As I discussed in my article “The Adventist Tipping Point” (Jan. 17, 2013), a culture always has leaders, whether by choice or not. If you have the gift of leadership, you are a leader whether you want to be or not. Whatever decisions you make in your life, because you’re a leader, will shape the culture of those watching you.
Last fall I was at a bookstore thinking about American culture. I asked myself, Who has really shaped American culture over this past century? I finally purchased a biography of a man who was undoubtedly a cultural leader.
As I describe this man, see if you can identify him.
He was in many respects a good guy, with a lot of love in his heart. One day his newlywed wife tried making lasagna, but she forgot to cook the pasta. When a tableful of guests pressed their forks into the lasagna, there was a giant crunching sound. Everyone started laughing, including this man—until he saw the hurt look on his wife’s face. Then he quickly began forking in the lasagna as though nothing had happened. It was a sweet gesture she appreciated.
This man had a heart for God, and at different points in his life he even thought about becoming a minister.
This man also had a raging temper and poor moral boundaries.
This man felt tremendous pressure to be who other people wanted him to be. He had a gift for music, and though at times he used his gift to praise God, he ultimately took it a very different direction.
Who was this man? Elvis Presley.
If Elvis Presley had the chance to do it all over again, what do you think he would want his legacy to be? Nothing but a Hound Dog? Or Worthy Is the Lamb? Elvis would have turned 78 on January 8. His former wife, Priscilla, was recently asked what she thought Elvis would have become. A minister, she said. His heart was open to this, and he could have chosen to do it. But he didn’t.
Here’s the key point: Elvis Presley didn’t transform our culture because he was a talented singer alone; he transformed our culture because he was Elvis Presley. This man was given unusual gifts from God—gifts of music and leadership—and he chose to use these gifts in a certain way. Whatever Elvis Presley chose to do with his life, he was going to influence a lot of people. What would have happened if Elvis had consecrated his life completely to Christ?
Compare the shallowness of Elvis’s music with the music of a group of dedicated leaders who began to pray and sing at a small church called the Brooklyn Tabernacle in the 1980s and 1990s. In time this little group of leaders transformed their community; and the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir now includes former drug addicts, prostitutes, and homeless people.
Jim Cymbala, pastor of the Brooklyn Tabernacle, once said, “The first step in spiritual renewal is demolition,” a setting aside of our idols. This is exactly what needed to happen in the life of Elvis, and it’s exactly what has to happen in our most natural leaders today—especially our men.
Our culture and our church need more men to demolish their idols and take a stand for the Lord. There is, after all, no group more happy about men who stand up than the women who stand beside them. (I understand this is very attractive.)
I find it encouraging to see a gifted man such as Mark Burnett, producer of the television series Survivor, turning his talents toward more worthwhile projects, including the new Bible film and the terrific Bible 360 phone app. May his tribe increase.
If you’re a natural leader, whether or not you choose to be—or want to be—you’re already influencing the lives of many, many people by what you choose to do, or choose not to do. That’s a great responsibility you’ve been given.