do, be and become. A lot has changed since I was a kid. She had lots of tykes who wanted to be professional athletes, doctors, singers, lawyers, artists, scientists and even a few soldiers. But no presidents. No senators. No governors. No mayors.

Living life after an election in which most of the people voted against someone rather than for a candidate, where have all the great leaders gone? What does it say about our society when we expect (and possibly encourage) crooked politicians? Are there no decent men and women to elect as leaders?  I believe there are.

As people of faith, like the writer of Psalm 27, we “remain confident that we will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” More than just seeing goodness: we are called to be that goodness. After all, Jesus told us to be his “witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” There are so many places where God speaks, guides, and leads us to get off our hind parts and lead. The problem is not just that we don’t, but we have become apathetic in our lack of practicing faith.

When my mom and dad visit, an unspoken tradition we do is watch old John Wayne movies. From Rooster Cogburn to Cord McNally, the Duke played them all well as a great actor. One of my favorite movies is “El Dorado.” In it, main characters J.P. and Mississippi come to the aid of a drunk sheriff against a greedy land baron and a hired gun. I love the movie because it encourages us, the viewers to be like the heroes. Art reflects life and has the possibility of influencing reality.

The heroes didn’t have to get involved. In fact, they were warned not to unless it was on the side of greed and power. Still, they did the decent thing. They joined the pursuit of a better world by being a part of the solution rather than the problem. They stood up risking life and limb to lead as a force of good in the face of evil.

Jesus was a leader, but he practiced a certain form of leadership. We call it servant leadership. He led from the perspective of serving the greater good— even to the point of dying on the cross. He was not a simple traveling preacher who served like a hired hand. Nor was he simply a charismatic leader who encouraged good behavior and made people feel better about themselves. Jesus was a servant leader who stood up and shared goodness in word and deed.

In this world, we have a lot of folks who are willing to be servants. They seek to humbly share their gifts without recognition or responsibility. We also have our fair share of leaders who thrill at holding the reins of power and reshaping the landscape of our great land. But mostly, we’re comfortable and apathetic. We see the world and say, “It is what it is.” And that’s the problem.

God calls us not just to have faith but to practice and do faith. Our world will always need leaders. People of faith are called to stand up as servant leaders who look at where we are and envision where we could and should be. Lead from the perspective of God’s grace, mercy, justice, and goodness. No more apathy!

As Galatians 6:9 says, “Let us not become weary in doing good … .” A part of doing good is leading from a servant’s heart. Christian, lift up your voice and offer your helping hands. Lead! After all, it’s what Jesus would do.

NATHAN DECKER is the pastor of High Street United Methodist Church. Contact him at 562-3367.