When it comes to grasping the importance of the Easter story you struggle to top the well-known phrase of C.S. Lewis who wrote: ‘Christianity is a statement which, if false, is of no importance, and, if true, is of infinite importance. The one thing it cannot be is moderately important.’
I think the reason I love the statement so much is its ability to cut through so much baggage in order to get to what matters. And let’s face it—Easter has plenty of baggage, a lot of which we freely enjoy so long as it doesn't detract from the main thing. I mean at one level Easter is not pleasant, not pleasant at all. We have torture, humiliation, isolation which all leads to a slow walk to an execution area just outside of a city where people die—in agony, for hours at a time to remind Mr Joe Public that you don’t mess with the emperor of Rome and where at Easter—one man died fixed between two others who was comprehensively innocent of all wrong doing.
Now if this was just another death, we could argue that such loss, as terrible as that was, has no impact on you or me. After all its over two millennia ago. It’s a statistic of history at best—to you and me—not relevant. If this was just another day of Roman humiliation for those for those walking in trespass against Caesar then it goes no further. But this is not just another day—and not simply another life. This is a ground breaking, earth shaking, veil tearing, dead raising day when the universe witnesses a seismic shift in the way she turns. For here, on this day and over this weekend everything changes.
Here, in an act of powerlessness the stranglehold of evil is broken over the whole of creation. When the Roman Centurion declared, ’Surely, this was the Son of God,’ he spoke a compelling truth.
The Son of God hung naked before his mockers –his humiliation covering their shame; his innocence taking away their guilt. And not only theirs—but yours, and mine and indeed the shame of a world fallen, broken, and lost.
His final words—’It is finished’ capture the completeness of a life lived for the will of his Father. And those words echo through time and speak a message of hope to us all. He has finished what we couldn't achieve. The power of sin is broken, the purpose of satan is destroyed and a new life becomes your life and mine—not because either you or me deserve it, or have earned it; no, new life comes to us because we are loved—and that is why Lewis’ statement of Christianity is so compelling.
Leadership that lacks inspiration is likely to fail because people are looking for more in their leaders than simply organisational competence. To tick all the right boxes to prove we are doing a job well is not in practice a sign that a job is being done well. It's only a sign that it is being managed well, but there is a big difference between management and leadership.
So when Sir Michael Wilshaw, the head of Ofsted says there is an 'urgent need for good leaders in our schools, he is not wrong but he is short on the full truth of what makes an inspirational leader.
I agree that if we want to discover great people to lead our schools then we should pay the right money in order to attract the best candidates but this should not be the only motivator for attracting people to important roles. People need more than simply cash to commit: they need a fuller grasp of what it means to live and work vocationally, since this is the route to discovering inspirational leadership.
Living vocationally is about creating a culture that allows individuals to flourish and to feel the contribution they bring is adding value to the community. The challenge is that as communities crumble and the sense of togetherness is lost it leads to a more individualistic way of living which means we are less likely to live sacrificially for the whole because the whole is no longer clear to see. In such a society we are likely to take a view of success in terms of what we accumulate for ourselves as equal to or above what we give to the community and this, in part, has got to be one of the challenges society faces.
Great leaders are not created on the basis of pay scales - they are rather released into environments where their tenacity for change and inspiration to see a better future can be out worked in contexts and environments and this includes education, business, health care, faith communities, etc.
If we want to see great leadership then yes, let's pay for it. If we value education then yes, let's champion the cause. But if we want to raise up a new generation of leaders who can provide direction for the future then let's teach the values that makes for great leaders like: resilience, foresight, courage, generosity and hope. Such things can not be bought but actually add value that is difficult to quantify and almost impossible to monetise, but that, in reality is what sets inspirational leaders apart.