I’ve always said that if I ever got the opportunity to teach a class of budding young leaders, one of their first assignments would be to watch and write a report on the movie, “The Bishop’s Wife”. (The original 1947 version with Cary Grant.)
(If you haven’t seen the movie, you need to know that there are two main characters: The Reverend Henry Brougham and Dudley the angel. Henry was a bishop in the middle of a cathedral project that wasn’t going well. Thinking he needed help with the project, he prays and asks God for help. God’s answer is to send Dudley, an angel, to help Henry see that he’s got bigger problems than a lack of money with the cathedral project and to help Dudley refocus on his true calling in life.)
Right off the bat I’d tell my class to disregard all of the theological discrepancies regarding angels and their roles in the universe. I’ve got it---the movie is theologically incorrect about angels. Try to move past it; because the goal of the project wouldn’t be a lesson on angelology.
Instead, our purpose would be to do a character study on two of the characters in the movie: Henry and Dudley.
As they watched the movie, their assignment would be to analyze the differences in the character, motivations, attitudes, and behaviors between the two men and comment on what made one a better leader. I’d encourage them to take special note of the way that both Henry and Dudley interacted with people and how people responded to each one in return.
For instance, throughout the movie the Reverend, Henry, is focused on building a cathedral; Dudley, on the other hand, is focused on helping Henry and his wife, Julia, rebuild their lives.
To finish his cathedral project, Henry allows himself to be manipulated and controlled by a wealthy woman so she will donate money; Dudley on the other hand does what he can to help the wealthy woman gain freedom from the regrets and guilt of the past that are controlling her life.
Henry was deadly serious and focused on work all the time; Dudley took time to smile, to laugh, and interact with people.
Henry worked hard at EVERYTHING; Dudley took a more calm and peaceful approach to life.
Everyone who worked for Henry---both his household and professional staff--respected him, but they also feared him. In contrast, because Dudley took a moment to speak kindly to them, think of their needs, and treat them with dignity and respect, he was LOVED by all of the employees.
Dudley’s demeanor and outlook on life filled everyone and everywhere he went with joy. People were put at ease and began to see life from a brighter perspective. Unfortunately, because Henry was always so stressed and frustrated, everyone he met felt equally on edge.
Other differences were:
Henry was so caught up in his work that he didn’t have any time for own child. By contrast, Dudley took the time to talk with children or tell them a story. He wasn’t too busy for little ones or the elderly.
Henry had little interest in people who couldn’t help him advance; Dudley saw the value in every person and made them feel important.
The list of differences could go on and on. In the end, it all boiled down to one big thing:
Dudley chose to invest in people.
Yet whenever he was presented with the option, Henry chose to invest in building his cathedral without consideration for people.
They were very different characters, with very different approaches to the same job. Each had very different results to their work. As we enter into the New Year, I think there’s a lot that we, as godly men, can learn from these two characters.
As we’re beginning 2015, maybe it’s time each of us asked ourselves: “Am I a Henry or a Dudley?”
Am I choosing to invest in projects or am I choosing to invest in people?
Am I so focused on achieving the next goal that I’m missing the hurting hearts of people all around me?
Do people respect yet fear me or am I a living example showing the love of Jesus to the world?
Is God calling me to lay down my own “cathedral-like” plans to be a truly godly leader in my home? My community? My church? My world?
How would I respond if He did?
You see, the thing about Henry is that he wasn’t a bad guy. In fact, he’s one of the good guys truly believing that everything he’s doing is to advance God’s kingdom. He honestly believes he’s following God’s will for his life. Unfortunately, he got a little off track and forgot that God is more interested in people than projects and in souls than success.
Henry forgot that God doesn’t dwell in a building, but rather in the hearts of His followers and He longs to heal their souls, hearts, and minds so that they can be a holy Temple dedicated to His service.
Even though Henry really did love God and want to serve Him, somewhere along the path of being a leader and a pastor, Henry got his priorities and perspective all jumbled up. As all of us who have served as a leader in any capacity know, this is really easy to do.
From time to time all of us need to take a step back, analyze our own lives and ask, “Am I making the best choices when it comes to investing my time, talents, energy and finances? Am I still following God’s plan or, like Henry, have I gotten off track?”
Then, like Henry did at the end of the movie, we can repent, change our ways, and start making better choices.
One of the best choices that we can make is to choose to study and follow the example of Jesus, the greatest Leader to every walk on the planet.
Dig into the Gospels and study His leadership style.
Look at where He invested His time and energy; see how He interacted with people, how He dealt with stress, and how He structured His priorities.
Notice that throughout the Gospels we never see Jesus wasting time on useless projects---everything He did was to reach people, draw them to the Heavenly Father, change their lives, and teach them how to live as men and women of God.
As leaders (and more importantly Christians), we are called to follow in His steps---to live as He lived and lead as He led. (1 Peter 2:21)
What could be a better New Year’s resolution for leaders than to accept the challenge and commit to learning how Jesus led and then changing our leadership style to fit into His footsteps?
What better measuring rod could there be to judge whether we are working toward building God’s kingdom or our own, and whether we’re investing in the right things.
Dudley understood what Jesus wanted from his children, to live a life dedicated to serving people and treating them well..Henry lost sight of this. Where are you at today? A Better question, who will you be tomorrow, a Dudley or a Henry?